All people speak to themselves. Children often vocalize their inner message as they play, think or sort out their feelings. Adults are usually less aware of their “guiding messages” that affect their self-esteem and potency in life. Cultivating and maintaining a realistic positive self-regard can greatly enhance our effective functioning and emotional health.
Knowing right from wrong is mostly learned in childhood from parents, teachers and other influential adults. Our evolved self-view is the product of accumulated messages we heard from influential adults. Individuals who were raised with discipline and love are more likely to develop a healthy self-esteem, confidence and a solid internal code of moral and social conduct. Those whose parents were less supportive have often sought other adult role models who helped them feel affirmed and valued.
Most adults use some inner-parenting messages, such as: “Be agreeable, let others talk, be polite, speak kindly to others, wait your turn” as self-guiding edicts for their conduct. Fewer people are aware that their self-berating messages such as, “you are not that smart, capable, liked, respected, or as knowledgeable as others” impede their actions, demoralize their spirits, are self-hindering and must be changed!
Some of our negative self-assessment depictions were learned in childhood from unhealthy adults or through our own misguided comparisons to others whom we have respected and admired. Often, skewed self-perceptions are based on fears or poor emotional adaptation to frustrating situations. Whatever the source may be, we are wise to reshape our self-view in a supportive and self-soothing manner as healthy, loving parents would have done for us.
In “Resilient Adults: Overcoming a Cruel Past”, Gina O’Connell Higgins found that children who have gravely suffered in their childhood were able to survive healthily if they had even one adult who believed in them, supported them and affirmed them.
Adults who were raised by positive and affirming parents are more likely to have a better self-view. Researcher Ann Bernard of the University of New Orleans who studied “The Effects of Self-Talk on the Level of Success in College Students” found that students’ academic performance, goal achievement and job performance were related to their positive self-view.”
If you are a parent who uses reassurance, validation, encouragement and loving support of your child, you certainly have the skills to bolster your own esteem in times of doubt. Positive self-talk, realistic encouragement, trust and self-love are soothing tools that can elevate any individual in times of self-doubt. Practicing on yourself the positive reinforcement skills you apply to your children is wise and beneficial.
Practice being your own “good parent”:
- Use familiar supportive messages you received from your parent or other nurturing adult figures in your life to bolster your spirit in times of self-doubt.
- Monitor your internal messages and correct them when they are non-supportive.
- Resist rehearsing negative messages about yourself and provide evidence of their falsehood.
- Practice being the “good parent” to yourself as you are to your children, friends or colleagues.