Write down your last ten thoughts. Were they positive? Or do they tell a different story?
Our thoughts, the inner dialogue we have with ourselves, is a powerful voice in how we see ourselves and engage with the world around us.
So often, I see return-to-work mums struggle with a lack of self-confidence. It can be the reason they don’t seize, or even see, the opportunities surrounding them. Confidence is not something some lucky people are born with. It is a human emotion, generated by our own inner thoughts.
Here are some things you can do to make sure your inner voice is on your side:
1. Be grateful
It’s very easy to see the negative side of things. As a mum, you are often stretched in many different directions, and having to always care for others can be difficult. But simply noticing everything you are grateful for has a huge impact on your outlook.
Annoyed about children’s noise? Appreciate the joy of childhood and join in the game. Feel exhausted at the thought of preparing another evening meal? Take a moment to savour the cooking aromas and be thankful your family is well fed. Not happy about the stretch marks you see in the mirror? Thank your body for getting you places, giving you your children, and being able to hug the ones you love.
When you’re in a funk, gratitude does not come naturally. Make a habit of writing down the things you are grateful for. Take a daily photo of something that makes you smile. Spend a few minutes in bed every morning, breathing deeply and thinking about the things you would otherwise take for granted.
2. Know what you want
A lot of mums become so bogged down in the day-to-day of looking after everybody, that they forget what it is that they wanted out of life. Many of my clients feel lost. Having direction and purpose can be a huge factor in your self-esteem. There are so many different techniques that help you to set and reach your goals. The important thing is to write them down, have them where you can see them, and do something towards them, no matter how small, every day.
3. Pay attention to your internal self-dialogue
Take notice of the way you speak to yourself.
Are there certain situations where your self-esteem leaves the room? For many it’s social situations. For others, it can be when faced with a challenging situation like a job interview. Take note of your own self-talk at these times. Are you buoying yourself up, or kicking yourself for ever thinking you could be successful at this? Look your negative self talk in the eye, and fight back! If you know when it’s likely to occur, you can put some strategies in place. Tactics include rehearsing how you will behave, speak and even stand or sit in these situations. Have pre-prepared answers to your unhelpful self-talk that dispel the negativity and keep your inner dialogue on track. Be prepared to sit with the discomfort of the situation, knowing that it will pass.
4. Challenge your thinking
Everybody has negative thoughts about themselves and external situations, but it’s whether we choose to believe them that counts.
Test your thoughts to see if they are rational – would a friend agree with you? Or could your negative self-talk be undervaluing your achievements and exaggerating your failures? Are you jumping to negative conclusions about the way others feel about you? So often what we think people perceive about us is not the case.
Pay attention to the language you use in your inner dialogue. How would a supportive friend speak to you? For example, often we tell ourselves about the things we ‘should’ be doing. By changing the ‘shoulds’ to ‘coulds’, you describe the possibilities rather than berating yourself. A positive tone can make all the difference.
Treat yourself with compassion and encouragement. Acknowledge progress you’ve made, and forgive your mistakes. Re-label your failures as lessons.
5. Surround yourself with positive networks
Not everyone likes you and admires everything you do. Mothers of teenagers will attest that they seem to be ‘uncool’ pretty much all of the time! But you can decide whose opinion you are going to listen to.
True friends share, they don’t compare. With smiling selfies and shiny social media posts, it’s all too easy to fall into the comparison trap. Acknowledge that, whatever is displayed on the exterior, nobody is perfect and most people are struggling with something. Be prepared to forge your own path!
Select a mentor who is not only willing to share their knowledge, but wants to see you succeed.
Don’t listen, or be guarded about the opinion of those who seek to bring you down. Instead, surround yourself with friends and mentors who will positively influence your self-perception.
So, what do you believe about yourself?