One of the most important things we teach in Life Skills is the value of self talk. Research shows that it takes anywhere from 5 - 40 positive comments/acts/looks/gestures to undo the damage or negate 1 critical comment/act/look/gesture? Unfortunately, the critical comments/looks/gestures in our lives, most times, far outweigh the number of positive ones. So, do we go around looking for, fishing for, or trying to earn compliments or encouragement? No, that would be far too difficult and, in many cases, awkward. However, what we can do is positive self-talk. We have several different lists included in our curriculum of self-talk to use in order to help to negate all of the negative feedback we receive every day. Telling ourselves that we are valuable, worthy, etc... out loud has been proven to be very effective in helping to raise self-esteem. Don't believe it? Try it! As I mentioned, we have several lists of self-talk within our curriculum available to our students, however, you can make your own list. I would suggest making it as personal as possible. Some examples of what's included in our curriculum are:
I am a valuable person.
I can have a healthy self-image.
I can set specific goals for my future, and work confidently and diligently toward accomplishing them.
I can be a responsible, punctual, and dependable person.
The most effective way to do this is to look at yourself in the mirror and say the self- talk out loud to yourself. In our curriculum we teach that you do this for 30 days without missing a day or you have to start over. I always tell my students to do them until they believe it! For some, this can take quite a while.
So, if we really understand the impact our words & actions have on each other than imagine how much better our relationships with our spouse, teacher, friends, children, parents, etc... would be if we started saying and doing positive, encouraging things rather than always focusing on the negative.Try it today! You'll be amazed at the results!
What does it mean to validate? "Recognition or affirmation that a person or their feelings or opinions are valid or worthwhile." What a brilliant concept! If we could all just jump on board and try this we'd be amazed at the results. Validating costs nothing, but its rewards are immeasurable.
What does it look like? Validating looks something like this: Your friend/partner/child comes to you and tells you about a situation where someone treated them poorly and instead of defending the other person by saying something like "Oh, I am sure they didn't mean it that way or maybe they were just having a bad day, etc..." you would instead validate them by saying something like "I am so sorry that you were treated that way, that must have really hurt your feelings, etc..." Remember, this is your friend/partner/child, someone you care about, why are you defending the other person who will never even know that you did? Your friend/partner/child is just looking for a caring ear.
Another example would be: Your child falls down and skins their knee and instead of saying something like: "Oh, you're fine, stop crying, or shake it off." You would instead say something like: "Oh, honey, that must have really hurt. I am so sorry you got hurt. Let me kiss it, etc..." And then, give them a big hug. You will be amazed at how quickly they stop crying because they feel validated in their pain. I have done this time and time again with my own children, grandchildren, and many others and have been amazed how much it works... every time!
Also, they aren't looking for someone to solve their problems either. So, unless they say that they are looking for an answer to their problem, just listen! By listening, I mean put down your phone, turn off the TV, shut your laptop, and give your full attention and participate using active listening skills such as eye contact, nodding your head, saying uh-ha, replying to questions, etc... Nothing feels like invalidation more than trying to share something really important with someone and then realizing that you are having a one way conversation with a person who you thought really cared about you.
What does it cost you to validate? NOTHING! What are the rewards... immeasurable! People just want to know that you care. It's called empathy. Catch it!
New Year's Resolutions
Are you like many other people who start off their new year making resolutions that usually get forgotten about, sometimes as soon as morning hits on New Year's Day? I, too, have fallen into the trap of making resolutions without really making the decision to follow through on it. Resolutions, without goals, are destined to fail. If you are serious about making a change in your life you need to sit down and make a list of your long term goals and then follow up each long term goal with a list of short term goals that will help you to reach that goal. Many times our short term goals come in direct conflict with our long term goals and we don't even realize it. Having a plan in place will help you to recognize that you may have conflicting goals and allow for making the necessary adjustments.
I have a sign in my office that reads "Winners hate losing enough to change, and losers hate change enough to lose." When my husband first read that he cringed and said "Ouch!" I know that it can seem harsh but he knew the reality, as well I do, that change can be hard work. Sometimes we think it is easier to just stay in our comfort zone even though there may be great pain tied to it because we are afraid of change. If you are willing to get out of your comfort zone and do the work you will see positive changes throughout your life. For some, they have to get to the point where the pain of staying the same is greater than the process of facing it, processing it, and moving past it.
Make the decision to want to win enough to make a change. You can start simply by making the decision and then following it up by taking it one step at a time... one goal at a time.
Melinda Eck is the Executive Director of Life Skills of Wisconsin, mother of 5 and grandmother of 6. She has been leading Life Skills Classes for both women and teens since 2009.