“Self-esteem is just the reputation that you have with yourself.”

Naval Ravikant
Entrepreneur and Investor

When we make mistakes and errors in life, some of us subconsciously choose to beat on ourselves, at times mercilessly.

Yet what could happen if we learned to grant ourselves what we like to receive from other people – understanding, compassion and forgiveness? Barb Hildenbrand, founder and president of Stepping Stones Consulting, says that is possible, smarter and critical to success. 

“We need to learn to forgive ourselves when we mess up,” she says about our habits that require adjustment or replacement.

Increased understanding about how challenging self limiting, self destructive or destructive habits is important to learn, Hildenbrand says.

“Once habits are formed, they happen without a thought. Really, they become automatic responses. Grace is needed as we learn to become more cognizant of removing the habit; as we learn to purposely think about our actions and reactions. Habits aren’t just wished away. We have to be purposeful and diligent.”

She details behavior of her own that she didn’t care for and a practice that some might consider failure, being a way out of that habit she wanted to break up with, in moving towards what made her feel better about herself.

“I remember when I was quitting smoking. After eating, I would automatically grab a cigarette. That’s what I did. I had to be purposeful. I was too weak to not have some around just in case I really needed one. I’d stop myself, even if it was mid-puff, and dispose of that thing. Any physical habit we have, can be stopped, even in the middle of it. Stop, forgive yourself and say, ‘I’m doing better,” Hildenbrand says.

That recognition of progress, adjusted self analysis and more respectful self communication is the encouragement that can help fuel breakthrough. When our words are biting, however, we feel it just as if someone else, an enemy maybe, communicated it to us.

“We are often very cruel to ourselves,” Hildenbrand says. “Our brain still receives the message and what the brain hears, it receives as fact. We must overcome all of this negative self talk, with positive self-talk. This also takes purposeful action.”

How to speak to others is a habit and the same holds true, she asserts, in how we communicate in our minds to ourselves.

“Negative self-talk can become a habit, so we should learn to recognize it as it happens. When those negative thoughts and words come along, we need to stop them and counter them with positive statements,” Hildenbrand says.

A book helped change our mindset and self communication and it was an empowering experience.

“I remember when I first read the book What to Say When You Talk to Yourself by Shad Helmstetter way back in the mid 1980s. This was a turning point for me. I would pay close attention to what I was saying and thinking to myself throughout my day,” she says. “As a negative, demeaning thought or statement came along, even mid sentence, I would interrupt it and say, ‘No, that’s ok. I am getting better. I can overcome this,’ or a similar, appropriate statement.

A simple recommendation in this process can be easily implemented can help rewire our brain and chatter with ourselves, even when we’re feeling discouraged or upset with our outcomes, professionally and personally.

“Self affirmations said aloud twice daily also help. In your self affirmation, you will be well served to include something such as ‘I am kind to myself,’ ‘I speak well to myself and others,’ or a similar statement. Remember, what your brain hears, it believes,” Hildenbrand says.

What might prove surprising, she claims, is that when we institute this practice, with discipline, and conduct it successfully we will experience less stress and interact with other people with more confidence, peace and warmth.

In the end, it is that sustainment of emotional drive, commitment and the correct effort that leads to progress and breakthrough. 

“Action is what will get us to where we want to be. Action will defeat these bad habits. Those who do the action, in whatever manner is best for their level of commitment and personality blend, will be successful,” Hildenbrand says.

“There is also a personality blend, Personality Style, which can be a factor. The bottom line is that if you want to change, you should determine your level of commitment to it, and if you need help, get it. Do you need an accountability partner, a coach, or can you make a checklist for yourself or a tracking system?” Hildenbrand asks.

Trying is often lauded, as it should be, yet it alone with the most difficult of negative habits, is not always sufficient to achieve goals. More is required.

“Those who are willing to try, without a plan of action or back up in the form of accountability, will not be successful,” Hildenbrand says. “Do or do not. There is no try.”