I have extremely high standards. I’m sure you’ll find plenty of students willing to complain about those standards. Just take a look at this semester’s grade distribution. I maintain those high expectations for everything. EVERYTHING (except maybe the puppy’s potty training, but I’ll let that one lie). I just want people (and things and maybe someday puppies) to live up to their potential.
Here’s the thing. If I have high standards for other people, my goals for myself are lofty, bordering at times on unattainable. Given that I appear to be suffering through some sort of mid-life crisis my summer to do list balloons each day with new projects or ideas for hobbies I’d like to pick up. I can’t possibly do them all, which leads to the biggest problem with my high standards.
Disappointment with myself.
Our own self-talk can often be the most dangerous influence on our self-esteem. Most people can easily list what they don’t like about themselves or something they’d like to change. Heck, I’ll even share ten of the top of my head.
The downer list
1. I have too many wrinkles and too much cellulite.
2. I’m overly emotional.
3. I write with too much tell and not enough show.
4. I eat too much junk food.
5. I get frustrated with my kids too easily.
6. I’m a terrible puppy trainer. J
7. I set unrealistic goals.
8. I get bored with hobbies and projects easily.
9. I don’t hide my emotions well.
10. My desk is always a disaster.
One of my favorite self-talk tools is the brag list, essentially the counter-balance to the downer list. I have my students in interpersonal communication create a list of 20 brags. Then, they have to share some of their brags in conversation. Inevitable, students complain about the concept of bragging, but in the end they learn a couple of important lessons: (1) thinking positively requires work, but it feels good and (2) other people will often confirm your positive characteristics, thus improving self-esteem even more.
My Brag List
1. I am a good speaker.
2. I have written 2 novels.
3. I’m good at my job.
4. I have great kids.
5. I’ve been successfully married for nearly 12 years.
6. I am an excellent vacation planner.
7. I’m an effective dance mom.
8. I’m very efficient.
9. I run 3 miles every other day.
10. I make awesome chocolate chip cookies.
Brag lists are hard to make. I’m only doing an abbreviated version here, and I had to resist qualifying the positives (i.e.: I wrote 2 novels, but they probably won’t be published). I encourage students to make one of these lists on a regular basis. It’s not only a good exercise for positive thinking in general, it can help you see how things that were once downers evolved into brags. Neither our positive nor our negative characteristics are static.
So, this summer, I’m working on downer #3. Maybe, in the future I won’t be tempted to qualify #2 on the brag list.
What's on your brag list? Any downers you are working into brags?