Building self-esteem: setting off a virtuous cycle!

The key to improved self esteem diagram)
illustration credit – Sanjana Jain


In my coaching engagements, I often come across coachees who are feeling lifeless, deprived of a sense of purpose and hence completely dejected and lacking the motivation to work towards any goals. That sinking feeling where one feels that life is just passing by with us being only passive spectators, watching that drift but not having any energy to participate in this journey of life. I am sure that most of the people who work as Coaches, will be able to strongly relate to this situation. All of us eventually realise that this lack of motivation primarily stems from a feeling of lack of self-worth.

This lack of self-worth or low self-esteem has its roots in the absence of self-respect and confidence in one’s own worth or abilities. The only way to pull people out of this vicious spiral of negative thought and self-blame is to help them build their self-esteem. This obviously, like most other things, is easier said than done.

What are those actions that can help build self-esteem and set off a virtuous cycle of self-belief?

Practice Gratitude: This sounds trivial, but it is a paradigm shift in how we start perceiving ourselves once we start counting our blessings. In today’s competitive world, each of us has got so used to only looking at people who are much more accomplished and have done better than us. While this can be a huge motivation for positive-minded people but for people who have lost the zest for life, it is only another realisation of how far behind they have been left. No sooner, we start appreciating all that we have in life, we start realising how blessed we are. Each us have so many blessings to count, even in the worst of our states. As the saying goes ‘I cried because I had no shoes until I met a man who had no feet’.

What can you do to help your Coachee discover what all she/he has to thank life for? How can you get the Coachee to start practising gratitude?

Acts of Kindness: One is bound to see oneself in a better light, once one sets out to help others. This stems not only from the feeling of compassion which normally precedes before you the urge to help someone but also from the fact that you can help only if you have something which the other person does not seem to possess at that moment. This brings about a radically new mindset — suddenly, you are the giver and not a receiver anymore!

What little ‘acts of kindness’ can your coachee start with?

Pen your problems: I am not sure why this works but it always works. For some reasons the gravity of our problems seems to dissipate when we start putting them down on paper. I suppose when we are thinking of our problems, we are always blowing these out of proportions. We are used to thinking along a single track, hence we start focussing on the problems. These are much easier to comprehend as these are already staring at us. Our brain gets so obsessed and tired with the problems, that we lose the sense to think about the solutions. Hence, it is always better to write out the problems, accompanied by possible solutions f and just doing that one realises how much one has in control and how trivial most of the problems are.

How can you get your Coachees to start using a problem-solving framework, rather than only thinking about their problems?

Pick a hobby: Having a lot of free time at hand is a double-edged sword, some people are able to use it constructively, while quite a few use it only to magnify their current depressing state. Immersing in something you enjoy not only pre-occupies your mind but also channelizes your energies and time to something creative and productive. Creativity brings hope and a sense of fulfilment as you begin to discover things you really enjoy.

Can you get your coachee to take a deep-dive within and re-discover their hobbies?

New learnings: Fresh learning is a great way to add value to oneself and build one’s self-esteem. This could be picking up a new skill or enrolling for a continuing learning program. Learning not only productively engages our mental faculties but also opens us to new opportunities and helps keep us ahead on our growth path. New skills and learnings not only broaden our horizons but also lead to new possibilities and new careers.

How would you help your coachee discover a stimulating learning environment and draw up a learning agenda for themselves?

Read to be inspired: There is a reason that such books are called ‘self-motivation’ books! Don’t just read a book but also find one or two takeaways from each book which resonate strongly with you and convert them into action statements for yourself.

How do you get your coachee to internalise the learnings from a book?

Triggers and Barriers: Probably something which sounds trivial but has a great impact is triggers and barriers. The theory of triggers and barriers not only applies to the marketing field but as much to human psychology. There are always a few people, things and places which trigger positive thoughts and a sense of well-being and there are always a few ‘barriers’ which take away from the positivity.

How can we get our coachees to identify these triggers and barriers and how can we help them use these to their advantage in their effort to build self-esteem?

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