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ASK WHITE STAR
~ Millie Chalk
Any teacher will tell you that a student learns
the easiest when they have high self-esteem.
Along with parents, they employ various techniques
for the child to discover those inner qualities and
strengths that will serve them throughout their
lives. We all need to feel that same sense of
worthiness, but often look for others to acknowledge our good works and accomplishments, bringing me to question, why do we look to others, (who often fail for justifiable reasons) to bring to us what we can do for ourselves?
Many of the techniques I’ve studied to foster happiness and wellbeing for myself I’ve been teaching in reference to the training of horses all along. The whole premise of my training has been that a happy horse, (just as with a human) needs to have enough self-confidence to trust a person to teach them, and I spend most of my time simply teaching various techniques to enable an owner to build that confidence within their horse. The beautiful thing for me is that each time I experience a session sharing these concepts with a client and their mount, I am reminded of the wisdom of these teachings and how they apply to our lives.
Today, with a client and her Paint, I was reminded of how well one technique I use for fostering success works. Because her Paint is an older horse, we always take him to the round pen to trot out for us to check for soundness before she rides, but today for some reason he didn’t want to go around us to the right. His gaits were not consistent as he would look to his owner for any lapse in her concentration - darting to the opposite direction the moment he knew he no longer had her attention. Giving him the benefit of the doubt, I suggested he was stiff in that direction, (although I think it was simply he wanted to get back to the gate at each passing because he wanted out to play with a friend that was just outside). I also mentioned that horses are like people in that they have a preference of going left or right, similar to us being right or left handed, and that rather us fighting a huge battle over it, merely switching directions? Doing this, he went around us perfectly to the left with little resistance, giving us the opportunity to lavish praise upon him for his good works. When we turned him back around to tackle once more the direction in which he gave us so much opposition the unwanted behavior had disappeared, and it was as if it had never been there to begin with and that’s when it hit me…how valuable would such a teaching be if we applied that praise for doing something right or well, in our own lives?
It’s common knowledge that acknowledging the success of achievement of someone fosters self-confidence within them. If we’re smart, we apply this technique daily in our interactions with others. But why not use it for ourselves? When things get difficult, what if we take a moment to review something, anything we know we can do well, accomplish the task, and then return to that thing that has us stuck? What would be the benefits of such a practice?
To begin with, doing the right thing for a while would lower our level of stress, at least for the time we were engaged with what we know we can do. It could be anything as long as it’s something we know we can do well. It doesn’t have to be something rare or unique, just anything that will give you a feeling of accomplishment and if it’s something you enjoy doing, so much the better.
Are you having a hard time giving yourself a pat on the back? Me too. I was raised to have little regard for myself. Because of this I find self-appreciation a foreign concept, but years ago I came across a little trick that helped me break through the wall that was preventing me from giving myself credit for anything.
One season an office store made their “Easy Button” shown in their commercials available to customers (and may still for all I know). I purchased one to use in my children’s riding program. It was a booming success as kids would find the courage to tackle the challenges they thought were beyond them, such as cantering for the first time, jumping their first jump, etc., just for an opportunity to hit the “easy button”. Week after week we employed the button and their progress was phenomenal which made me start to wonder… how well would it work for myself?
I dared not take the one from the barn where it sat in my office between lessons in its place of honor, so I had to purchase one to take home for my own use. After each and every task accomplished from the menial to the difficult, (such as writing an article for Whisper n Thunder) I ran over and hit the button. The result was amazing and I felt stronger and stronger in my abilities to do something difficult.
Of course, this method of bringing awareness to my abilities seemed silly but there was no denying its effectiveness as each time I heard the iconic “that was easy!” I felt a rush of satisfaction wash over me and catapulting me to go on to do more and more. Over time I was able to incorporate those same feelings of self-approval without keeping the button around, instilling within me feelings of worthiness.
The lesson the button taught me was to do whatever you have to do to find a way to give yourself credit for the things you do well, and then whenever you feel you’re facing something that is outside of your comfort zone, take a moment to revisit things that are within your comfort zone. Take a break to do what you do best. When you feel a boost from your self-assurance, return with your newfound confidence to that difficult matter, armed with knowing your ability to succeed. When you’ve accomplished what you once thought was impossible, remind yourself of your success and go forward in your new awareness.