If you have low self-esteem, you know that it’s not easy putting feelings and thoughts into words. As a matter of fact, it’s pretty hard especially when you can’t pinpoint why you’re feeling and thinking as you do. The good news is that you can increase healthy self-esteem through journaling, and discover the reasons why you feel and think as you do.
In last week’s post, I discussed how romantic rejection can harm self-esteem and I provided some strategies for overcoming it, and for building healthy self-esteem and resilience.
This week, I want to provide one more strategy for increasing healthy self-esteem: Journaling. An effective tool for increasing healthy self-esteem, and for helping us to know ourselves on a deeper level.
I’ve dedicated my career to helping women heal and grow because for most of my life, I struggled with increasing healthy self-esteem; a result of being raised in an abusive home.
I know how hard it is to step out of the box and take risks when failure is all you’ve been programmed to produce.
I’m sure you heard it said that mental health professionals choose the field because they’re trying to figure themselves out.
I majored in Psychology to figure myself out.
It was crucial for my survival to know why I hurt so badly inside, and why I didn’t feel good, smart, beautiful, or worthy enough to accomplish anything.
Little did I know at the time that something as simple as journaling would provide me with the insight I needed to know myself at a deeper level and increase healthy self-esteem.
JOURNALING HAS MANY HEALTH BENEFITS
For starters, it provides us with the opportunity to be fully present in the moment.
When we’re journaling, we become aware of where we are, what we’re doing, and what we’re thinking and feeling, without being over-reactive or feeling overwhelmed by it.
Moreover, journaling is the perfect tool for self-discovery, and for creating awareness of how we deal with situations on a day-to-day basis.
Situations that lead us to process thoughts in a way that is counterproductive to increasing healthy self-esteem, and maintaining it.
INCREASING HEALTHY SELF-ESTEEM: IDENTIFYING AND CHALLENGING DYSFUNCTIONAL THINKING PATTERNS
Journaling helps us to identify patterns of dysfunctional thinking that may be triggers for negative self-talk.
When we know the root causes of dysfunctional/irrational thinking patterns, we’re better able to dispute their validity and shut down the inner critic.
In turn, this helps to increase healthy self-esteem since it’s the belief (thought) that we experience right after an activating event (trigger) that brings about the consequence (reaction), which in this instance can be low or healthy self-esteem, depending on our thoughts regarding the activating event.
MODEL FOR CHALLENGING DYSFUNCTIONAL/IRRATIONAL THOUGHTS
The A-B-C Model of Cognitive Behavior, developed by Dr. Albert Ellis, psychologist and the father of Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT), provides us with a visual of how the model works.
As you will see, the original model was comprised of an Antecedent (triggering event), the Belief (thoughts about the event), and the Consequence (reaction to the event):
Therapists and coaches use the model to help clients separate rational beliefs from irrational beliefs, accept the rational beliefs and dispute the irrational ones.
The disputation piece has caused the model to expand to include the letters D and E, with “D” standing for Disputation (challenge) and “E” standing for Effective New Belief (rational belief that replaced the irrational belief based on evidence) :
This theory has proven effective in reducing dysfunctional thinking patterns associated with low-self esteem, which is why I’m introducing it to you.
The reason for the success rate lies in clients’ understanding that life events don’t cause us to react in certain ways. It’s the thoughts that we assign to the events that cause our reactions.
A good example of this is thinking that you’re stupid because of a mistake you made.
No one’s perfect. Everybody makes mistakes, so thinking that you’re stupid because you messed up is an irrational belief.
Entertaining the thought will result in low-esteem.
Disputing/challenging the thought by for example stating, “Everybody makes mistakes. I’ll do better next time,” is rational and will result in a more effective outcome, as well as an increase in healthy self-esteem.
So, now that you know the importance of challenging dysfunctional/beliefs, it’s time for the work to begin.
HARD WORK IS GOOD
As I stated earlier, when you have low self-esteem it’s sometimes very hard to put what you’re feeling and thinking about yourself, and others into words.
How can we begin to write about a situation that made us feel bad about ourselves, and dispute the irrational thoughts associated with it when we can’t find the words to begin to describe what we’re feeling and thinking?
Journal prompts give us a great starting point to begin to reflect on situations, to include the thoughts and reactions we attach to them, and why.
In addition, they open the door to introspection, and provide the bases from which to explore where our irrational beliefs come from.
Nonetheless, a great starting point is just that, a great starting point.
THE REAL WORK ISN’T IN THE WRITING
It’s what you learn about yourself as a result of the writing, and how you apply the newly found knowledge to change the way you think and react to life events.
No one likes the feelings associated with insecurity, to dream dreams that never come to fruition, or feeling powerless and stuck.
Overcoming low self-esteem so that you won’t be afraid of taking risks, and becoming the best version of yourself is the pay-off.
The journal prompts I’m providing for you are designed to help you start writing so that you can identify then challenge dysfunctional thinking patterns.
Putting your inner critic in check is crucial to increasing healthy self-esteem.
So, put on your boxing gloves.
It’s time to become your own champion!
JOURNAL PROMPTS TO INCREASE HEALTHY SELF-ESTEEM
The first step is to buy a journal (you can journal on a laptop, tablet or phone, if you prefer).
But not just any journal. Buy one that means something to you.
For example, I want to attract more great things into my life, so I purchased a Law of Attraction journal.
Second, is to get a hold of a good pen. I like to write with gel pens. Their ink is smoother, and I like the feel of the pen point gliding across paper.
Third, schedule a time when you can be relaxed and in no hurry. This is your time to write and reflect. Make it sacred.
Lastly, use the ABC Model to challenge dysfunctional/irrational thoughts that come up as you get to know yourself at a deeper level.
Use the prompts to explore different aspects of your life.
You don’t have to use them all, or use them at all.
They’re being provided as guidance to help get you started.
Make Your Journaling Time and Space Sacred
PROMPTS ABOUT YOUR DAY
1. Describe your day.
2. What did you like about it? Didn’t like about it?
3. Did something happen to make you feel bad about yourself? What was it? How did it make you feel? Did it remind you of something or someone from your past?
4. What thoughts popped into your head when confronted with the situation?
5. Were your thoughts valid? Why or why not?
6. What could you have done differently to increase your self-esteem?
PROMPTS ABOUT SELF-LOVE
1. Do you love yourself? Why or why not?
2. What would loving yourself look like?
3. How did you show yourself love and compassion today?
4. Do you think you deserve to love yourself? Why or why not?
5. What thoughts pop into your head about yourself when you make a mistake? If the thoughts are negative, what can you do to change them?
6. Do you accept yourself for who you are? Why or why not?
7. What can you do to be more loving and accepting of yourself and increase healthy self-esteem?
PROMPTS TO HELP YOU THINK OUTSIDE THE BOX
1. What type of situations make you feel insecure and uncomfortable?
2. For every situation you mentioned, list five things that you can do to increase healthy self-esteem and your comfort level when confronted with those situations.
3. What’s the one thing you wish you could do at this precise time in your life? List five things that you can do to get it done.
4. Fill in the blank:
If I had the _______________ (personality attribute), I would conquer all of my fears.
List five ways that you can obtain whatever you filled the blank in with.
5. Regarding goals and accomplishments, where do you want to be five years from now? List five things that you can do short-term, and five things you can do long-term to increase healthy self-esteem and get there.
PROMPTS ABOUT SELF-IMAGE
1. Without looking at yourself in the mirror, list five things about your appearance that you love? Why did you choose those five things.
2. Do you compare yourself to other women? Why do you think you do that?
3. What do you think needs to change in order for you to be more accepting of yourself?
PROMPTS ABOUT YOUR INNER CRITIC
1. Do you know what your inner critic sounds like?
2. What triggers your inner critic? Which words does he or she use to make you feel bad?
3. How can you challenge your inner critic?
4. Identify 10 negative words/statements your inner critic uses to make you feel bad about yourself. For every negative word, list 10 positive comebacks. Use the positive comebacks out loud whenever your inner critic attacks you.
DO WHAT WORKS FOR YOU, BUT CHALLENGE DYSFUNCTIONAL/IRRATIONAL THINKING PATTERNS: Identifying your triggers and disputing/challenging negative thinking is what’s going to help increase your self-esteem.
Jornaling is an effective tool for getting to know yourself on a deeper level, and for increasing healthy self-esteem.
It helps us put the beliefs and emotions that cause us to feel bad about ourselves into words, as well as make us aware of our triggers.
The ABC Model of Cognitive Behavior demonstrates that life events are not what causes us to feel bad about ourselves. It’s what we think with regards to those events that cause our self-esteem to plummet.
Change our thoughts, and we can dramatically improve how we feel about ourselves.
Journal prompts can help us begin to write down our thoughts, beliefs, and emotions resulting in a deeper level of understanding of why we think and react as we do.
That knowledge provides us with opportunities to dispute irrational beliefs about ourselves and others.
Some of us may need more than psychoeducation and coaching to get past dysfunctional ways of thinking.
In those instances, we shouldn’t hesitate to seek out the help of a qualified clinician.
I’d love to hear from you on this and other topics, so please leave a comment.
Until the next post.
Much love and peace,