Mental Self-Defense Strategies

I have designed some activities to build self-esteem that I would like to share from a series of lessons I am designing on “mental self-defense strategies”. Dream Busters ~ Recognizing Resistance~

We have all suffered some forms of conflict or abuse in our lives. But here’s what I discovered: it is how we react to that abuse that will strengthen or weaken us. Everyone has dreams, right? How many of us have had a dream kicked to the curb? Can you remember what you wanted to be? Or do you have a dream right now tucked away in the back of your mind?

Have you ever been convinced to walk away from your dream by people who managed to throw enough self doubt at you to win that war of attrition; the constant day in and day out negative input that pushes you to give up your dreams and conform to something you’re not! “What are you nuts? You can’t do that!” “Oh there’s another hair brained scheme!” “Get Real! Go get a real job!” “Who do you think you are? You aren’t something special, stick to the things you can handle.” ” What are you stupid or something? Why do you think you can do that?” Lambasting you with negativity and giving you the message ” Who are you to become an author, or an inventor, or any number of other things your dreams may lead you to?” The litany goes on and on. Often the words that sting the most come from the people closest to us, I once heard that negative words were sixteen times more powerful than positive words and especially if they come from people you love. Many of us have heard similar comments from our own families. And remember that “family” is not just relatives but our closest circle of influence, the people that influence you the most in your life on a day-to-day basis.

We must learn how to reinforce our mental immune systems. As you are just opening up to re-affirming and re-discovering your dreams it is important not to leave yourself open to Dream Busting attacks. Often when you are in the early creative process you want to share that with the people closest to you, but too many times you get shot down by those around you and are stopped before you even get started. We already have to deal with our own internal dream busters, voices from our past that can wreak havoc in our present.

It is amazing how many of us constantly go through life creating speaking and thinking negative affirmations all day long to ourselves, “I always do that, I’m so stupid, etc.” causing our ill emotional and mental states, yet we often have such an aversion to the idea that positive affirmations will have the same impact (but in the desired direction.) Pessimism and negativity are a much more accepted form of self-talk. Recognizing it can be difficult. Sometimes it takes the form of a mental pause where suddenly you start to doubt yourself, and your dream seems to waver. Perhaps you start to wonder about your own ability.

Become aware of this and catch it at that moment, realize that it is a trigger. Learn to recognize when you are being “infected” by those around you by noticing those moments of self-doubt when they arise. It is here that the use of positive affirmations can be very useful. Often we may find that our three biggest enemies are “Me, Myself and I.” Basically the limitations that get dumped on us from an early age get internalized so we then have to deal with internal as well as external “Dream Busters.”

Activities To Build Self-Esteem: Exercise 1: Write down the 3 top Dream Busting phrases that really get to you, that make you contemplate kicking your dream to the curb, it is different for everyone, but usually there is at least one that just sticks in your craws so to speak.

Exercise 2: Write down the 3 top Dream Busters in your life (people who just don’t get it, they could be trying to “help” but are only harming, or, as unfortunately can often be the case, they may be malicious and just trying to knock you down). These are usually the source of the phrases you came up with in the first exercise. Who says those things to you, where do they come from? Or if it is internal, where did it come from originally? The point of the exercise is to begin to recognize Dream Busters in all forms so you can build up defenses to counteract their influence in your life.

Exercise 3: Now finally, take a good hard look at these sources that you have written down and ask yourself, are these people where you want to be? Have they accomplished what you dream about doing? I will tell you now that the answer to that question is most often a resounding no! You can’t learn how to swim from a drowning man. Think about this: are these people who really have something to offer, or just people with so much to say and nothing to offer themselves?

You are a power unto yourself, and nobody can truly take that away. It is only when we allow other people power over our dreams that we hand over the keys to our future.