Many of us spend our time in a constant state of self-deprecation. We have abusive self-talk, and we tend to focus on our weaknesses or what we (apparently) lack, rather than concentrating on strengths, on our gifts, talents and abilities.
From Self-Defeating to Self-Confidence
This habit of being hypercritical of the self (and concurrent to this is being hypercritical of others) is one that starts young. Young kids and teens that I work with in art therapy and counselling already contend constantly with an unhealthy, and over active, inner critic. Sometimes the judgments we have and the standards we hold for ourselves are devastating to our self-esteem and can lead to ranging degrees of affects (from minor to severe, even grave).
It’s important to ask, would I speak to my closest friends the way I speak to myself?
Step Into Your Power
In line with a positive psychology approach, the typical first step in my counseling work is to support the development of self-confidence. Only when we have a love of the self, only when we feel worthwhile, can we begin the road to healing our hearts, minds, and external life (relationships, school/work, experience of life, finances, etc.).
For those of us who identify with self-hatred, stepping into self-love can be a terrifying leap. The issue becomes more complex when we are not consciously aware. For example, many of us claim we have a high regard for ourselves, yet think and behave in ways that suggest we do not.
How do we move past these blocks and barriers to self-love and confidence? We can start by acknowledging what makes us super…. right here, right now.
The Metaphor of the Superhero in Art Therapy
Print out a superhero template or draw a figure of a superhero that best represents your inner superhero! Think about what shape would you be (heroes come in all shapes, sizes, colours, genders or non). What details would be on your costume? What features would you have?
If you were a superhero, say from a Marvel or D.C. comic, what would be your inherent powers? We all have powers or strengths and gifts and talents that we come into this world with.
For example, you may be an empathetic listener with whom others feel safe talking. There you have it, a gift! Perhaps you want to illustrate this gift on your superhero as brightly coloured ears (listening), or a third eye (empathetic, sensitive).
What I Have Now
Sit with yourself and truly identify your gifts, strengths, and talents. Illustrate them on your superhero. Be proud of what makes you unique, special and worthwhile.
What I Want to Develop
Next, reflect on the talents and abilities that you’d like to develop. For example, you may want to improve at a musical instrument, like the piano, because you find music soothing, and you wish to not only play for yourself, but to share that with others. Perhaps you would illustrate this with some musical notes on your costume? Perhaps your superhero goes around with a mini keyboard?
After you’ve reflected on what you would like to develop, and shown those visually, let’s redirect ourselves to protection.
The weapons or protective devices of our heroes are not to harm, hurt, destroy, intimidate, or to force. Superheroes do not use these tactics unless absolutely necessary (such as to save themselves or others from immediate harm.) Rather, superheroes protect themselves from negative forces or challenges. For example, sometimes we deal with difficult bullies (big bad guys), or “evil” thinking (harmful negative thoughts)…and even germs and bacteria! Sometimes at school or work, we need to put a shield up so that we can be tough enough to handle whatever situations arise (remember not to lose sight of YOU and your values in the process). Like water off a duck’s back, sometimes we need to let things go that were intended to hurt us…and imaginary shields or weapons can help us do that!
We all need to protect ourselves. What would your weapon/shield/ or protective device look like? My “weapon” is a paintbrush! I use art and painting to help me stay protected, and to ward off negativity. It helps me to find clarity and peace…a weapon for sure! Add your unique weapon to your hero.
Now, all superheroes need a tool belt…
What’s in your Tool Belt?
Create a tool belt for your superhero. Please note that is a special tool belt. Not only does it include devices to help you shield and protect yourself from negative forces in the world, but it also includes gadgets that help the hero heal, stay calm and grounded. All this helps the hero to stay in contact with the present moment so that they are most efficient, thinking clearly, living on purpose, and acting on things that they care about.
In mine, I wrote the letter “B” to stand for “Breathing.” I use breath to keep me calm and in touch with my body when my thoughts become loud. I also included an “S” for “Snacks.” When I stay hydrated and fed, I remain balanced and am better able to handle different situations as they come up (this took me a long time to figure out…perhaps you are the same?).
Sustain the Momentum
Great, so you’ve got that down…But wait, you’re not done yet!
We need to continue to build ourselves up and to slowly begin to “step into” our inner superhero. This will take time and patience. How do we do that?
Keep your hero around as a daily reminder of your commitment to changing your relationship with yourself. You now see yourself as super. Hang it in your closet, or on the fridge. Look at it. Appreciate it. Remember your strengths. Remember your tools. Use your protective devices or shields out in the world.
When you come across a challenge, imagine that you are in a movie. Imagine you are the hero of the movie. Ask yourself, where am I on the hero’s journey? What would a superhero do in my shoes? Am I at the part in the movie where the hero is about to give up and give in? Do I need to stay strong and hold on a little longer?
Remember to be gentle with yourself, and treat yourself like a dear friend. Start with YOU. Healing everything else can fall into place once we have (re)found self love, compassion, and confidence.
Now, go be SUPER!