I've spoken about the protocol for dealing with unwanted thoughts and emotions before - identify and label, ask Why? and combat cognitive distortions with logic.
Sometimes, though, it's hard to find a logical response to an illogical thought or emotion because deep down in our subconscious, we actually believe the illogical thought. Our self esteem may need a boost. How do we do that?
Many mental health professionals advocate positive affirmations to improve self esteem. The problem is that if our subconscious minds don't believe the affirmation, it can sabotage us. We don't really believe the affirmation and keep making the same mistake repeatedly - which just reinforces the negative belief. What's the solution?
We have to give our subconscious a concrete event to refer to when using an affirmation.
For example, let's say you blew a sales presentation. The right words wouldn't come out, or you stuttered and stammered, or didn't give the right information to close the deal. Your mind thinks, "I stink at this! I failed miserably. I can't do it! My boss is going to be angry at me!" You start feeling stressed out. But identifying. labeling, and combating illogical thought with logic isn't helping. You still feel like a failure.
Remember a time when you DID do everything right. Give yourself a mental pat on the back and say to yourself, "Look how well I did that!" The next time you're delivering your sales pitch, your affirmation can be, "I'm capable of doing a great job and closing the sale." Bring back to mind your success and give yourself that pat on the back. Your affirmation is now based in a real, concrete event.
What happens if you can't recall a time when you felt comfortable with your performance? Let's say you suffer from social anxiety and have trouble coming up with the right things to say in conversation, or you're having difficulty honing your sales pitch. Practice, practice, practice! Speak to yourself in the mirror. Have a friend, loved one, or coworker practice with you. When you get it right, keep practicing and pat yourself on the back for nailing it! Create your positive affirmation based on that perfect performance. "I did a really good job on that sales pitch I practiced. I can do this!" "I can handle conversation in social situations - look how well I did when I was practicing! I can do it!" Remember the great result while practicing while repeating your affirmation.
Remember - positive affirmations work best when combined with concrete experiences. Create a situation in which your subconscious mind works with you, not against you.