‘All of this has me thinking that we don’t talk enough about self-esteem and its role in resilience - or how you can develop it. Changing your brain is always an option and finding new ways to do that is a core element of trauma recovery.
Self-esteem is defined as “confidence in your own worth and abilities.” Do you have that? How would your world change if you did? How would your feelings about yourself, others and the world change if you believed in your own efficacy?
I can tell you from working with hundreds of survivors over the past 5 years that when self-esteem increases recovery becomes much more easy to navigate. If you feel ready to try something new, include any of these options in your daily experience:
Set realistic expectations - It’s easy to be down on yourself if you set the bar too high. While it’s good to give yourself benchmarks and goals it’s also good to be realistic about what you’re capable of achieving right now today.
Be kind to yourself and set forth ideas for who you are and will be in any day that are commensurate with where you are in your recovery process. You can increase your expectations as you move forward, gain strength and build your confidence and self-trust. What are some reasonable expectations to have for yourself today, tomorrow and next week?
Embrace your successes, and failures - First, eliminate the word “failures” and substitute “unexpected outcomes” because that’s really all any lack of success is.
Then, approach success or its absence as opportunities for exploration and discovery. Why did the situation work out as you wanted it to? How will you use that information in the future? Why didn’t the situation work out as you wanted it to? How will you use that information in the future?
Acknowledge your positive qualities - After trauma it’s easy to hate on yourself. We all do it. While it’s easy to find things to despise about who you are and how you behave the truth is that there’s a whole you, too. Meaning, that what trauma highlights about you is only a part of the entire you that you are.
Recovery benefits from (even if just halfheartedly) your recognizing there are good things about you. If you had to list five things, what would they be?
Identify what you’re good at and do it often - Turning toward trauma and coping with post-trauma symptoms often disconnects you from your real world strengths.
With all your time and energy spent on managing it’s easy to forget to keep up skills unrelated to survival. But those skills are what can help you transition through trauma and out the other side when they, more than your trauma skills, will serve to evolve you and your life long-term. What are you good at? How often do you allow yourself to engage in that activity?
Share your gifts (qualities, strengths, skills) with others - Yes, isolation feels good, but doing something to make someone else feel good feels even better. You’ve got skills that are useful to others. Whether that’s personal or professional, paid or volunteer, find ways and times to give something good about you to someone else.
Not only does being helpful feel good but this simple practice also puts you in touch with a part of the whole you that, if you continue to connect, can help bridge you through the post-trauma transition. What are you good at? Who could use some help in that way?
Dr. Steve Maraboli says, “Life doesn’t get easier or more forgiving, we get stronger and more resilient.” The way to being stronger and more resilient - and reaping the benefits that offers in your recovery and brain change - has to do with the choices you make and the actions you take.
They’re not easy, to be sure. At a time when you are experiencing diminished respect for yourself it can be difficult to imagine improving your self-esteem.
But here’s the beauty of the process: For this it isn’t necessary to imagine anything. You just have to do it once, and then again and again so that the results reveal themselves to you when you least expect them.’