This was first published on ksl.com
In your last article you said, "Build your spouse up and tell him constantly how amazing and wonderful he is. Never make him feel he disappoints you on any level. The more admired, respected, appreciated and wanted you make him feel, the more he will love and adore you. This kind of loving behavior is what will create real happiness, connection and great intimacy." I do this with my wife, the problem is she has very low self-esteem/depression, mostly due to severe health issues/chronic pain, and sometimes it backfires. When I try to point out her good, she rejects it and it actually makes her feel worse, because she doesn't see herself that way. I have even found times when I'm struggling that affirmations feel more like "mocking" because I don't see myself that way. I agree with the idea of positive reinforcement, and we practice it, but there are times when it can do more harm than good and has to be handled "delicately." I would just like to hear your opinion on this.
There are times we all feel so deeply inadequate that validation doesn’t work. There are also people who have deep emotional wounds and insecurities that are an ingrained part of their belief systems. For these people (and most of us) we must go deeper to change self-esteem. We must change the core belief that creates low self-esteem to begin with.
This technique is part of my breakthrough coaching process, but it is something you can do with your family at home too. Get the family together and explain how everything we see and believe is based on perspective and that our perspective then determines how we feel. Here is an example:
Imagine being on a boat in a storm in the dark. The waves are tossing the boat right and left and you are scared for your life. You hold on tight and pray you won’t capsize. It’s scary and tense. Then the captain comes back and asks how you are. You explain it’s too dangerous and ask him to turn back.
The captain just laughs and says not to worry. This is normal. They travel through waves this size every day and the boat will be fine. You will arrive at your destination safely. He tells you to enjoy the experience because all is well. There is nothing to fear. Now, you can start to see the experience as fun, like a ride at the amusement park. You laugh as the boat is tossed and you are no longer afraid.
You are still on the same boat, in the same storm with the same size waves. A few minutes ago you were scared to death and now you are fine. The only thing that changed was your perspective. A perspective change can completely change the way you feel.
So, let’s change your perspective about you and your value as a person.
We start by helping you understand your current perspective on your value, where it comes from and what it’s based on. Your current fears about your value come from one core belief that affects how you see yourself and other people every minute of your life. It is a belief you have accepted as fact (even though it is only an idea or perspective). This core belief is that human value is changeable.
You believe human value changes all the time. This means you can perform well, lose weight or make more money and literally increase your value as a person. You can also fail, lose a game, lose your job, have a bad hair day or have people who don’t like you and lose value as a person.
This would also mean that some people are better than other people, and this damaging idea is responsible for most of the problems on the planet. We are always seeing ourselves as better or more important than groups of other people, which leads us into conflict, discrimination and hate.
This idea that human value changes also creates a fear in all of us — that we might not be good enough. It is because we believe that human value is changeable that we are insecure and feel inadequate so much of the time.
If you want to help your spouse and children feel better about themselves and have more confidence, you must help them change this core belief. You must help them shift their perspective and start seeing human value as infinite and absolute — and unchangeable.
We have the option of seeing life as a classroom, not a test, and you can’t fail if there is no test. If there is no test, your value isn’t in question at all. This means your value stays the same no matter what mistakes you make. You can always just erase and try again. These mistakes are lessons to teach you things, but they don’t affect your value.
Right now, because you think your value can change and must be earned, you base your value on your appearance, performance, property and the opinions of others. The world has taught you to see people who do well in these areas as better than those who don’t. But again, this is just perspective.
You could instead decide to see human value as based on our nature and our uniqueness as one-of-a-kind, irreplaceable souls. If our value is based on our uniqueness, then we all have the same value, because we are all unique.
Teach your family that human value is the same all the time. Teach them that we are on this planet to learn and grow (and we have a lot more learning and improving to do) but our intrinsic worth is not tied to that progress.
Teach them their intrinsic worth is there and the same, all the time, no matter what. Start talking about this perspective being true every day and in every situation. When your kids see a homeless person, point out that they have the same value we do. When your child loses a game, point out that it isn't fun, but at least it doesn’t affect their value. When your spouse makes a mistake, remind him or her that it’s just a lesson and you both still have the same value. Make this idea something that is reinforced daily.
If you can change the principle belief that creates feelings of inadequacy, you can lessen the problem. This belief is deeply ingrained though, so it’s going to take lots of work, repetition and discussion to internalize it — but you can do it. I help individuals, organizations and groups change this and other core beliefs every day, and it can be done. You can change your thinking and change your life.
The author Chuck Palahniuk wrote, “The unreal is more powerful than the real. Because nothing is as perfect as you can imagine it. Because it's only intangible ideas, concepts, beliefs, fantasies that last. Stone crumbles. Wood rots. People, well, they die. But things as fragile as a thought, a dream, a legend, they can go on and on. If you can change the way people think, the way they see themselves, the way they see the world, you can change the way people live their lives. That's the only lasting thing you can create.”
Instead of just validating your spouse, help your family create a new belief about human value. See all people as good enough all the time. Convince them that their value is never in question. This will work and last. Help your wife to understand that appearance has nothing to do with her value. I wrote a parable about this one a few months agoyou might want to read.
This always seem impossible the first time someone hears it (because their old beliefs are so ingrained), but I promise if you work at this, you can do it. If she still struggles with self-worth or grasping this change, I highly recommend working with a Claritypoint certified facilitator, who can give you more tools to internalize the new belief.
You can do this.
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Kimberly Giles is the president and founder of Claritypoint Life Coaching and 12 SHAPES INC. She is an author and professional speaker. She was named one of the top 20 advice gurus in the country by Good Morning America in 2010. She appears regularly on local and national TV and Radio.