Feeling better about ourselves 

Self-esteem is how we stack ourselves up to the world around us.  Self-esteem is important to us as guitarists and as people in general.  If we have high self-esteem, we feel good about our ability to play the guitar and we feel good about ourselves and our interactions with the world around us.  We feel more capable and we feel worthy of other people’s love and respect.  If we have low self-esteem, we may feel that we are not good enough to play the guitar and stop playing entirely or that we are not competent or have nothing of value to contribute to those who are around us or to the world in general.  Life can become a grim and dark place and we can feel poorly about ourselves.

What we frequently forget, is that we shape our own opinions of ourselves through our own thoughts and self-talk.  People can sometimes attribute how they feel about themselves to external events in the world around them.  That they are feeling down because it is raining or their boss is neglecting them or a teacher gave them a poor grade, or some other unfavorable event occurred.  We then use these as reasons to justify to ourselves why we are feeling bad.  What is key here to understand is that our choices on how we perceive these events shape our views on our world.  Perception and self-talk gives us our opinion of how we feel about ourselves.

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Throughout much of our lives, we are frequently unaware that we are always talking to ourselves: evaluating and critiquing what we are doing now, what we have done in the past and what we think we will do in the future.  Our self-talk can be both liberating and invigorating, allowing us to reach new personal bests in life; or our self-talk can also be limiting and negative, pushing us down in our self-comparisons to those around us.  As a guitarist, this can hold us back from being happy with our playing.  As people, this can hold us back from achieving personal goals and being happy with life in general.

As stated above, this self-talk can be either positive or negative in nature.  If our self-talk revolves around negativity and we constantly compare ourselves in a negative light to the world around us, we find that we indeed are not as smart, attractive or as talented as those around us.  We become what we are thinking about.  However, if our self-talk centers on positive feelings towards ourselves and we give ourselves bits of encouragement, we find that we are capable, that we can do a great many things well, that we are attractive, and that life in general is a wonderful experience.

What science is discovering is that we create neural pathways in our brains based upon how we think.  If we think negatively, we will unconsciously create “negative” neural paths in our brains where anything that we think about is automatically viewed in a negative light.  However, if we can change our own thinking to be more positive in nature, we will create new, “positive” neural paths in our brains that cause us to view things more positively.  How do we create these positive pathways in our brains so that we have positive thoughts, which leads to better self-talk, which leads to better self-esteem which leads us to feeling better about ourselves?

Positive Exercises

Well, just like on guitar, it takes practice and just like on guitar there are proven exercises that you can use.  These exercises, when done regularly, are guaranteed to make you feel better about yourself.  Try them and find out! 

1.  Smile when looking at yourself in the mirror.  This has to be the easiest exercise – ever!  When we brush our teeth in the morning, comb our hair or look at ourselves in the rear view mirror in the car, smile!  When we catch our reflection in a glass door, or wash our hands in the restroom or put on makeup or shave, smile!  Even if we don’t feel like it at the time, the simple act of viewing ourselves smiling can help to change our mental image of ourselves.  A smiling version of ourselves coming back to us in the mirror looks so much better than a frowning version of ourselves.  So smile! 

2.  Once a day, monitor your thoughts for 5 minutes and change negative thoughts into positive thoughts.  When doing this exercise, try to do this in an environment where you don’t have to interact with anyone during this time.  A good example of this might be when you are driving in the car or riding on the school bus.  There are any number of places that this will work in so long as you are alone with your thoughts.  As you monitor your thoughts, if a negative thought occurs in your mind, “flip it.”  Change it around so that it is viewed positively.  By changing our thoughts, one by one, to positive ones for 5 minutes, we are starting to turn off the “negative” neural pathways in our brain and create new, “positive” ones.  Once these positive pathways become well-worn in terms of thought processing in our brain, we will start to view everything as positive without even realizing it.

3.  Praise yourself.  When you complete any task, praise yourself.  Tell yourself “good job!” “Nicely done!” “That was pretty good!”  When you do this on a regular basis, you start to feel more capable.  You know that since you did these other things well, that you will likely do the next thing well (or at least give it a good effort!).  So much of our lives is task oriented and when we start to feel that we can do tasks well, we feel much better about ourselves.

4.  Make a withdrawal from the “Positive Bank”.  Identify anything positive that you have recently done that you feel very good about and store that thought in the back of your mind somewhere.  As life eventually does, at some point something negative will happen to you, causing you to think negatively.  At that moment, catch yourself and go to your “Positive Bank” and make a withdrawal.  Pull up that positive thought that you have been storing and remember it to make yourself feel better.  Example:  you forget to pick up something from the store that a family member really wanted and you begin to chide yourself as you should have remembered it.  At that moment, catch yourself and pull up your positive thought:  “yeah, but I did a great job the other day when I had to rush home, pick up the kids, make sure that they had everything that they needed for their activities and then managed to make it to all of them on time”.  Life can be very challenging!  Make sure that you are there to remind yourself that you are doing a great job by making a withdrawal from your “Positive Bank.”

These are an example of any number of exercises that you can use to make yourself feel better.  If we can change our self-talk and self-esteem to be positive, we’ll feel better about ourselves.  We’ll feel more confident, happy and capable.  Well, now you have some exercises to do - get going and start feeling better!

Interested in learning more about us and our guitar programs?  Visit our home page to learn more.

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