By Christine Medina
It was Christmas Eve when I was first came across Jennice Vilhauer’s 30 Days to better self-esteem exercise on her Psychology Today blog. It seemed simple enough to do and I was intrigued by the scientific explanation she gave for why it would work. All you had to do was:
Being a person who is obsessed with self-growth and helping others as a personal strategist/coach, I figured if this worked I could walk away feeling awesome and having another exercise to recommend to my clients.
At first I’m not sure I felt much of a difference, but after a couple of weeks doing the exercise I started to feel great, even if it was a little challenging. I am not used to listing things I like about myself. Frankly, it seems a little too self-loving for me to do normally. So as I did the exercise it took some getting used to, but it definitely started to brighten my mood. Who knew complimenting myself habitually would feel so great! However, as the weeks wore on it definitely got tough to come up with items. I think part of the issue for me was trying to stay away from repeating the same items I liked about myself day after day.
Around mid-January, however, I encountered two major life challenges that really tested my resolve and the effectiveness of the exercise.
The first is that for financial reasons my husband and I decided to move from the city I love and call home. Moving away from friends and family was a tough decision and I cried over it…many times.
The second thing that happened was that I was diagnosed with PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome). Essentially, I have these tiny cysts on my ovaries, which cause my hormones to get off-balance and will make it difficulty for me to have children, which is something I have been looking forward to for a while.
Both events caused a significant amount of distress and impacted my view of myself. Who I am professionally and personally took a major hit--how could I tell people to live their dream life if moving away from the home I loved meant I wasn’t living mine? What a horrible coach! And how come I can’t make babies? Isn’t that supposed to happen automatically? What’s wrong with me? Why am I broken?
Continuing the self-esteem exercise throughout that stressful time though, actually helped me stay positive and kept me afloat! By continuing with the exercise (sometimes this was excruciating, especially late at night), it forced me to stay positive.
I was reminded of the truth:
I am a great coach. I have graduated two more clients and they gave me rave reviews!
I’m moving away temporarily so I can leverage my financial assets in the future to buy my dream house. This is a great plan!
S*#! happens. Having PCOS is not my fault! But I can minimize the side effects by working out and maintaining a healthy diet, and it’s not impossible to still have babies!”
So what’s my final conclusion?
Creating new positive habits in your life is almost never easy. But if you stick with it, you start to create even more positive habits that make your life better.
I am not perfect. I am not the smartest person alive. Yet, I did this and you can too. Just try it. It really will help you feel better about yourself and that will change your life!
Dr. Jennice Vilhauer is the director of the Outpatient Psychotherapy Treatment Program at Emory Healthcare, the developer of Future Directed Therapy, and the author of Think Forward to Thrive: How to Use the Mind’s Power of Anticipation to Transcend Your Past and Transform Your Life.