5 Ways to Increase Your Self-Esteem

There are so many things that can affect your self-esteem.  Your upbringing, any traumatic experiences, or even the people you associate yourself with can affect the way you see yourself.  The funny thing about self-esteem is that you may be viewing yourself in a completely different light than how everyone else sees you.  But it does not matter how wonderful everyone else thinks you are if you do not see yourself that way.  Raising your self-esteem is critical because it is a lot easier to reach your goals and dreams if you believe that you can.  The following are some ways to increase your self-esteem.

Think and Speak Positively

It is important to be conscious of your thoughts because negative thoughts often lead to negative words.  Controlling your thoughts is a process but you can start by challenging those negative thoughts that may enter your mind.  If you have a negative thought, stop, and ask yourself if it based in reality or in fears.  Turn that negative thought into a positive one, even if you have to speak the positive version of the thought out loud.  Your words are powerful, and it is critical to your self-image and self-esteem that you speak and think positive thoughts.

Believe in Yourself

Have you ever been in a situation where you were being encouraged by those around, but you had no real belief in yourself?  A huge part of building your self-esteem is believing and having confidence in yourself.  It can sometimes be hard to brag on yourself but thinking about or making a list of all your accomplishments can help build your self-confidence.  The main goal is to be aware of your strengths and weakness and think of yourself in the best possible light.  Genuine belief in yourself will lead to an increase in self-esteem.

Celebrate Success

Sometimes we can be so humble that we do not toot our own horn.  But there is no harm in celebrating your successes.  As a matter of fact, it is an important part of building your self-esteem.  It builds your self-esteem when you celebrate all accomplishments, both big and small.  On those days where your self-esteem may be a little low, remember your accomplishments and know that it if you did it then, you can do it now.  Do not hesitate to celebrate yourself.

Give Yourself the Grace You Give Others

We often give others the breaks and kind words that we do not give ourselves.  A big part of building up your self- esteem is to forgive yourself if you fall short.  Do not tie shortcomings to your self-worth.  When others fall short or do not meet our expectations, we often tell them not to worry about it or that it will be okay. We do not hold it against them.  Give yourself the same grace and forgiveness that you give others.  Your past mistakes do not affect your self-worth so be very conscious of letting it affect your self-esteem.

Face Your Fears

Not shying away and facing your fears takes a lot of strength to do.  When you overcome your fears and succeed in doing those things that you wanted to accomplish, your confidence begins to rise, and you begin to feel that you can do almost anything. This feeling is what gives you the rise in your self-esteem.  Once your self-esteem begins to rise, you begin to have the confidence that you can do anything.  Facing your fears can go a long way in increasing your self-esteem.

What are some things that you do to raise your self-esteem when you feel like it is low?

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Holiday Self-Care: Say No!

Photo by Pavel Danilyuk on Pexels.com

Holidays can be full of invitations.  The celebrations may look and feel a little different this year, but the invitations will probably still come.  You may feel obligated to attend or participate in these events because you were invited or because the event may be something that you would have attended in the past.  There is power in the word ‘no’.  I am talking about a good, old fashioned, solid ‘no’.  The kind of no that does not come with an explanation or an apology.  You deserve a holiday that does not leave you feeling overwhelmed and drained because you agreed to something that you really should have passed on.

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Self-Care for Parents of Children with Special Needs

Mother kissing child

As a special needs parent, your self- care regimen is important. Caring for a child with special needs can be stressful.  In fact, the word stressful may be an understatement.  We all can attest that there are great days where our kids achieve something that we thought would not happen as soon as it did.  Your fellow special needs parents can understand the joy of a child eating a new food or acquiring a new skill or even speaking after countless doctors have told you that your child is nonverbal and will remain that way.

There is another thing I think we all can agree with when it comes to being parents of children with special needs and that is the fact that we often neglect to take care of ourselves.  As a busy mother of four children – one having an autism diagnosis – I am guilty if not taking care of myself like I should.  The following are a few ways that we can practice self-care.

Take 5-10 minutes for yourself

Depending on your situation, this suggestion may seem virtually impossible.  But you can do it.  You can spend this time mindlessly doodling.  Or you can use this time to just taking deep, cleansing breaths.  Deep breathing allows your body to relax and release any stress while giving you a boost of energy.  The life of a special needs parent can be very hectic and stressful.  Taking mental breaks can be just the thing you need to get you through your day.

Every day is not going to be a good day

We would all like to think that we can hold it together all day every day.  We hold the belief so tightly that we often think we have failed if we have a bad day.  Every day is not going to be a good day.  A bad day does not make you a bad parent. A bad day does not mean that you are not cut out to be a special needs parent or caregiver.  A bad day does not make you a failure.  Try your best to keep things in perspective.  Some days are just going to be hard but, as cliché’ as it sounds, tomorrow is a new day.

Allow yourself to feel

Life can be challenging as a special needs parent.  There is the constant worry that all of your child’s needs are not being met.  There is the isolation that your family may experience due to your child not being able to be around large crowds or loud places.  You may feel hesitant to honestly express yourself due to not wanting to sound like you are complaining.  But it is imperative that you allow yourself to feel whatever you may be feeling in the moment. Whether you journal or whether you have a good friend you can share your feelings with, allow yourself to feel. Allowing yourself to feel is a form of self-care because this can release some of your anxieties.

Be kind to yourself

Sometimes we can be our own enemy. We can often become hindered by own negative self-talk and negative thoughts. Do whatever you can to remain positive.  Remind yourself of the great job that you are doing. Find something to do that is just for you. Read a good book even if you can only read a couple of pages a day. Find a show that you like on TV and watch it even if it takes forever to get through the whole series. The point is to not lose yourself and to stay connected to what you enjoy. So write if you like to write, read if you like to read, do whatever it is that you like to do even if you can only do it every now and then. Doing what you like to do it a form of self-care.

Take care of your mental health

Special needs parents experience a wide range of issues. There is guilt, anxiety, stress, depression, the list goes on and on. It is imperative that you take care of your mental health. Surround yourself with people who encourage and uplift you.  This can be achieved through support groups or through connecting with people who have a similar circumstance to yours. Be aware of your mental health and do not hesitate to see a therapist if you feel that that is what you need.  In other words, your self-care journey includes taking care of your mental health needs the same way that you take care of the needs of those that you care for and love.

Mother and son

It is not easy being the parent or caregiver of a special needs child. You always wonder if you are doing enough and you can sometimes be your own toughest critic.  I am here to tell you that you are doing a great job. You get up every day and do it have to be done for your family. Keep doing what you are doing and remember to take care of yourself.

What other self-care ideas would you add to this list?

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4 Common Barriers to Positivity

Stressed lady

So I am going to start this off by acknowledging that there are many barriers to positivity. Getting and remaining positive can be a challenge.  It may be even harder during these times because so many not so positive things are happening right now.  People are losing jobs, businesses are going under, parents are trying to work from home while supervising children who are attending school virtually.  It is a lot.  It is easy to feel that there is not much to be positive about.  I have often thought this myself.  But sometimes positivity is exactly what you need in times like these. 

Looking at Your Reality

It is hard to be positive when your reality appears very bleak.  Our day to day lives are stressful and can feel like a rat race.  We go to work, we take care of our children, we run our errands, and then we wake up the next morning to do it all again.  When our lives look the same day in and day out, it is not so much that you are sad, it is just that there is nothing especially positive happening.  Your rut can put you into a space of accepting that your rat race is all that life has to offer.

Nothing Positive is Happening

You ever experience a space in time where it seems like nothing is going right?  Or let’s make it more relevant to what is going on today.  What if you have had your hours cut on your job due to COVID-19 and now you are wondering how you are going to pay your rent or mortgage.  Then your job search is hindered because you have to supervise your school age children while they attend school virtually.   I have been in situations where people have advised that I be positive and I have challenged them to tell me to find the positive in my situation.  It is very, very hard to think positive when your perception of your reality is very negative. Your perception of your reality can be a huge barrier to positivity.

Making Speaking Negatively a Habit

We all may engage in a little negative self-talk from time to time. Read my previous post on eliminating negative self-talk here.   The key is to not to give that negative voice too much of a place in your thoughts.  If negative thinking and negative self-talk is what normally goes through your mind throughout the day, then it has become a habit.  It is very hard for positive thoughts to break through when the negative thoughts are easier to access.  Negative self-talk can become a habit without you even realizing it.  This can make it very hard for you to think positively.

The Company You Keep

You ever had someone in your circle who always has something negative to say?  Some people call these type of people Negative Nancies or Debbie Downers.  The bottom line is that it is very hard to keep a positive outlook when you have people around you who constantly remind you of what could go wrong, where your shortfalls lie, and why you will not achieve a certain goal.  The company you keep and what they feed your spirit is almost as bad as negative self-talk.  Positive thinking is hard when you surround yourself with negative people.

lady by water who is trying to be positive

So I have acknowledged a few barriers to positive thinking but I am sure there are more.  As you can see, positive thinking is a choice and there are many things that can keep you from thinking positively. 

What other things do you consider to be barriers to positivity?

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Mid Week Reflection: Stepping Back to Move Forward

These past few months have been a struggle for me as it relates to me focusing on both my personal goals and my goals relating to this blog. I just could not get myself together enough to move forward with any of my goals and it was incredibly frustrating. Everything felt forced and nothing was seeming to come together. I eventually just stopped and decided to step back and, when I did, everything became crystal clear.  These are the things that I suggest that you do if you experience this feeling.

  1. Remember why you started. You can have a clearly defined goal that takes many detours before you achieve it. When you are in the middle of one of these detours, it is easy to lose sight of the goal or give up. Remembering why you started is imperative in these moments.
  2. Re-establish your goals. You may have to remind yourself of your goals or create new ones.  Refocus on what the end game was when you decided to begin your journey toward whatever goal you were trying to reach.
  3. Be honest with yourself.  A lesson learned during one of your detours may help you to realize that you need to adjust your plan.  And that is okay.  Make the adjustments and move toward achieving your goal.

Remember to not be too hard on yourself as you go through this process. You may find that stepping back is exactly what needed to be done to move you toward your goals.

Have you ever had to step back and re-revaluate?

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Mid Week Reflection: The Company You Keep

Growing up I was always told to watch the company I keep. It was a lesson in understanding that people will judge you based on the type of people you choose to hang around. If you hang around a bunch of troublemakers, people will think that you are a troublemaker even if you are not one.  It is also possible that your behavior can begin to conform to the groups’ behavior. We can all probably think of examples where people may have acted outside of their normal character when they were around certain group of people. Well, this notion remains the same as we enter adulthood and begin to have hopes and dreams. The company we keep can either become our cheerleaders and let us know the sky is the limit or they can be the biggest naysayers, making us second guess our ability to successfully pursue any dream we may have had.  It is easy to sit here and say that you should just ignore those people and continue pursuing your dreams.  But the reality is that the company you keep plays a major role in your ability to achieve your goals – especially if these are people close to you who you often confide in.  The company you keep should be positive, uplifting, resilient, supportive, and able to cheer you on when you begin to doubt yourself.  Take inventory of the people that you surround yourself with.  Do you feel that they speak positivity into your life or are they always telling you what you cannot do or what you cannot achieve?  I challenge you today to look around and see who continually uplifts you and who always tries to limit you. Pay attention to those who pour positivity into you and pull those people closer. The company you keep has the power to pull you into doubt what you can achieve or catapult you into your wildest dreams. Choose wisely.

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Mid Week Reflection: Surround Yourself with Positive People

Have you ever witnessed two people hang around each other for so long that they begin to act like each other? They pick up each other’s mannerisms, habits, and even each other’s tones. It happens when you spend a considerable amount of time with somebody. So if you understand that you take on the characteristics of those who you spend a great deal of your time with, doesn’t it make sense that you should want to spend your time with the people who want the absolute best for you? The Debbie Downers of the world that only seek to rain on your parade can affect you just as much as the people who want to see you do well. Their negativity, doubt, and lack of confidence in you and your ability to reach your dreams will eventually affect you if you are not careful.  You may begin to lack confidence in yourself and water down your dreams because of their inability to see your full potential.  Surround yourself with people who believe in you as much, if not more, as you believe in yourself.  Surround yourself with people who will continue to cheer you on during those times where you may feel discouraged and unsure of yourself.  Surround yourself with people who bring out the best in you and challenge you to be your very best.  You will go further when your circle consists of those who genuinely want to see you succeed.  Their positivity will rub off on you and sustain you through the tough days. Think about those that are the closest to you.  Do they cheer you on or do they doubt you?  Are they encouraging or are your setbacks proof to them that you need to abandon your dreams?  I challenge you to evaluate your inner circle and make sure that those around you are positive, supportive and push you to be the best you can be.

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Autism Awareness Month: Lessons Learned from Zion

If we were all not living through these unusual circumstances associated with COVID-19, this month would have featured a lot of festivals, walks, and other activities that seek to bring awareness to and dispel myths about autism.  Education about the diagnosis of autism and shining the spotlight on the individuals who have been diagnosed with autism is what this month is all about.  As Autism Awareness Month comes to an end, I started to think about my 12-year-old son, Zion, who was diagnosed with autism at the age of 3 and a few of the things he has taught me.

Everyone has hidden jewels.   If you ever met Zion, in the first ten minutes, you could probably tell me right off the bat the things he does not do.  He has a hard time making eye contact, he is not going to engage you in a long conversation, and he has a hard time understanding social cues and tones.  Years of advocating for Zion has made it to where I am his spokesperson, always trying to give people a different impression of him.  Zion loves to learn, my son is a fantastic writer, and my son has an eye for photography and videography.  My son is more than his diagnosis and people, in general, are typically more than what they initially present to the world.  I believe that there is something positive in everyone – you sometimes just have to take the time to find those hidden jewels.

Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff.  Zion is pretty even-tempered now but when he was newly diagnosed and before he started the therapies that helped him process his emotions, he would have meltdown and tantrums (and there is a difference between the two) several times a day.  Being the perfectionist that I was,  I would often add more stress on top of an already stressful situation because I would want to carry on with my day and complete my daily to-do list.  I would feel like the worst mother ever at the end of the day when nothing got accomplished. But I learned to change my perspective.  At the end of a tough day, my laundry may not have been folded, there may have still been dishes in the sink, and I may have never gotten to the store.  But Zion was calm.  And, most importantly, he had not injured himself or others during his tantrum.  The things that did not get done no longer mattered. And guess what? Now Zion washes and folds his own clothes, vaccums and sweeps the whole house, and can even make simple meals for himself. It gets better – don’t waste time worrying about the small things.

Everyone needs a cheerleader.  From the time I realized that my son was not reaching his milestones timely, I have had to advocate for him.  From going back and forth with the pediatrician about getting a referral to a specialist for Zion to be formally diagnosed to finding the perfect school for him, advocating is a full-time job.  But, everyone needs a cheerleader.  Confidence in yourself is great but having that cheerleader is what gives you that extra boost. Zion knows he is smart and capable of doing many things that others think he would not be able to do because of his diagnosis.  But me being his cheerleader gives him that extra boost because I am there – loud and proud – reminding Zion and everyone else of great he is, how smart he is, and how talented he is.  Just as cheerleaders stand on the sidelines and let the whole arena or stadium know how great their team is, everyone needs that person who encourages them.

I want to end this post by offering some words of encouragement.

Be kind to yourself.  There will be good days and bad days – count every day that you make it through as a win.  Don’t be hard too hard on yourself.

Accept help.  I often felt that nobody could care for Zion like I could – and to be honest, I still feel this way sometimes.  But I have learned to accept help from the people that my son knows and is comfortable with and that knows my son, his triggers, and how to calm him.  It took me a while but I finally got there. 

Don’t take the aggression personally – this is harder on them than on you.  Tantrums, meltdown, and aggressive behaviors are sometimes scarier for the child than it is for us as parents.  It took many therapists to convince me that Zion was acting aggressively at home and not at school because I was his “safe place” – a place where he knew he could release everything that was pent up in him. Don’t take it personally – your child knows your love is unconditional.

Advocate! Advocate! Advocate!  Resources for special needs children can sometimes be hard to find.  Ensuring that they get everything they need to reach their fullest potential can be very hard due to this lack of resources.  Advocating for your child will be the biggest “I Love You” you can give them. 

YOU GOT THIS!!!!  Being a parent of a child with autism has caused me to experience a wide range of emotions depending on the circumstances.  It has exhausted me, angered me, scared me, filled me with anxiety, and has even brought me to tears on several occasions.  But it has also made me excited as I look at Zion and the handsome pre-teen he has become, it has forced me to be creative in how I ensure he gets what he needs, and it even makes me smile when I realize that my son is a pretty cool kid.  And I know that – despite the frustrations and setbacks that he may endure – Zion will be okay.  

Celebrate your child. Let the world know how great your child is. I will start. Zion is 12 years old. He loves to watch YouTube, eat pizza, swing, put together 500 piece puzzles, and as I stated before, he even likes to do chores around the house! Zion is smart, loves to give big hugs, and loves his family. He is a great kid who smiles a lot and loves to make others smile.

Celebrate your child or tell how you spread awareness about autism in the comments below!

Welcome to The Serenity Room

January 17th.

According to Ellen Ciuczak and Ryan Miller’s November 12, 2019 article in USA Today, that is the day most people give up on their New Year’s Resolutions. That is not to say that many people do not stick to their resolutions and achieve the goals that they have set for themselves; that is just the date that most people who are unsuccessful fall back into their old habits.

If I am being honest, most of my resolutions over the years failed before January 17. But this year I was determined to join the ranks of people who have been successful with achieving their resolutions. My one and only resolution this year is to fulfill a resolution that has been a resolution for several years: to write for an audience. This blog is the first of many steps to achieve that goal.

I am Gayle Walker and I have been creatively writing since I was 12 years old. I have half-written several novels and middle-grade books that never saw the light of day for fear that they would not be good enough. I have had the idea for this blog for a couple of years but never started it for the same reason that I never finished a book: the fear that my blog would not be good enough or interesting enough to attract readers. And as cliche’ as this sounds, one morning I woke up and made the conscious decision to change the entire way that I thought about myself. As a social worker, I empower and encourage people daily. So why not go a step further and empower, encourage, and educate others through my love of writing? I realized that my writing is good enough and I am more than qualified to reach out to people to uplift their spirits and empower them to be greater than they may have ever imagined.

I envision The Serenity Room to be a place where you will be encouraged, motivated, and will hopefully come to the realization that you are not alone in many of the daily struggles that we all experience. Have you ever experienced an emotion so overwhelming that you did not even want to share how you felt with anyone because you just knew that they would not understand what you were feeling? Only to finally confide in a trusted person and realize that not only have they felt that way, but many others have also. Remember the relief you felt of knowing that you are not alone and others have felt this way too? I want The Serenity Room to start conversations that were once shied away from. I want you to read the posts published in this blog and either learn something or gain a firm reaffirmation of what you already knew or believed. I want you to realize that you are bigger and better than every negative thought that has taken up residence in your spirit.

As I stated earlier, I am a social worker and do not profess to be an expert in any topic that I will be posting about.  The majority of my posts will be on topics that are personal to me that I have researched for my self-growth. I hope that you will be empowered as I seek to empower myself.

As of now, I will be posting every other week about a wide range of topics. Some upcoming topics include standing in the way of your own success, the impact of negative self-talk, and being open to the change you claim you seek. One blog a month will be dedicated to either special needs families or families of first responders as my family includes both. Over the years, I have learned that a lot of things I go through as a mother of a child with special needs are similar to what other mothers experience, but some things are unique to families that have children with special needs. While the posts will be about the experiences of the families of special needs children or first responders, I hope you will still take the time to read the post to gain an understanding of the reality of others.

Between attracting an engaged audience, gaining exposure, and making a name for myself as an author and blogger, I will also like to eventually profile those individuals who have persevered against incredible odds. No matter what topic is being discussed, please feel free to make comments and suggestions either in the public forum or via email. In the end, my biggest goal is for The Serenity Room to grow into something bigger and better than I could have ever imagined.

For me, it all begins with this post. A post that I have been dreaming of posting for a very long time. This is my very first step to overcoming all of the things that has prevented me from doing this before today.

What is stopping you from doing that thing that you have been dreaming of doing for so long?

What will your first step be in 2020?