One thing that clients often need help with when they come for coaching is boosting their self-esteem.
A common way to try to achieve this is by repeating positive affirmations such as, “I am resilient and can get through anything.”
If you”re asking your clients to repeat positive affirmations as a way to increase self-esteem, you could unintentionally be doing them a disservice.
That’s because affirmations don’t work for the people they were designed for—people who, like many of us, need help with their self-esteem.
So if telling yourself that you’re lovable, successful, or whatever it is you want to be hasn’t worked, it’s not your fault.
Positive affirmations can actually make you feel worse. And it can be a double whammy: not only does it not work, but you beat yourself up over the fact that it doesn’t work for you when you believe it works for everyone else.
The thing is, positive affirmations will never help if your brain doesn’t believe it.
But there is a way you can get affirmations to work: it’s called the directed abstraction technique.
This technique involves using a specific personal success to support a more positive, general—”abstract”—view of yourself.
In the directed abstraction technique you complete the following statement: “This went well today, because I am _____.”
It works because the first part of the statement is proof for the second part. So this time your brain will believe it.
This technique starts building self-esteem quickly.
This client, let’s call her Susan, was highly accomplished but didn’t see herself that way. Her self-esteem was through the floor.
So I had Susan use the directed abstraction technique at the end of each day. She chose 3 things that had gone well that day and, for each one, she completed the directed abstraction statement:
Susan had never thought of herself as accomplished, but after just a few days, she was amazed by how accomplished she really was! She also loved doing the task and her self-esteem quickly started to climb.
It’s important that we complete the “I am” part of the statement as something that we are (our qualities) rather than something we can do. This is because we want to change how we think about who we are.
Ask your clients to do this for as long as it takes to boost their self-esteem—they should feel a difference within a few days.
But it’s such a simple, practical exercise they can even do it indefinitely to keep their self-esteem up!
Why not try it on yourself too?
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