I’m a big fan of the Self-Esteem Workbook by Glenn R. Schiraldi. A family member of mine who is a counselor gave me a copy a few years ago when I was really struggling with self-confidence issues and had ballooned to about 220 lbs! (though I’m not sure the weight was why they suggested the book).

That was in the spring of 2006 and some of the concepts in the workbook seemed daunting. It was hard to read that each person has worth, particularly because months before I’d been laid off from my first post-college job, was single (still am) and had next to no money (still don’t!).

Two months ago I revisited the book, which is modular. It’s format is like any other self-help workbook in that it requires a good deal of effort to not only read it but do the exercises. Schiraldi, like my other favorite self-help author David Burns, emphasizes the power of thinking, that we sometimes have overvalued ideas and distortions in our thinking that are the direct result of issues in our lives – generally speaking, our earlier years. Both authors teach that it’s how you think that in many ways determines how you feel. Thinking is more than half the battle in daily life.

To grow up feeling that one needs to have good grades, good looks and good athletic ability to have any worth, when one reaches his or her adulthood they will certainly have a disadvantage in negotiating the day-to-day challenges of existence. So much of how we feel is how we think. If a person succeeds five times in landing new customers for his company but on the sixth time fails to do so, the law of  averages would  indicate  that  he’s  pretty  successful. Still there are many people who are totally unable to accept any type of failure or set back in their life (I know, I’m too often guilty of that) so that they feel they must be successful all the time or nearly all the time to be happy. They must succeed to be worthwhile. That is a thinking pattern that can lead to a very miserable life. That and other distortions of thinking are what Burns and Schiraldi emphasize hold people back from acknowledging their core value and the blessings of day-to-day existence. It’s very easy to do.

I’m getting towards the halfway point in The Self-Esteem Workbook and so far I’m appreciative for how much it has helped me think about the way that I think. Currently, I’m working in Chapter 8, Create the Habit of Core-Affirming Thoughts.

This activity involves repeating phrases that recognize our imperfections but emphasize our strengths, character and contributions as people. The reader sits in a chair and thinks about a series of 23 phrases, including some particularly significant mantras such as, “I think well of myself. This is good.”, “I accept myself because I realize that I am more than my foibles, mistakes or any other externals”, and “I expect others to like and respect me. If they don’t, that’s okay.”

The exercise challenges the reader not to simply repeat the words in his or her mind but to visualize a more whole self that truly does recognize and understand these important concepts. After all, we are more than our mistakes. A .302 hitter is very likely to be known as a good ballplayer even though he fails at near seven in ten times he steps to the plate. Most of us do not chronically fail at things and if we do, how does it matter. I like The Self-Esteem Workbook and more so than any other self-help book (with the exception of Burns’ ) I’ve been working through this with some ease.

Rightfully, I’ll admit that I’ve bought and borrowed a few self-help books in the last decade of my life, but it’s Schiraldi’s practicality that I like best. My family member who is a counselor says clients who engage in it have some success. It just takes effort to reach into the unknown or the rough waters of our self-criticism. With effort comes good things generally.