How Mindfulness Affects Self-Esteem
Mindfulness affects your self-esteem, and often, when we think about mindfulness, many of us picture a happy person meditating peacefully while the sounds of "ohm" echo in the background. Without our realizing it, this picture incepts a formula into our subconscious: mindfulness plus quiet serenity equals self-love. Yet for many of us, quiet serenity is not something easily check off on our to-do list–our days are filled with busy streets and office chairs, not Zen gardens and floor cushions. Does this mean self-love is unachievable? Not at all. Even when serenity is unavailable, one powerful tool we can use towards building self-esteem is mindfulness.
Let's start by approaching mindfulness from a practical angle. The dictionary defines mindfulness as, "a mental state achieved by focusing one's awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one's feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations."1 In other words, mindfulness is the ability to "think about thinking," to rationally explore your emotional thoughts as they arise.
Take the example of anger. Anger is a firecracker of an emotion. When it's activated, many of us become louder, experience increased heart rate, and feel more aggressive, often without realizing our reactions. The most basic version of mindfulness is being able to say, "I recognize I am experiencing the signs that usually mean I am angry."
But how does mindfulness help us build self-esteem?
Using Mindfulness to Explore Self-Esteem
There are strong connections between feeling powerless and low self-esteem. Naturally, when emotions feel out of our control, we see our inability to orchestrate them as a sign we are in some way lacking. This is where mindfulness can help self-esteem–it creates space. By looking at our emotions from the "outside," we begin to develop the power to decide how we will be affected by them. We learn to separate who we are from how we feel. Our emotions become like clouds–they may sometimes cover up the sun, but we know they will drift away.
Let's return to anger. Our mindfulness practice starts with the recognition of the emotion. "I know I am angry," we learn to tell ourselves. This separates our consciousness from our emotion, allowing our "outside" view. As we learn to sink further into mindfulness, we use this space to explore the emotion. We ask questions like, "Is there something anger will change in this situation?" "Do I want to be angry right now?" "Is my anger because I'm angry, or am I actually just frightened?"
The emotion stops affecting us and starts informing us–suddenly, our emotions don't feel as controlling. We learn we have the ability to manage our emotions, that we are not as lacking as we thought. Cue the growth of self-esteem.
Finding Mindfulness for Self-Esteem Growth
There several eastern practices that are designed to help develop mindfulness, such as yoga, pranayama, and meditation. These techniques are great if Eastern philosophy interests you. If you are interested in a more Western approach to mindfulness, consider starting by asking yourself reflective questions. Here are a few to consider:
- Can I identify my emotions?
- What happens inside of me when I feel (insert emotion)?
- Can I control my emotions when I want to?
- What do I think about myself when I can't change the way I'm feeling?
For many of us, the first step is the hardest–simply recognizing our emotions as they occur. Give yourself time to master this skill; and remember that if you get frustrated, you have the perfect opportunity to explore frustration. I hope you discover that developing a mindfulness practice does wonders for your self-esteem.
- Dictionary.com. "Mindfulness." Accessed July 20, 2019.
Mahrer, B. (2019, July 25). How Mindfulness Affects Self-Esteem, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2020, February 20 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/buildingselfesteem/2019/7/how-mindfulness-affects-self-esteem
Author: Britt Mahrer
This is a beautiful read. I love the questions that you bring up. I particularly love the emphasis on working with identifying the emotions. This may be something that we assume we do naturally but if we pause to really reflect on what we're truly feeling we can often find it's not what we thought it to initially be. Wonderful.
Hi Lizanne, thank for your insightful comment! Sometimes that moment of pause feels impossible to learn, but when it becomes second nature, it happens in a nanosecond and changes the way we interact with our world. I'm glad you enjoyed this article.