You Need a Well-Stocked I Can Do It Toolbox

Life can be difficult, fickle, and downright cruel. During those minutes, hours, days, and (heaven-forbid) months our self-confidence can take a beating. Learning how to bolster your self-confidence isn’t something you can do when you’re in a low spot. You need to be prepared. You need a well-stocked I Can Do It toolbox. So prepare now for those days that plague us all.

You Need a Well-Stocked I Can Do It Toolbox like the on in this image: a white background a pink toolbox with the words I can do it on it represents

Reframe

Just like Thomas Edison, you didn’t fail—you learned a way that didn’t work. You LEARNED. A positive statement. A positive thing out of something that didn’t go as planned. List what you learned. Put it in that I can do it toolbox. And remember, every failure, every gosh-darn-that-didn’t-go-as-planned is one more step toward success. Kind of the turn that frown upside down idea. Look at what you’re feeling down about and deliberately find something good to say about it.

Fake It

The adage, fake it till you make it, can work. Put an optimistic spin on your day even if you have to pretend. Faking it tricks your brain into changing gears. Eventually your brain will catch on. That’s the power of positive thinking.

Don’t Give Up

Quitting can feel good. But it doesn’t keep on feeling good. Hang in there and finish. Even if it isn’t perfect, finishing a tough project is satisfying. It’s also an opportunity for learning. Make note of what you’ve learned and what you might try if you had a re-do.

Build with the Small Successes

Kind of like counting your blessings, you need to give yourself credit for the small successes you have. (This is the step I often ignore—to my detriment.) Keep a list handy. When you’re feeling low isn’t the time to count on your memory. Say it aloud: I am amazing. Read your list out loud. Look at what you’ve accomplished so far! You are amazing. 

Change Clothes

You Need a Well-Stocked I Can Do It Toolbox one that can include dressing in your best clothes like the confident young African American pictured here.

That’s right. Change into clothes that make you feel good. Dress up or dress down. Do your hair in that sexy style you favor. Put on makeup, your best jewelry, and that fancy watch. Straighten your posture, hold that tummy in, and strut your stuff. It’s amazing how a change of clothes can re-set your frame of mind.

Try Different Tools

Sometimes a tool that has worked in the past won’t work in a particular situation. So you need to have a variety of tools handy. Zen Habits has a list of twenty-five ways to boost your self-confidence.

Your Well-Stocked I Can Do It Toolbox

Besides the tools mentioned above, you will want to stock your I can do it toolbox with sensory tools that will lift your brain and emotions out of the low self-esteem valley. The five senses are important to our sense of well-being.

Sight

For sight, it would be ideal to visit the place that makes you feel alive and able to do anything. That’s not always possible, so keep a photograph or two handy. For me photos of mountains soaring or the ocean roaring work.

Sound

You want to have the music that electrifies you. Choose songs that lift you up. Songs such as Fight Song, Respect, My Way, Rise Up, Only the Strong Survive, even a Phillip Sousa march, can work. It can be the sound of a baby laughing, a babbling brook, or your cat’s purr.

Smell

You Need a Well-Stocked I Can Do It Toolbox equipped with invigorating scents like this slice of fresh lemon on a blue background

Some aromas calm you. That’s not what you want. You want the aromas that invigorate. Citrus, cinnamon, ginger, and peppermint are scents that may work for you.

Touch

A small square of silk, a cool river-smoothed stone (thanks Terry!), worry beads, a finely sanded piece of wood or a brass sculpture. An object you touch and it lifts your spirits, reminds you of your successes or a positive experience.

Taste

Strong flavors, old favorite flavors, the tastes that energize you. Not comfort food, but the flavors that make you feel strong and alive. Bold flavors, unusual flavors, even new flavors will give you a boost.

Visceral

Wait? Visceral isn’t one of the five senses we’re taught in school. What is a Visceral? It’s that feeling you have inside—that glow or that I’m-about-to-bust-a-gut feeling. You pay attention to those feelings, don’t you? If not, start today. Journal about what you feel inside when you’re happy and confident. Remember, a journal doesn’t have to be words on paper, it can be sketches, or collages, or a collection of clippings. The visceral reactions you put in your toolbox are the ones from that day when something you worked hard to finish gets an internal atta-girl. Praise from other folk will work, too, but not as well as the atta-girl (or atta-boy) you gave yourself for a job well done.

You Need a Well-stocked I Can Do It Toolbox

A photograph of a black caligraphy pen on top of a journal with "you're capable of amazing things" written in script across its cover.

Why focus on self-help toolboxes? There are so many things that pull us apart these days. Jobs, school, hobbies, creative work, home improvements, distance… The list is endless. 

Even if we have terrific friends and family who love us unconditionally, they can’t always be there to pick us up when we’re down. Besides, if we rely on someone else to do the work, we won’t have the skills to do the work.

Creating your self-help toolboxes makes you better able to handle the difficulties that come with being a caring human being. If you have a mental health first aid kit and a joy toolbox, you need a well-stocked I can do it toolbox too. With your toolboxes, you have to skills to be a strong person in your own skin. Chances are, you already have many of those tools already but haven’t put them together in a helpful way. And there’s a bonus for thinking about these things. It gives you the skills to help your loved ones when they need a little boost. Adding a tool to this list in the comments means you’ve helped strangers and acquaintances on the web, and you’ve helped me too. Thank you.

Hope for that Helpless Feeling

Are you in a hard place right now? Feel like you’re stuck? Helpless and Hopeless? There is hope for that helpless feeling.

Confessions of a Last Minute Writer- Mea Culpa. I messed up.

Don’t Diminish Your Feelings

You know you’re not alone. And in your heart of hearts, you believe your hard place isn’t anywhere near as hard as those of people of color or police officers or medical workers or even some grocery store clerks. And that’s part of the problem.

Other people having hard times in their lives doesn’t negate your troubles. Your troubles still disrupt your life. Cause you pain.

Troubles in trying to write or not being able to go to the movie theater or being unable to visit your loved ones are painful. But they aren’t really the problem. You focus on a smaller problem. Because you feel helpless.

You cannot cure COVID or right the wrongs of racial inequality. And you cannot heal the rage and the hate and the hurt of the world. You wish you could. And when you realize you’re not in a position to help, You feel impotent. Helpless. Paralyzed.

Trauma

Trauma affects you mentally and physically. You say, wait—I’ve not experienced the trauma—I’ve just watched it on television, YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, or some other social media.

Yes, people who’ve been at the blunt end—who’ve experienced racial hatred, experienced police brutality, those who’ve fought to protect people who seem to hate them, those who’ve cared for the sick and dying day-after-day—they are at the blunt end. They are experiencing trauma. And they need to take care of themselves in much the same way I discuss here.

But even if you’ve not been at the blunt end. Trauma is happening all over the world. Cover-19, protests, brutality, wars, hate, death—there is some kind of trauma in the media 24/7. You can’t help but see it. If you have a heart, you can’t help but have an emotional reaction to it. And feeling helpless in the face of all that’s happening is natural. But there is hope for that helpless feeling.

Get Help

If your feelings of helplessness or hopelessness overwhelm you to the point it interferes with your daily activities—get professional help.

SAMHSA’s National Helpline, 1-800-662-HELP (4357), or TTY: 1-800-487-4889 is a confidential, free, 24-hour-a-day, 365-day-a-year, information service, in English and Spanish. Call or visit the website for more information.

Be Aware

Each of us has certain things that trigger more anxiety and more feelings of helplessness. Be aware of what your triggers are. Name them. There’s power in being aware. Seeing or feeling someone’s rage can be a trigger. And there’s a lot of rage being expressed these days.

Sometimes we can see patterns. Have you ever had this kind of anxiety or helpless feeling before? What happened right before you felt that way? Any patterns between then and now? 

If you’re aware of your triggers and your patterns of behavior, you can choose healthier behaviors.

Be in the Moment

Focus on where you are (assuming that you are in a safe place.) Breathe. Hear the sounds around you. What are you touching—how does it feel? What do you smell? Which of your muscles are tight? Breathe. Center yourself.

Focus on Action

Take a healthy action. Take care of yourself.

Walk or exercise.

Do deep breathing or relaxation exercises.

Drink plenty of water (avoid alcohol).

Speak to friends or family (social distancing doesn’t mean you can’t use the telephone, Zoom, or even a driveway chat).

Set a small, achievable goal. Even as small as you will wash your face or brush your teeth. Then take that first step toward getting it done. Achieving the goal will help remind you that you can do this.

You Can Do This

Hope for that helpless feeling is in extending a hand to help someone else

Change the story you’re telling yourself. Instead of focusing on what you can’t do, remember that you have choices. Do what you can do. Your choices won’t change the trauma. It will change you. 

Remembering that you have a choice helps. Make a choice be aware of your triggers. Choose to be in this moment—feel the hard or soft surface of the place where you sit. Feel the tension in your legs and shoulders. Movement helps reduce tension. Sharing with a trusted friend helps. Reach out to help someone else. Hope for that helpless feeling is in extending a hand to help someone else.

Hope

There is hope for that helpless feeling. It’s one of the antidotes to helplessness. Hope is for something to come. Hope is for the future. Believe in the basic goodness of people. Believe that you can help. It may be in a small way, but if you help one person–that’s more than enough. You can do it. Find hope. Tell me one thing you’ll do today to find hope.

You Have the Right to Feel Good About Yourself

 According to Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary, self-esteem is a confidence and satisfaction with oneself.” A positive self-esteem is vital to good mental health. We all have a story we tell ourselves. This story goes to the core of who we believe ourselves to be. Is your self-esteem positive? Or do you look in the mirror and think, “God, I’m fat” or “I’m so stupid?” You have the right to feel good about yourself. And you can improve or change your self-esteem with a few changes in habits.

 

The worst loneliness is to not be comfortable with yourself.

Mark Twain

Negative Self-talk

You’ve learned some negative self-talk. Sometimes a difficult time or situation makes us feel bad about ourselves. Being bullied, losing a job, a death, a crisis in a relationship, physical illness, and yes, mental illness can influence our self-esteem. We start a negative pattern. Repeating a negative phrase or thought over and over, you end up believing the statement is true. What if it’s not true? What do you wish were true? Whether at your parents’ knees, or from your sibling, your frienemy, the television, or magazines, what was learned can be unlearned.

Change Your Story

If you want to change your core story, you have to think about it. What is it? Where did it come from? Whose voice are you hearing? What automatic thoughts are you having? You may think you can’t change because this is the way you are. Give yourself a break. There are habits you can adopt that will change your self-esteem. Fake it till you make it is a cliché for a reason.

 

Wanting to be someone else is a waste of the person you are.

Marilyn Monroe

Changes take time to move from a routine into a habit. But practice them. Over time, some experts say six weeks, routines become habits. Here are 16 habits you can cultivate that will help you gain a more positive self-esteem.

Nothing builds self-esteem and self-confidence like accomplishment.

Thomas Carlyle

Groom yourself

It’s hard to feel good inside if you don’t feel good outside. Shower, shampoo, brush your teeth, shave. Grooming yourself makes you feel better because your body feels better.

Dress Nicely

This means dress in clothes that make you feel good. But what if you don’t feel good in your clothes? Dress in the clothes that get you compliments. So, what if you want to wear sweat? Put on the good ones—the ones that are cute or make you feel nicer.

Stand Tall

Slumping, closing in your body doesn’t feel or look confident. It’s healthier for your spine, too.

Be Kind

We all know we should be kind to others. But in this case, let’s discuss self-compassion. Would you talk to your best friend the way you talk to yourself? Stop negative self-talk. Don’t scold yourself. Be kind to yourself. Remind yourself that you’re having a bad day but that doesn’t mean you can be mean to yourself.

Smile

Smiling takes and creates energy. But if you’re not feeling happy don’t force an unnatural full-beam I’m happy smile. Try for the look-at me-working-to-feel-better-smile.

List What You Are Good At 

Come on now, you’re good at some things. No one is good at everything. Add to the list as you think of new things. Pull out this list when your negative self-talk tells you you can’t do something.

Practice Gratitude

Keep a gratitude journal—even thinking about one thing for which you are grateful once a day can help.

Clear a Space

Create a calm space for yourself—uncluttered, peaceful, relaxing place to be even if it’s a one corner of one room. When the space you are in is calm, you feel calmer, too.

Do One Thing

Do one small thing on your to-do list—getting something done always makes you feel better. Make sure you choose something you can be successful at. Crossing it off the list makes you feel like you’re getting somewhere because you are.

Learn

Learn something new. Learning can re-affirm that you can do things. It engages your brain in a different way than doing something you know well. Today, public libraries and the internet  allow you to learn the basics of almost anything for free.

Accept Compliments

Ah, compliments. Do you say thank you while inside you’re saying “that’s so not true?” Notice when you don’t accept compliments, what you’re telling yourself instead? Learn to say and mean thank you when someone gives you a compliment. Then learn to take that compliment in and believe it’s true. Finally, give yourself compliments. 

Celebrate

Keep a celebrations jar. Celebrate EVERY success. Yes, even the tiniest ones. In this jar, put a note for everything you accomplish.  Or keep a journal or a spreadsheet. You’ll be surprised at how much you discount the things you do. Celebrate how? Do a Snoopy dance. Get a cup of tea or coffee. Praise yourself with a “wow, look at what I did.” Reward yourself with a bubble bath or an hour reading or watching your favorite television show.

Be Prepared

Remember taking tests? Remember the test you didn’t study for? It’s difficult to feel confident if you aren’t prepared. But what if it’s not a job or a test, how do you prepare? You’re preparing yourself. If you are prepared for what you fear, you’ll be more comfortable in situations that aren’t fear-invoking as well. For example: Prepare for a party or outing by planning a couple of topics for discussion or how you can help the host or how you can excuse yourself early. Prepared, you’ll be more comfortable and confident in handling whatever happens.

Know Your Principles

There are rules you live by. The Golden Rule is a principle to live by for some. What principle or principles are ones you live by? Think about your principles, how they apply to what you do and how you feel. Knowing what you stand for, what you believe, helps you feel more confident.

You Have the Right to Feel Good About Yourself. 16 Habits to help improve your self-esteem.

Affirmations

Affirmations are usually what experts say use to change your negative self-talk. But we often try too much of a change at once. When you’re feeling unworthy, saying I am a great success feels false and intensifies your feelings of unworthiness. Try saying something positive with the intention of getting to the strongest feeling. Say something like I am going to work hard until I AM a success. Once that feels natural, you can use stronger statements.

Use Rituals

Sometimes an affirmation needs a back up or reinforcement. You can create a small ritual to help shore up that affirmation. Light a candle. Burn some incense or sage. Rub a crystal. Mediate. Any of those things individually or grouped can be a ritual that helps you strengthen your affirmations and resolve.

I think self-esteem is fluid. It’s not a fixed state,

and so some days are better than others.

Jo Brand

Even someone with a healthy self-esteem needs these habits to maintain self-esteem. And remember, it takes time and repetition. Choose one thing you want to change. Work on it for 6 weeks. Then choose another one for the next 6 weeks. Take it slow and steady and you’ll make huge changes. You have the right to feel good about yourself. Your mental health, your self esteem will be stronger for it.