I stuck with it, and five years on, I couldn’t do without my daily dose of esteem-boosting magic.
At the time I was in career transition, undergoing the long haul of looking for a job. It was February, days were spent writing covering letters and adjusting my CV, and there wasn’t a lot to mark one day out from the next. Morale was low and I wasn't feeling great.
I'm sure you've you've been there at one point or another. Job hunting seems to have the ultimate potential for unsettling esteem and lowering confidence however rock solid it is at the start...!
What my coach asked me to do was literally painful to me at first. It was The Last Thing I felt like doing, and she and I had to almost force it out of me the first time around.
Cheerleaders and champions
As human beings we thrive on being told we’re doing a good job. That we’re on the right track, that we’re making progress. Parents are often good at doing this for their kids, teachers can be too, as can the right kind of boss. This feedback provides us with vital markers as to how we’re doing in life, and if we have enough of it, at the right times, we feel good and our confidence blossoms.
Because so much of our adult life is spent working alone on personal long-term projects, like 'job hunting', 'building a business', 'living', 'parenting', and 'generally trying to be a good human being' - all with their ups and downs, highs and lows, and with very little feedback whatsoever about how we're doing - there's a real need for us to become our own cheerleaders and champions.
The pain and the gain
My coach's request was that when we spoke the following week I should bring a list of 20 things I acknowledged myself for achieving. They could be as small as making the bed in the morning or watering a dying plant; or as significant as sending off a job application or successfully networking with a potential employer.
I duly did the list and she duly asked me to read it out to her the following week.
I literally couldn’t speak to begin with; I was all embarrassed giggles and stops and starts. It felt SO weird to be congratulating myself out loud for all I’d achieved. (I’m smiling at the cringing that was involved, as I write.)
But boy, did I feel better afterwards. I felt really good. I couldn’t believe the shift in my perspective of myself. My confidence was boosted and I felt energized and motivated to do it again.
I’ve since established a daily practice of acknowledging myself for what I’ve achieved HOWEVER small – taking the focus off the big goals (eg. finding a job or being successful in my business), and focusing on the smaller things.
A word of warning
I’ve noticed it’s really easy to ditch the habit of acknowledging myself when things are going great. ‘Oh, I don’t need to acknowledge myself tonight, I’m tired and anyway things are going fine.’
It's at those times, I need to consider that things may have been ‘going fine; because of all the acknowledging I’ve been doing, and that it’s super easy to slip into the doldrums. You never know what’s around the next corner, or how long you’re going to need to stay buoyant and upbeat in the face of a long-term project or challenging time. So it's important to see acknowledging yourself on a regular basis as insurance against the tougher times – I say this as much a reminder to myself as to you!
Before you go to sleep tonight, ask yourself: 'What are the three things I’d like to acknowledge myself for achieving today?' Force them out, however small; it’s not always easy at first. Try involving a friend or a partner in the process and tell your acknowledgements to each other. Commit to this practice for a week without questioning it, and see how you feel at the end. If you feel better about yourself: try committing to a month!
*To give yourself a headstart, I challenge you to write 3 acknowledgements, right now, in the comments below.
I'll keep my end of the bargain put mine there too.
As always I look forward to hearing your thoughts and feedback (!)