Lifehacks: Use Mindmapping to Improve Esteem

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Last week, I started a month-long series about something we moms deal with everyday: the interplay between our self-esteem and our thoughts about our appearance. In short, I called you a bully if you’ve been critical and nasty to yourself about your weight. Today, I’m going to ask you to take a half-step away from that post to consider the following question:

Where does self-esteem come from?

Put simply, self-esteem is the product of our inward and outward perceptions of ourselves, combined together. And what’s interesting is that the outside effects the inside and vice versa.

How?

If you feel accomplished – say you’ve been quite successful at starting your own business while raising your family and you tend to have all of your balls floating blissfully in the air – that provides a protection against things that might get you down. By simply feeling like you’re a good person, you will tend to have a gentler voice when speaking to yourself.

The reverse is also true. If you’re frequently telling yourself that you aren’t good enough – whether it’s about your job performance, your relationships with your family, or (gasp!) your weight – you tend to see everything bleaker. And that protection that I just mentioned is virtually non-existent.

Frankly, we teach ourselves to think well or assume the worst, based on the messages we tell ourselves. We can call this learned optimism and learned pessimism.

How we can erase pessimism?

That part’s both easy and hard. I could sweetly end this post by saying something shallow and glib, like, ‘stop thinking your weight defines you and the rest will fall into place’, but we all know that it’s not that easy. Not even on paper.

But there is something that you can do on paper that will help. Set goals. That’s right. Figure out what you need to do, to get yourself to a place of confidence – even if that goal has nothing to do with your perception of your beauty. Baby-steps, right?

Mind-mapping: The answer to all of Mom’s problems?

As mothers, we spend a lot of our time giving to others – our children, our spouses, friends, co-workers, family, community and so on. We’re lucky if we take time for ourselves to just be, never mind to iron out a solid what could be. Yet, so many of us gear up for January 1st, creating lists of resolutions that, I’m sorry to say, are often turfed before spring arrives.

I do it, too. I actually go even further, spending December really focusing on what changes I’d like to make in the coming year. And then, before I know it, I’ve forgotten what I meant to do, or why, or it just seems… insurmountable.

The secret to keeping those resolutions seems to be:

  • setting specific goals, with target dates and regular visitation of progress; and
  • setting mini-goals, as stepping stones to the Super Awesome Goal.

‘I will lose weight/20 pounds/two dress sizes’ is too loose a target. But ‘I will lose 20 pounds by March 1st via running three times a week, cutting fast-food back to once or less a week, and eating a salad everyday.’ is concrete. It includes the Super Awesome Goal, specifically, to lose 20 pounds by March 1st, and the mini-goals that will support your success, running and eating better.

Too easy. What’s the catch?

But it occurs to me that maybe, it’s not just the finite breaking down of our goals that might help us come to terms with our weight-bullying. It’s the perception that we need to lose X amount of pounds, to be successful, when ultimately, we should be aiming for healthy weight and habits

If 20 pounds is what it would take to move you from an obese weight to an over-weight one, then I will applaud you for choosing a specific target (The Super Awesome Goal) that will be a stepping stone to the Super Awesome Ultimate Goal of getting to a healthy weight and engaging in healthy habits.

Point being, weight is one area that you don’t want to specifically target, unless it’s having a negative impact on your health. Health should be your aim. And with healthy habits comes resiliency – that protectionism I mentioned – and endorphins. And then, as if by magic, self-esteem is created. One month, you felt like an over-weight, lazy slob and two months later, you felt confident about yourself both internally and externally because you just finished running a 5K. That first month, your sights were trained only on the scale and the difference between what you saw in the mirror and what you thought you should; two months later, you saw someone who had just accomplished something big.

It really can be that simple.

How do I get started?

It’s easy. Grab a piece of paper and a pencil, not a pen – you’ll be doing some erasing. Or, if you’re anal-retentive like I am, you can log into Bubble and have it keep things pretty and colour-coded.

Happiness_project_self_esteem

Pick your Super Awesome Goal

  • Write it down in big, capital letters and circle it as many times as your enthusiasm requires.
  • Stop. Is there any way to turn this goal into a Super Awesome Ultimate Goal?

Can you, instead of leaving ‘get out of a size 14’, erase it and write down ‘feel confident about my clothing size and how my clothes fit’? That’s the key difference between an esteem-changing goal and a reinforcing one. If you simply loose the weight to get to a smaller size, you’ve told yourself that you’re capable of it, yes, but you’ve also told yourself that being a size 14 is not okay. Then, you still haven’t dealt with the underlying issue – you’re not okay with yourself at a larger size. Being happy with the way your clothes fit includes both self-esteem garnering and can mean losing weight, but might not have to, if you decide instead to spend more time searching for clothes that fit you well and make you feel great to wear them. Tailoring can go a long way, ladies, as can well-made boot-cut jeans.

Figure out how to get there

Now, you have your intent. What can you do to fulfil it?

  • Throw any and all of the answers you can think of onto that piece of paper
  • Connecting each of them with a line to your intent.
  • Keep going, until you can’t think of any more.
  • Examine each baby-step you’ve brainstormed: is it realistic, or should it be erased?

You’ve created a mind-map. Let’s keep going.

  • Looking at each of the baby-steps, see if you want think of ways to break them down more specifically. For example, if your baby-step is to eat more salads, a sub-goal of could be to prepare a salad each night before bed, so it’s ready for lunch the next day. And you could find new recipes. How about shopping for salad ingredients on specific days, so you’re never left with something wilted, and forego your daily roughage?
  • Connect each of these sub-goals to their parent, the baby-steps of your true intent.

And so on.

By the time that you feel like you’ve completed your mind-map, the generalized Super Awesome Ultimate Goal has been broken down into a few baby-steps, which have each been broken down, too. Do you see what you’re left with? Simplicity – an easy map to getting to your true intent. Step-by-step instructions. Now, you just have to be

As you can see from the picture, I’ve started a mind-map of my own – to find more happiness in 2011. What’s on your map?

Next week, I’ll be talking about the difference between true health and society’s perception of what a healthy woman looks like – and about how very different those two images can be. At the end of that post, I’ll be announcing a giveaway for something pretty amazing, so make sure you come back and don’t feel shy about getting involved in the conversation!

 

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