Here's a self-esteem building exercise to reset your priorities
Hi peeps, this is an exercise for you to use to improve your personal alignment with your priorities and simultaneously boost self-esteem. And if you prefer to listen, here’s the podcast version! It’s actually a process used to heal in any injury in the body – you strengthen the muscles around the area that has been injured in order to give it the time and support to heal. For example, if you were to hurt yourself in a sport, you might be told by doctors to strengthen the muscles around the injured joint. The same goes for your personality. The more of yourself that you dedicate to diverse passions and strengths, the stronger you become and the more confident you feel. It’s also how you can heal yourself the most quickly. When it comes to a painful loss of a part of your definitions of self, your other passions and roles can grow bigger and help support you in the place of what is gone. So if you are looking to become more stable and confident, this is a self-esteem building exercise for you – and I HIGHLY recommend you do it in a journal. It’s a process that applies to everyone and it has to do with the various skills and passions and practices that identify you to you.
Imagine yourself as a pond covered with lily pads of all different shapes and sizes. One of them might have a flower on top, another one might have frog basking in the sun. Another one might have a family of dragonflies. Well, you get the picture: they’re all different and serve different purposes in life above while shading the peaceful basin of this pond for life to thrive below. In the metaphorical pond that is your peaceful person, each one of these lily pads represents a different part of your personality. They are the diverse facets that make up your definition of self in your daily presence in your life: your talents, your roles in career, your relationships, your passions – everything that makes you, you. Picture being on a plane and you’re seated next to a person who’s a cook, movie-buff, reader, cross-fit junkie, and a surgeon. Now picture being partnered with someone who’s a surgeon. Who’s going to be more interesting, relatable, empowered, capable, confident, balanced, everything else that’s inspiring to be around? You get the point. Ready to align with your priorities and strengthen your self-esteem? Awesomeness.
Grab your journal and draw a large circle. This is your pond. Next, fill that circle with smaller circles that represent different facets of your personality – these are your lily pads. Label each one as you go. They should translate where you place your focus in life and therefore represent how you spend your time: if you spend the majority of your day working, the largest lily pad should say “real-estate agent” (or whatever your role is at work). IF however, your job is really just to be a provider and you don’t identify with the role at all, you can put “provider” instead. If you identify with both, you can make that big lily pad specific – so something like, “freelance work to be a provider.”
If you identify as a professional and also a provider, you can put those as two separate lily pads. There can be two traits you identify with tied to one role (like your job) but they must be things that can exist separately from one another. In other words, you would feel like a “provider” regardless of whether or not you were still a “fill in the blank professional.” So if your job went away, you should still feel you are a “provider” because of other parts of your self and your behavior, otherwise those two definitions should share a lily pad. You’ll find out in a moment why that’s the case.
Other big roles for many people might include parent, husband, girlfriend, daughter, philanthropist. If you are spiritual, you should include “spiritual person” or your religion. If you work out everyday, add a circle that says, “yogi” or “runner.” If you have a hobby or side-project that you maintain, add something to represent it like, “watercolorist” or “musician.” Try to keep your pond balanced by the strength of the role and its presence in your life. This should reflect you now, not show your ideals. Next, if there are parts of yourself you would like to embrace more but have neglected and or not been able to incorporate into your life, put them inside your pond, too – make them small circles that are barely visible compared to the rest.
Once you’re done, I suggest taking a mini-break – like a walk around the block, and then coming back to your pond with fresher eyes. You are going to think about your priorities and soon see if this visualization reflects who you want to be.
You are going to look at your pond for two things: diversity and balance. The more diversity the better – so if you have five+ lily pads and they’re all a healthy size, that’s great! The more the better. Why? Because just like with a muscle that needs to get stronger for bone to heal, your surrounding lily pads will help support you in an unexpected loss or dramatic change, for example, if you were to be suddenly injured and couldn’t be a “runner” anymore, you might become more of a “watercolorist” in your time spent outdoors. Or you if you suddenly lost your job, you might put that energy into being a more involved “parent” – in short, your suffering would be far less and your balance would remain constant because you know you are so much more than this one thing. Additionally, the more lily pads you have, the more resilient and resourceful you become in every area of your life. Why? You are waaaay more confident, strong, and capable in a role when you have more of yourself to bring to them. It’s like a heightened awareness that informs each individual focus with more Super-You-ness.
Often we have an unconscious habit of putting all of our energy into one small area of our life and neglecting the rest of it – not because we’re bad people or neglectful. Often it’s demanded of us by the discipline, for example, if you work in a high-pressure job and have to work late every night, you might end up away from home the majority of the time everyone’s awake, unknowingly neglecting your family and romantic life. Other times, we end up with an unhealthy amount of focus on an individual role due to an addiction to a chemical gush we get related to it – for example, a new relationship that makes us feel soothed in the rest of our voids in life, or even a job that makes us feel important and needed for the first time. The reason that this imbalance must be consciously corrected, is when you lose yourself in something – you lose yourself when you lose that thing. It can be hard to relearn about who you are once you’ve lost sight of all the other defining facets of your person over a great many years. And what happens when you lose that one defining role is you crumble with it. You lose “yourself” and feel you are nothing without it. In short, it has the power to dangle your life before you – make you do things you don’t want to do, and follow it for the sake of just being “something” over nothing. It fools you into thinking that it is all that you have in this world, that you are not worth more than it tells you that you are. In short, it disempowers you from making decisions for yourself. It is your diversity as a person that enables you to help yourself when you are hurt, discouraged, weak, and challenged. It’s what will always keep you tethered to how much you have to be grateful for and how the greatness of your value in this life. No one thing will ever take you out or define you, to you.
Next in this exercise, you are going to examine your lily pads for visual balance. Meaning, there should be some evenly divided size and therefore focus amongst your different roles – not just one giant lily pad taking up the majority. Yes, there will be likely one or two that are bigger than the others – perhaps it’s your significant other or a passion-driven career. But no matter how wonderful those things are, it’s important that you maintain other focuses that enrich and enhance this definition of You outside of them. Why? Because right now you are selling your focus short and also putting yourself in a dangerous position. The amount of self that is contingent on this role is unhealthy in that if you lost it, it would remove your understanding of who you are. In a way, it is able to affect your very idea of self-worth.
Make it a point to build up the other lily pads for the good of respecting yourself and embracing the building that self in more ways than you are expected to by others. It doesn’t have to be hard or painful or out of your comfort zone. It can be simple things you become conscious of and decide to do more of in lieu of this exercise. Maybe your extended family lives far away so you never hang out with them but you’d like to. Put this on your schedule and grow the “sister” lily pad. Or, let’s say you are not great at prioritizing time spent with JUST your girl friends. Make a plan to schedule time with them once every two weeks even! Or start a bi-yearly trip together. There’s ALWAYS time when you make time. It takes conscious awareness and the decision to make those things important.
If you’re thinking that this will take away from your ability to be good at the other things – that’s a fear-based thought habit and it’s irrational. This is not about stopping your career or spending less time with your kids, it’s about mental focus for something that will feed your spirit and give you energy. Even the miniscule time investments create massive waves of change in your person because you are expanding who you are. The more you grow, the more of you that you have to give. It’s like working out so that your muscles grow stronger: you can lift more weight. Same goes for your ability and range as a human. It’s all up to you to decide to make this an important part of you.
If you’re aware you don’t have enough and you are overwhelmed by the thought of expanding yourself, don’t worry! This is not one of those kinds of challenges. Definitely do not be intimidated by my examples – the topics and passions can be anything, big or small, as long as they’re genuinely important to you and drive you or fill you with joy. If don’t have enough roles in your life right now and you want more, just start there: with the intention. Plant that seed of thought and begin to ruminate on any potential additions that could be made – keep your eyes peeling as you go about your day to day. Something perfect and enchanting will arrive on your path. Just keep your ears and eyes wide open and stay open to growing this presence that is “you.” Don’t let ANYONE ELSE dictate who this person is to you – or mock your choices or question them, because it’s only your definition of yourself, what you care about, what you believe in, and what you like, to yourself. If it helps, keep the new additions a secret until you are more stable in them. I know if you’re just beginning to branch out it can be humiliating and disarming when someone rips the towel away and points at how “not you” the new habit seems. Keep in mind this is what happens when people are afraid and insecure. When they lash out at you with laughter or with distaste, it is a direct translation of the intolerance they have for themselves. So keep your loves close to your heart and don’t listen to anyone who tries to challenge them. If anything, feel empowered by the sign that you are now growing so much, it’s obvious to others.
As a way to finish this exercise, I suggest you color in the lily pads you want to grow and that you are going to give more attention to.
The final step? You are going to set the decisions in action. Right now. So if there’s something you want to give more weight to in your life, do it – not tomorrow, not sometime this week, right now. Take one concrete action at this very moment. Open your phone and send a text to a person you want to spend time with. Make plans. Mark time on your calendar and set a recurring alert. Book a class online and pay for it. Take any action immediately and schedule the actions you are going to take in favor of this focus shift. I demand just one thing but try to make it three. Start the progress you want to make because right now, it’s fresh in your mind.
In closing, balance is always necessary if you want to remain on stable footing in yourself. It’s also how you can ensure your relationships in life have the most longevity: you have more to bring and more to gain when you are your own individual self, first and foremost. Because that is truly how you best love and care for others: by caring for yourself and growing that self. So be mindful about when the balance starts to tip too far in favor of something you want. It’s easy to lose yourself in the role and neglect the rest of yourself – because you are many things, in so many awesome directions – all at once. Don’t believe for a moment that you are less than that – because you are infinite and ever-growing. Stay open, and just invite what it is you are looking for. I send you my love and vibes of positivity.
If you liked this please share, I heart you all! Smile! xox Sarah May B.
Featured image via Flickr