We talk a lot about love, but very few of us seem to agree on what it is. Researchers avoid the term altogether. They prefer the phrase Unconditional Positive Regard. Yes, it is a bit wordy, but it does give you some clues as to what to nurture in your attitude towards yourself.
Research into caregiving during your early years suggests that the quality of Unconditional Positive Regard you received shaped your self-esteem – or the value you learnt to place on yourself – and that sense of value still shapes how you treat yourself now as an adult.
Researchers can demonstrate that your caregivers did four specific things which shaped your self-esteem. You can’t change your childhood, but as an adult, you can use those same four things to cultivate your self-esteem and to start valuing yourself more right here and now.
One: Recognise the qualities in yourself that you want to nurture.
The Recognition your caregivers gave you as a child shapes how you see yourself now. You learnt to see yourself the way they saw you. If they saw the best in you, you probably see that in yourself. Equally, if they saw the worst in you, you probably see that in yourself too.
Start noticing how you see yourself and start asking if you learnt to see yourself that way. If you did, ask if that way of seeing yourself still works for you. What you’re aiming for is to learn to see yourself more objectively, so you can choose what you want to change.
Two: Accept all parts of yourself, especially the ones you don’t like.
The Acceptance your caregivers gave you shapes how you accept yourself now. You learnt to accept the parts of yourself that were acceptable to them. If they accepted something in you, you probably accept it in yourself. If they rejected something, you probably reject it too.
Start noticing how you accept yourself and start asking if you learnt to relate to yourself that way. If you did, ask if that way of relating to yourself still works for you. What you’re aiming for is to learn to accept yourself more holistically, so you can choose what to act on in yourself.
Three: Approve of the parts of yourself that you want to cultivate.
The Approval your caregivers gave you shapes how you approve of yourself now. You learnt to approve of yourself the way that they approved of you. If they approved of something, you probably feel good about it in yourself. If they disapproved, you probably feel bad about it too.
Start noticing what makes you feel good about yourself and ask if you learnt to feel that way. If you did, ask if that way still works for you. What you’re aiming for is to learn to feel good about yourself in a way that fits in with your current values, so you can choose how to grow.
Four: Reward yourself for your self-awareness and commitment to growth.
The Rewards your caregivers gave you shape what you give yourself now. You learnt to give to yourself in the way that they gave to you. If they rewarded you, you probably reward yourself in a similar way. If they punished you, you probably punish yourself in a similar way too.
Start noticing what you give yourself and ask if you learnt to reward yourself that way. If you did, ask if that still works for you. What you’re aiming for is to reward yourself for the things in you that you want to develop and grow, so that you can choose what to sustain.
Noticing how you recognise, accept, approve and reward yourself can give you more insight into how you maintain your self-esteem – and more choice about how to increase that sense of personal value.
Asking for help in these four areas might be the best choice you can make to support yourself. At DSC you will find a range of skills-based training that could increase your self-esteem.
Sign up for Resilience on Thursday 27 February to find out how to become a stronger version of you.
This article first appeared on Paul Brollo’s LinkedIn.