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Being Wary of Wellness: Activities to Promote Self-Esteem and Healthy Living, Inside and Out
In the last decade, healthy lifestyles and wellness routines have become increasingly popular. Our perpetual inundation with celebrity fitness regiments, who’s eating what, the current essential oils that are in vogue, and kitschy tidbits that people buy into in the name of good health has only intensified in recent years.
Current attitudes about health and fitness are becoming less and less healthy because of the cultural obsession with, and subscription to, fad-based practices that are abandoned as fast as three new ones become the new craze. We’ve come to a point where we’re losing track of ourselves in the incessant journey to make ourselves better. When process eclipses purpose, it’s time to step back and really think about the balance that true meditation teaches.
In a wonderful article called Improving Ourselves to Death, there’s a poignant statement that encapsulates our modern self-improvement obsession:
In our current era of non-stop technological innovation, fuzzy wishful thinking has yielded to the hard doctrine of personal optimization. Self-help gurus need not be charlatans peddling snake oil. Many are psychologists with impressive academic pedigrees and a commitment to scientific methodologies, or tech entrepreneurs with enviable records of success in life and business. What they’re selling is metrics. It’s no longer enough to imagine our way to a better state of body or mind. We must now chart our progress, count our steps, log our sleep rhythms, tweak our diets, record our negative thoughts—then analyze the data, recalibrate, and repeat.
A literal wash, rinse, repeat cycle where we focus on eliminating the bad is a deliberately statistical focus on the negative that hardly notices what’s going well. In the same way a software update focuses on bug fixes and increasing efficiency, so do our personal wellness regiments. Rather than building self-esteem and confidence, we’re debugging our processes in hopes of being the best version of ourselves.
Let’s be clear: you’re not broken. Esteem is a level of respect or admiration for a person; in this case, that person is you. On a daily basis, self-admiration gets picked at by thousands of external forces. Sometimes the damage is noticeable, but most of the time the damage is consistently small enough that it slips past unnoticed, increasing exponentially. The consistently compounding attacks on our self-esteem break down confidence subversively, leaving us shell-shocked, anxious, nervous, and depressed.
In a world that’s a veritable avalanche of “you’re not good enough,” what can we do to silence the outside and bring peace to the inside? It’s not an easy path and it’s something that isn’t learned in 30 seconds of meditation or eating an acai bowl every day. It’s practiced contentment and it starts with you. There are some easy practices you can get into that will help break the software loop of artificial wellness and truly boost your self-esteem.
Eat, Drink, Be Merry, and Balance
One of the most toxic things about the wellness movement is projecting guilt upon things so simple as sometimes overdoing it on a night or a weekend. We’re not saying to abandon your smoothies and quit going to the gym, but remember that there must be a balance. Allow no one to make you feel guilty for enjoying life. You are going to have those nights where you do things in excess but the goal is to think about life in the broader picture of balancing yourself. Have fun but keep it in balance. Don’t let people pressure your lifestyle because it works for them. You’re not subject to anyone’s approval but your own.
Put Your Phone Down
One of the most anxiety-inducing parts of our lives we are attached to most hours of the day: phones. It’s odd enough we even call them phones anymore, because most time is spent on varying forms of social media. Between Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, Pinterest, and any of the other platforms that push what everyone else is doing into your face, we’ve been programmed to like, follow, share, and duplicate whatever that supermodel with 2.7 million followers is doing because “omg her whole life is so perfect!”
This habitual practice is an image-based zombification that perpetuates blue screen driven drones who very rarely notice the detrimental effects of mindlessly scrolling and tapping.
Put. It. Down. Limit your phone use. There are apps that will do this for you (ironically). Delete social media or limit your time on it. Don’t sleep with your phone. Not only is the backlight making you sleep poorly, ending your day with the noise of everything else isn’t helping either. Set a time in the evening after which you no longer look at your phone until the next day. Enjoy some mindful living time.
Write It Out
Negative thoughts and low self-esteem will always be lurking. It’s naive to think that a few simple tricks will banish negativity forever. Many people try to silence those thoughts by trying a new diet, working out more, or making themselves busier to drown out the dull hum of negativity in the background. That might work for a time, but the silent times will be deafening.
Keep a journal. A physical paper journal. When the thoughts pop in, write them down and be brutally honest. Don’t sugar coat. Human beings have a tendency to make things appear better than they are (Instagram, anyone?). Have a conversation with yourself when you’re staring at those thoughts on paper and consider what has caused them. Write that down, too. Be even more honest. Over time, you’ll begin to recognize patterns of external and internal negativity and the sources they come from. This isn’t a list of things you’re doing wrong, it’s an exercise in self-honesty. A self-guided noticing of your vulnerabilities, where they might come from, and how you’ll approach them.
See a Therapist
The most positive thing you can do for your mental health is to see a professional. Too many people have a preconceived notion of brokenness associated with therapy. Break yourself of that. They’re trained to listen, learn, and recommend strategies that work to defeat seemingly overwhelming negativities that bog us down.
Part of the honesty from writing things down runs in tandem with seeing a professional therapist. Together, you’re a dynamic team. With honesty and the commitment to true inner self-improvement, we’ll get past the trap of artificial wellness. You’re never alone, so don’t isolate yourself!
There’s No Self-Esteem Summit
Self-esteem isn’t a mountain to be climbed. You’re not defeating external or internal forces against you to get to this imaginary peak where all is well. It’s a gentle, daily practice that calls for inner quiet, true honesty and the commitment to a journey that winds unpredictably through life. Sprinting headlong down that path robs you of the value in the journey and in yourself. Slow down, take time to reflect, and you’ll find yourself joyous even through the rough patches. Just Mind can offer additional assistance in helping you boost your self-esteem, as we offer personal growth counseling! You can contact us to make a counseling appointment. Additionally, you can read Saving Some Time for Self-Care and What is Self-Compassion? for more information on personal growth and discovery.