4 Ways to Become your Own Source of High Emotional Well-being & Self Esteem

My dearest reader,

The search for meaning is very often sought in materialistic means, in status (whatever form), in appearance and probably most in emotional approval.

There is a reason we do this. In childhood we have many shapers. The most prominent ones are our caregivers. 

We learn to behave and “show up” in a certain way to appear “good” or “be enough”.

Pretty much captions here, but with reason…

When we are in this mindset it can affect our relationships, health, and overall wellbeing. We have a higher chance to experience a form of internal disconnect.

An incongruence between who we are and who we want to be and how we (unconsciously) choose to appear to others.  

We become overly dependent on the dominant voices of others to feel that we are enough.

And it does not give way to the gateway to true wellbeing and high self-esteem as this, paradoxically, requires room for a variety of complex and deep emotions.

The problem with trying to constantly perform and depend on other people’s opinions, is that it signals that we must change our internal states.

When we speak of co-dependency this refers to us trying to exercise a form of control, an attempt to constantly manage other people’s moods and emotional states.

We do this to receive a form of safety, a sense of being ok as we are- a sign- that we are showing up as “good” because we learned that there isn’t room for emotions to be as they are. If we are angry, we are sent to our rooms, or when we speak up and say that we are sad our teachers may say that we just need to forget about it. Whatever it is, most message from childhood do not teach us to be ok with whatever forms our emotions may take and we often also do not know how to offer that to others.

Hypervigilance comes from fear, from needing others to be ok with how we show up so that we feel we are enough and are what is expected.

The 4 rule breakers of becoming our own source of empowerment, healing, joy, and equanimity are:

  1. Holding space for EMPATHY:

It means we are so deeply connected and grounded to our sense of self (our authentic core self) that we have a deep sense of who we are in this world.

We learn to sit still and express our emotions, without being distracted by the outer noise.

We can build love, trust and be seen. We are not afraid to show up as we are.

We express what we feel. We create safety within ourselves and therefore with others because we are highly transparent (clear self-description).

We can feel our emotions and understand better and better what is going on inside of us incl. our needs and formulate it in a very open manner without judging ourselves.

This does not imply there are no boundaries in place with how we share and what emotions, messages and energy is let in.

  1. Setting healthy BOUNDARIES:

This one often gets a bad reputation, but it’s one of the most important human skills to learn.

It means we take responsibility for the energy we bring with us and allow in from others. It means we allow our own emotions and those of others to be without needing to change them or feel that we need to change who we are in this moment to be ok and safe.

There are 3 types of boundaries (Minuchin):

Diffused/Enmeshed: Unclear boundaries.

  • We let too much information in and have no clear filters on what is mine and yours.
  • We become overly involved with each other’s internal states and emotional escalations are easily diffused.
  • Almost no space for independence and very limited authentic connection with self and others

Rigid/Protective.

  • Not allowing suggestions or listening to each other if required.
  • Closed/disengaged mindset.
  • Emotional expression is difficult. Here emotions may not have been easily shared at home.
  • Overly independent and little (self) connection and sharing.
  • On protective mode a lot.
  • Feeling like no one really knows us intimately well.

Clear

  • Allows feedback but filters it.

Healthy boundaries mean we are learning and we are open to adjust our mindsets or behaviour if required without leaving the connection with ourselves. Own feelings and needs are communicated. There is room for a great variety of feelings, connection, healing, sharing and growing. This feels comfortable and safe and changes the experience.

Sharing thoughts and emotions helps us experience empathy. There is interdependence and autonomy. We are open to change, clear on our boundaries and deciding what is let in and not.

  1. FEELINGS are information: 

They can influence how we behave if we give them power and attention.

The more we practice seeing them as messengers the better we become at it.  We can learn to reacting to them and not and see them as being available as data.

This means that although many emotions can be expressed, we can decide what kind of energy comes in and goes out.

Even when emotions come up in ourselves, we can understand that we feel angry, sad or hurt, and also see it as an invitation to connect with our authenticity and act from there instead of old habits or ineffective coping skills.

We can find our emotions to be very helpful messages about what we are experiencing.  

It requires that we practice the ability to remain present and in this moment. We can then better see that emotions do not always indicate that something is very wrong.

That we do not need to be a certain way or only experience a limited sense of feelings to be worthy or loved. We do not have to behave a certain way or disconnect from who we are to feel connected, safe, and loved. The cleared we are on who we are and who we want to be, the easier it also is for others to understand information about us and empathically connect to us. So, although boundaries get a bad rep, they are a wonderful and much needed tool to improve holistic wellbeing, authenticity, growth, discovery, and personal evolution.

  1. Practice EMOTIONAL REGULATION with the 90 second rule:

We typically run 3 types of neurocircuitry: think thoughts, feel emotions and run a physiological response to thoughts and feelings.
The entire process of thought to physiological response to chemical response leaves takes less than 90 seconds.

We however often stay in emotions very long, sometimes even days or years. Why? Because we relive emotions and re-stimulate our neurocircuitry which creates emotional loops. There is an unconscious refusal or resistance which activates our cognitive brain.
Very old thoughts can still do this. It is cells that perform that function. The more we run these the more automatic they become.

We can however, learn to see our thoughts and the information we receive about our emotions as “fleeting physiology” and use this to avoid creating Hollywood worthy scripts that we keep replaying and that make us act out old patterns by using the 90 second rule (Taylor, 2006).

Here are the 3 steps to practice it:

  1. Feel and accept your emotions, do not repress them.
  2. Wait for full 90 seconds and keep attention on breath and body to help increase awareness.
  3. Pay attention to the message of emotional information and bring yourself back to the present moment.

Emotional regulation can be learned

And we can decide how and what we react to. When we are children, we get directions on how we must behave to receive approval. Or to show up a certain way, to feel a certain way, this is called social shaping.  It is wonderful when it helps us to survive and live amazing lives, but sometimes it can also create much pressure and disconnection. Most of us do not learn to house and welcome a variety of emotions. In other words, it can take us some time to learn how to allow ourselves to feel many emotions and be ok with them. To love who we are and others without needing them to “perform” a certain way to be ok. It also teaches us how to offer ourselves joy, happiness, a home or private garden within ourselves (strange as this may sound) that helps us cultivate awareness and helps us to accept, nourish and heal ourselves when we need.

No separate self

We inter-are, we are attached and interconnected, and we are paradoxically also better and more ourselves when and because we self-develop. It is about being as real as we can and showing up with presence and intention that determines how we connect and shapes our relationships which determine the quality of our lives. Thich Nhat Hanh (2016) explained that real intimacy requires us to be sincere and it also means we need to hold space within ourselves and for others to offer high quality love. The only way we can do so is by holding sacred space within ourselves and for others.  A space that we can learn to bring with us wherever we are and communicate and love from. That place where we are comfortable, and present is our internal state. It is the place where we are coming from to ourselves and others.  If we suffer, we cannot hold space, we close this garden and cannot receive ourselves and others as they are, let alone truly love them. We cannot see their good or accept their large variety of often very sophisticated and intricate emotions as information, we cannot accept shortcomings (from anyone mostly ourselves) and so we want control or change others to feel internally safe. But it is emotional regulation which helps us to expand our minds and hearts and helps us realise that surrendering to ourselves and being curious about our fears, is the antidote to this constant anxiety.

This can help release suffering from trying to control and the fear we have of emotions so that we can nurture them. What we nurture grows, and when we nurture our own happiness this becomes the source of our internal state of our own high emotional wellbeing and self-esteem.

Love is a very dynamic living organism which requires conscious and constant creation, not a forced environment. When we learn to value our own happiness and transform our own fear this is the best gift, we can give ourselves and others. We do not need others as distractions from our own feelings or emptiness or to be filled or approved of by another. We can see what others feel and say as something that can, but can also not be let in. We will lose our learned prejudice towards only having the right feelings, constant performing, for self-betrayal and deep pain and embody that the human experience is much broader than that.

This requires deep self-trust, respect, and confidence and that we learn to listen deeply. High quality love is a very expensive gift, perhaps the most expensive one and offering it requires great compassion, equanimity, compassion, and joy as Thich Nhat Hanh suggested.

And if we do not love – fully as we are- then who does the loving and who is it we claim to truly love?

Must everyone show up in a very specific way so that we can “accept” them as “worthy”?

Must they be beautiful, or educated or successful or whatever it is that is “enough” to worthy of our love and to be fully loved?

Or can we love those we love as we are and as they are? And can we learn that we can always improve, but in truth are whole as we are?

See a pattern here?

We repeat what we learn. We repeat what is familiar and we repeat these stories – without intermission- to ourselves and to others.

Terry real said it best: “high self-esteem is seeing yourself as a flawed person, and still holding yourself in high regard.”

Perhaps high emotional wellbeing and healthy relationships require that we learn to see this:

The day you reach perfection will never arrive but the day you reach being enough has never left.

As always with love,

Sarah Kopinsky MSc. General Psychology

P.S. If you would like to find out more regarding this topic or would like to book a session (e.g. individual therapy, counseling and/or couples counseling) to help you facilitate this journey, please contact Personal Online Therapy at info@personalonlinetherapy.com or by filling in the form below.

    References:

    Erasmus, Y. (2016, 5 mei). Empathy vs Codependency. Retrieved 3 augustus 2020, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pd3YotLtaJo

    MINUCHIN, S. (1973) Families kind Family Therapy. Cambridge, Mass. Harvard University Press.

    Taylor, J. B. (2006). My stroke of insight: A brain scientist’s personal journey. New York: Penguin.

    Hanh, T. N. (2016). How to love. New York: Random House.