I’ve read so many self-help books I don’t recognise myself anymore!

My dog Maiya enjoys some morning yoga

The personal development industry is huge! Seems everybody is wanting to create a better version of themselves. The plethora of information out there takes some sifting through. There is an alphabet of modalities available ranging from Accelerated Experiential Dynamic Psychotherapy (AEDP) to Zen Therapy.  Estimated to reach a market value of $14 billion by 2025, there is no denying that this is a significant industry. I guess the critical question here is – does it work?

The answer to that is way beyond the scope of one person’s blog and, of course, in order to make an accurate conclusion I’d have to speak to everybody who has ever participated in self-help or personal development activities or read a book on the subject. Despite all my personal self-help work, and the great genes I got from my mother, I’m pretty sure even I don’t have long enough left on earth to do that. So, if you’ll allow me, I’ll take some poetic licence (informed licence, remember I am a professional coach and mentor) and seek to summarise what almost seven decades on this earth, most of those working in the personal, and professional, growth industry, has revealed to me.

Please note: this is not to override or dismiss any of the modalities or books available. I encourage you to try those that appeal and to find the approach that works for you. This blog will hopefully add some insights that can help everything you try work just a little bit better.

The Self Esteem Trinity:

Self-Talk, Decisions, Choices:

David Goggins – “The most important conversations you’ll ever have are the ones you’ll have with yourself.”

I love this quote, and, in my view, it is so true. Possibly the biggest barrier to our self-esteem is our own self talk. Yep, we do it to ourselves. Here’s a question. Have you ever said to someone you care about – ‘you are hopeless and worthless, and you’ll never amount to anything!’? I sincerely hope you have answered no. We wouldn’t. Not to someone we love. Someone who means the world to us.

Next question. Have you EVER heard yourself think something similar about yourself? Maybe you failed an exam at school, maybe the meal you prepared for dinner didn’t work out so well, maybe you stuffed something up at work, the list could go on and on. How many times have we heard ourselves thinking things about ourselves that WE WOULD NEVER SAY TO ANYBODY ELSE – WOULD NEVER SAY!

Step number 1 on the road to personal development – watch what you are saying to yourself and about yourself (whether in your head or out loud). This doesn’t mean we need to go around big noting ourselves. Rather, think about ways to acknowledge errors (heroes acknowledge errors, victims whinge and blame) without denigrating yourself.

Let’s talk about decisions. Think about some decisions you have made. An example might be a decision about what colour to paint the walls in the lounge room. You are surrounded by colour charts; you’ve spent months pouring through back copies of Home Beautiful and you’ve consulted every visitor who has crossed the threshold of your home in the past 3 months. In short, you’ve done your due diligence.  You are finally ready to make a decision.

Let’s imagine you have brought the choice down to 2 colours. Now I know that nobody would look at those colour choices and say ‘the olive green will look great, I think it will really bring a relaxed vibe to the house, whereas the pink is a bit bright and could really grate after a while, I’ll go with the pink’ – NOBODY DOES THAT. Nobody intentionally makes a bad decision EVER!

Also, everybody has had a situation (well probably several situations) where after the decision is made more information comes to light that indicates that a better decision could have been made. However, you didn’t have that additional information when you made the first decision.

You paint the lounge room olive green, and you hate it. It isn’t what you expected. Whole walls of olive green look very different to sample spots (that’s constitutes having more information) The colour isn’t relaxing at all, it’s actually quite dreary. You didn’t fail. You just made a decision that, with additional insight (you can now see the whole impact), you have decided wasn’t the best decision. It’s easy to get annoyed with ourselves and berate ourselves, when in reality we did the best we could. We ALWAYS do the best we can.

This doesn’t mean we pretend we love it (that’s fake) and it doesn’t mean we play the blame game making it the fault of the person in the paint shop. Rather we engage in an honest reflection that might go something like:

‘Well that’s disappointing, clearly I didn’t get the big picture when I decided, what can I do now?’

There’s always the repainting option, the creative placement of photos and pictures option, using throw rugs to detract from the look option, sucking it up and living with it until you are in the position to change it option (the options go on and on). Getting upset with yourself (or others), is an option but it’s such an unhealthy option and it won’t actually solve anything (the walls will still be green).

Homework time: think about decisions you have made that now, with the benefit of hindsight (remember we are all brilliant in retrospect) you can see possibly weren’t your best moments and ask yourself:

  1. What did you learn?
  2. What questions might you ask if faced with that decision again?
  3. What research might you do if faced with that decision again?
  4. What have you gained from that decision?
  5. How will you avoid making similarly ‘not so good’ (there is no such thing as a bad in this context) decisions in the future?
  6. On a scale of 1 – 10 (with 1 being a bit of an inconvenience to 10 being catastrophic) how important is that decision now? Painting the wall the wrong colour is probably a 1 or 2 in my book because it can be fixed, whereas other decisions may have much more challenging consequences – still no reason to beat ourselves up, but please, take time to reflect and learn.

Where decisions have had a significant impact, the healing time might be longer but it’s still no reason to treat ourselves badly (because that never fixes anything).

Let’s look at relationship break ups. In my work I meet a lot of people who are dealing with relationship break ups and, usually when I meet them, they are still in the angry, disappointed, disillusioned or blame stage (not a pleasant stage and a stage it’s best not to take up residence in).

Often, they need to justify (it’s a human thing, not helpful but normal unfortunately) and in this stage they often like to tell their story – over and over again. That’s like playing a harmful, soul-destroying tape on a continuous loop (no personal growth in that).

The conversation often goes like this:

‘I was in a relationship but then they did this, or she did that or he was this’, it usually goes on for some time before they announce – arms folded, face set in a grimace, voice raised, ‘but I’ve left them now’.

My response: ‘your arms haven’t left them, your voice hasn’t left them, your face hasn’t left them, in fact they were the last thing you packed before you left the house and now you are carrying them around. That’s exhausting – put them down.’

Ok, you say, so come on Joan, what’s a better way? Well thank you for the question!

When we have truly healed, we actually don’t need to discuss the ex at all. In the interim, while we are healing, what about ‘I was involved with someone, I decided to move on’ – FINISH. The more we complain the more we hurt ourselves. Even the difficult relationships have something to teach us. I remember someone once saying to me ‘every relationship that fails makes you better for the next one’ and another helpful reflection ‘the relationship didn’t fail, it was wonderful and when it was over and we’d grown all we could together, it finished’.

Footnote: I thought long and hard about using the relationship example because I know how delicate it can be. If the relationship has been abusive then getting away (physically, emotionally, and psychologically) is paramount. We may need more time and more strategies to enable us to move on, however, dwelling on the pain and fear is also not helpful. I urge to seek experienced professional help so you can discuss your situation in ways that will help you heal and allow you to move on. So many people stay trapped in a bad relationship, through their thoughts and conversations, even after it has effectively finished, and they have physically moved away.

And another little tip about decisions. When people talk to me about having difficulty making a decision my advice is, if possible, to make the decision that can be changed. For example, if you can’t decide whether or not to sell your house. Don’t sell! You can always put the house on the market in the future. You won’t necessarily be able to buy it back if you list it and sell it now, and then change your mind.

Watch for a later blog when I will talk about Post Traumatic Growth, there is some amazing research and insights around how we can emerge from traumatic situations able to move forward with health.

This couldn’t be a blog about personal growth if we didn’t mention choices. Everything we do is a choice. I’m going to say that again because it is so important. Everything we do is a choice. It may not always be a conscious choice, but it’s a choice none-the-less.

People often talk to me about their jobs. I find the number of people who don’t enjoy their jobs to be very distressing to be honest. After all, most of us spend most of our waking hours at work. I think it’s important to enjoy what we do (watch for a later blog on how to find a job or create a career that brings you joy).

Conversations with these people often go like this:

The person – ‘I hate my job, but I have to go to work’.

Me – ‘no you don’t’

The person – ‘yes, I do, I have to work’.

Me – ‘no you don’t’

The person – ‘I don’t have an option I have to go’ (heaviness is usually presenting in their voice by now).

Me – ‘just don’t go, don’t go back to work again’.

The person – ‘I can’t do that’.

Me – ‘why?’

The person – ‘they will sack me and I won’t be able to pay my bills’


My point here is that people choose to go to work because work supports their lifestyle, and work pays their bills.People choose to work because they don’t choose the consequences of not working.

Think about it. Think about your choices. Drill right down into them. Identify the consequences of the decisions and the consequences of making different decisions. I choose to work because it supports the life I want. I choose to exercise each morning because I enjoy the impact it has on my wellbeing. I choose to drive higher than average kilometres because I choose to live out of the city where I can have my farm and my animals. When we accept our choices, we empower ourselves. When we feel helpless, we become victims.

Important footnote: we DON’T choose what happens to us, we choose our response. For example: we don’t choose for someone to side swipe our car. However, how we react, how we process and how we reflect on the situation, they are absolutely our choices. Wherever we can, let’s make choices that support our wellbeing. Let’s put our mental health first.

In summary:

  1. Watch the self-talk – always speak to yourself with respect.
  2. Accept that nobody ever deliberately makes a bad decision, and that sometimes, when more information is available, we can see there is a better decision, but we didn’t have that information at the time.
  3. Everything we do is a choice, our reactions, our thoughts, our conversations, our decisions are all our choices. Noting that not everything that happens to us is our choice – there is a huge difference.

I encourage you to become aware of the words you use when you think about or talk about yourself. Are these kind words? Do you reflect on your actions and outcomes through a lens of compassion? Do you treat yourself as well as you treat others who you love?

Be aware when you are whinging or moaning (easy to spot, we get the whingey, whiney voice) and take steps to stop, yourself and reframe your comments so that you are seeking solutions instead of complaining (complaining is so exhausting and rarely achieves anything).

Accept the choices you have made, learn from them and move forward. We all do the best we can in the moment.

I hope this has given you some things to think about. The workshops I offer in wellbeing and resilience incorporate all this plus heaps more as well as providing proven strategies to help you get life back on track. If you are interested in knowing more about things like:

  1. The power of language – words are important.
  2. How to ensure you gain maximum nutrition from your food.
  3. How to manage difficult situations better.
  4. How to build Emotional Intelligence.
  5. How to maximise your IQ.
  6. How to improve sleep patterns.
  7. How to pursue life goals.
  8. How to manage stressful situations more effectively.
  9. How to be more successful, happier and healthier.
  10. Plus, much much more

Give me a call, I’d love to hear from you.

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