Five ways to build self-esteem

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source: Suzanne Zoglio, PhD,

ImageDo you ever wish you took more risks in everyday life? Like your friend who makes new friends by just marching right up to people at a party and starting a lively conversation. Or like my neighbour who's always trying something new - yoga, skydiving, mountain biking, community theatre, just to name a few

Well, new adventures require self-made confidence and that's built one thought at a time. The trick is to tame your brain critic by limiting his airtime and playing positive tapes in your head instead. Here are a few ways to get your mind to behave so that you can take on new adventures in life with confidence.

You want more recognition, but you're afraid to stick your neck out
The next time a self-limiting thought like, 'I'll never be able to...' pops into your head, turn it into a strategy statement. Instead of 'I'll never get promoted,' try: 'I'll probably get promoted if I take the lead on that new project and succeed.' (Or some other sensible strategy).

Rotten luck got you stuck?
Learn to turn every complaint (yours or anyone else's) into a question. Complaints are statements of defeat and come across as whining. Questions, on the other hand, put the power back in your hands by sending you in search of a solution. For example, if you catch yourself saying, 'Everyone's in a rotten mood today!' (a complaint), turn it into the question, 'What can I do to lighten things up?'

Watch your language, especially when you talk to yourself
The ability to take risks is built on how you rebound from mistakes. The next time you trip up, notice what you say. Do you pummel yourself with insults: 'Idiot! Why do you always do that?' Stop right in the middle of your verbal self-abuse and pretend that you are talking to a good friend who had just made the same mistake. You'd say something like, 'Hey, you did the best you could. Now, pick yourself up and try again. There is no shame in failing...only if you fail to try.'

Play by your own rules
The next time you want to do something new, but your inner critic says you shouldn't, push back with the question, why not? If the answer is, 'It's not polite,' or 'What will people think?' or 'I'll look like a fool,' you're playing by someone else's rules. Stop playing by their rules, and go with your gut instinct. Follow the urge to swim in the deep end now and then. What's the worst that can happen? You're not perfect? Join the rest of the world. And the best outcome? You took a risk and survived and are better because of it. Confidence is built one stretch at a time, and if you stretch often, your enjoyment of life becomes ever-expanding.

Feed your esteem
If you want to be more open to adventure, growth and spontaneous fun, you'll have to starve your brain critic and feed your inner confidence coach. Start each day with a self-affirming statement: 'I'm hot, I'm smart, and I'm ready for anything,' or 'I'm confident, competent, and full of energy.' Give yourself compliments that pump up your sense of power. Remember, we are all bombarded every day with subtle and not-so-subtle messages of how 'challenging' (scary, dangerous, etc) things are. Defy them with your own inner dialogue of hope, confidence and strength.