Replacing “Don’ts” With “Do’s” for Self-Esteem

sticky note on fingerAfter last week’s post on name-calling and how it ruins your self-esteem (and possibly other people’s as well), a reader called Multnoma left the following comment:

 Ok. I get that I am holding myself back by calling names. Even if only in my head. Or under my breath.
But it’s only another item on the list of what I shouldn’t do.
I don’t know what I *should* do. Where is the list for that?

Multnoma’s comment was right on the money; it’s relatively easy to come up with a “Don’t” list.

This is one of those times when mental health advice parallels physical health advice.

For example, we’ve all heard these popular “Don’ts” for health:

  • Smoking
  • Alcohol/drug abuse
  • High sodium
  • Refined sugar
  • Too much red meat
  • etc., etc., etc.

But there always seem to be differing opinions about what we *should* do…

  • Vegan diet, or everything in moderation?
  • More fruit, or less?
  • Reduce carbohydrates, fat, or protein?
  • How much fiber?
  • How much water?
  • Are supplements even helpful, let alone necessary?
  • Etc., etc., etc.

In light of conflicting opinions, at a certain point we’re left to rely on our own observations and intuition about our bodies.

For instance I’ve noticed that for me, there is such a thing as too much fiber.

Mike on the other hand is a two-legged fiber-processing factory. He can handle any amount, it seems.

Fasting is not my friend no matter how much I’d like it to be.

Others thrive on fasting and swear by it.

Ultimately, we all must decide for ourselves what works and what doesn’t when it comes to our health.

This is probably true for mental health as well.

Solutions Need Problems

If you wander the earth asking people what you should do, you’ll probably often get the response, “About what?”

This is because the answer to the question, “What should I do?” depends on what you’re trying to accomplish.

In the physical realm, if you’re trying to lower your blood pressure I’m told that, among other things, you should reduce your salt intake.

If your blood pressure is fine but you sweat a lot, you probably need to make sure you get enough salt to replace the sodium that’s lost through sweating.

Different goals, different means.

If your goal is to improve your self-esteem, the basic “to-do” is to esteem yourself.

Self-esteem is an action.

But the “to-do” inherent in that action depends on what it means to you.

How do you show esteem?

Here are a few ways that esteem can be expressed:

  • verbal or written communication (e.g., “I like you; you’re different”)
  • generosity (donating your time, money or energy)
  • compassion (seeking to understand and commiserate rather than judge)
  • affection (inviting closeness; cuddling, caressing, smiling, gazing)
  • interest; attention (being enthusiastic about knowing the person)
  • admiration (recognizing qualities you appreciate)

Think about how you treat those you hold in high esteem. What are your go-to actions?

That gives you your answer, because once you know how you’d treat those people, you can treat yourself the same way.

Are you an affectionate person? Give yourself a hug.

Do you enjoy being generous? Give yourself a gift.

Are you interested in others? How about getting interested in yourself?

Try a little constructive wallowing; knowing your feelings is a shortcut to knowing your authentic self.

If you have ideas about how to practice self-esteem “do’s” rather than “don’ts,” please share them in the Comments section.

Many thanks to Multnoma, whose comment inspired this post.

Photo courtesy of


Negative Self-Talk: Both Cause and Effect of Injured Self-Esteem

looking in mirrorWe can be so mean to ourselves.

“Who do you think you are?”

“Well, THAT was dumb.”

“Just shut up right now; you’re making a fool of yourself.”

And on and on. Why do we do this to ourselves?

It’s learned behavior.

No one comes out of the womb thinking, “Geez, I’m such a pathetic loser.”

This week’s post explores the impact of name-calling — even inside our own heads — on self-esteem:

Break Bones? No, but Name-Calling Can Injure Self-Esteem

Photo courtesy of

It’s Not a Pity Party If You Criticize Yourself

woman looking in mirror criticallySelf-pity has a bad rap.

When people confess to me in therapy, “I had a pity party last week,” they’re usually embarrassed about it.

They look as if they’re admitting they made a mean face at a baby or threw a plastic cup on the freeway shoulder.

Their faces say, “I know I shouldn’t do that, but I did it anyway.”

Well, I tell them — and I’m here to tell you — there’s nothing wrong with self-pity.

If you’re going to pity yourself, though, for Heavens’ sake, pity yourself!

Calling yourself a pathetic loser doesn’t sound like pity to me.

Here’s a helpful definition that I swooped up from

“Sympathetic or kindly sorrow evoked by the suffering, distress, or misfortune of another, often leading one to give relief or aid or to show mercy.”

Self-pity means doing all that for yourself.

“But I got myself into this!,” you might protest.

That’s irrelevant.

See the above definition? It doesn’t say, “unless the person got themselves into this pickle in the first place, in which case the sympathetic or kindly sorrow can be dispensed with.”

For more on this, check out my blog post this week over at my country house,

Self-Pity Doesn’t Look Like This

Photo courtesy of

Just Freaking ASK

asking for somethingI’ve written before about how it never hurts to ask for what you want, but…

Since Elizabeth Gilbert is a far better writer than I am, I thought I’d share with you a short article of hers that inspired me this week.

It was a timely read for me, because just the other day someone suggested I expand my work into an intriguing new arena.

My response was hesitant — not because I didn’t want to do it, but because I couldn’t imagine who would hire me.

Gilbert’s simple article inspired me to “just freaking ask” for the opportunity when the time comes.

I hope her words inspire you, too. The article is here:

How to Be Happier – Elizabeth Gilbert

Photo courtesy of

8 Ways to Treat Yourself Right

woman getting facialHave you ever thought of volunteering in order to feel happier?

I’ve definitely heard this idea from clients who are feeling stuck and miserable.

“I tried volunteering, but it didn’t make me feel better,” they tell me after the fact.

This doesn’t surprise me.

You can’t give water from a dry well.

We all need to fill the well somehow if we want to be generous and kind to others.

Recently I came across an article with some ideas on just how to do that.

Click on the link below to read it:

To Thine Own Self Be Kind: Eight Random Acts of Self-Kindness

Photo courtesy of

Forgiveness Tips If You’ve Been Wronged

sad eggIf you’re nursing a grievance, you’re not alone.

Without a heartfelt apology (which isn’t always available), or even with that apology, sometimes it can take a long time to feel better.

Being wronged is like being injured physically. Healing takes time.

No one expects a broken bone to heal overnight, nor should we expect ourselves to be okay with what happened immediately… or ever.

Assuming you want to reach forgiveness, though, remember that hurt feelings can build on other hurt feelings from the past.

There may be a backlog of emotional “ouch!”es to work through.

The best anyone can do is to create room for forgiveness.

Read these tips on how to do that from my guest post over on

Don’t Rush Forgiveness

Photo courtesy of

Notes from a Book Tour

Dog in bookstore

Every bookstore needs a dog. This one resides at 32 Books in North Vancouver, BC

I was sharing a meal with a friend recently and she asked me how the book tour’s going for my newly-released book, Constructive Wallowing.

I told her about the travel, the bookstore signings and the radio and TV interviews, and she responded with an interesting question.

“Why haven’t I read about any of this on your blog?”

I was temporarily speechless. But then the cat came back with my tongue.

“People don’t want to read about me and my book. They want to read self-help.”

My friend disagreed.

She asserted that you, Gentle Reader, would be not only tolerant of, but actively interested in, reading about my activities.

As outrageously improbable as that seemed when she said it, my friend is not a kook.

So although I’m uncomfortable writing an entire post exclusively about ME and MY BOOK, I’m performing a daring experiment this week by doing just that.

Gulp. Here goes…

Book Expo America, the biggest publishing trade show in the U.S. - New York City

At Book Expo America, I signed books for the first time. Wanted to write, “Thanks for asking me to sign this – you just made my day!”

This year, my first book came out!

A bit of history: I started writing Constructive Wallowing in October 2010.

(I figured the word “wallow” needed to be reclaimed so people would stop beating themselves over the head with it.)

Anyway, I worked on about six drafts of the manuscript until January 2012, found wonderful literary agent Janet Rosen in February 2012, she sold it to the awesome publisher Viva Editions in November 2012, and after a great deal of collaboration and planning it was released a couple of months ago.

Since then I’ve been doing oodles of radio interviews about the book, most of them by phone.

I’ve also visited New York, Minneapolis, Seattle, Vancouver and the San Francisco Bay Area to speak and sign copies at bookstores.

Sushi: The official food of Tina's book tour. This is Sono Sushi in Mountain View, CA

Sushi: The official food of Tina’s book tour. This is Sono Sushi in Mountain View, CA

At some point early on, I agreed to be interviewed on TV.

It must have been the day I tried crack.

Kidding! I do crack every day.



You saw the first interview in my post, Good Enough is Sometimes Best. The second is below.

Going into the tour, I dreaded being on TV (wouldn’t you?), but it turns out I probably enjoyed those interviews the most.

Why? Because it’s easy to remain on point for the scant 5-minutes-or-less available.

An hour-long radio interview, on the other hand, can be mentally taxing. At least for me.

Toward the end of a long interview, my ability to concentrate starts to unravel. This is not a fun development, especially when the show is live.

During the first week of my New York/Minneapolis trip, I got really sick and had to do an important radio interview while lying in bed.

cute cat on bed

This is Huddy, who lives in the AirB&B home where I stayed during the Bay Area leg of the tour.

My worst fear came true in that interview: I forgot what I was talking about right in the middle of a sentence.

The interviewer was gracious about it, but of course that particular interview had one of the largest audiences — isn’t that always the way?

Though I’m back home in Portland now, the radio interviews continue; I usually have a couple each week.

My mind still starts to poop out around the 40-45 minute mark. I blame it on the mental fog of perimenopause.

That’s what I blame everything on these days. No matter what happens, it’s “Damn you, Perimenopause!”

Tina with books on table in front of store

At Book Passage in Corte Madera, CA. The staff treated me so well, you’d have thought I was Hillary Clinton.

While on the road, I collected miscellaneous bookstore experiences.

You never know what you’re going to find when you go to speak at a venue you’ve never been to, or how many people will show up to a free event.

It was the week after Hillary Clinton was there to sign her new book that I was scheduled to speak about Constructive Wallowing at the UW Bookstore in Seattle.

When I arrived, I found a HUGE bookstore with a lovely big speaking area, complete with lectern and signing table.

I was told that Hillary Clinton had used the very same lectern and the very same signing table just last week. Cool!

San Francisco highlight: Chinatown, and the biggest sesame ball I've ever had. Yum!

San Francisco highlight: Chinatown, and the biggest sesame ball I’ve ever had. Yum!

I also learned that Clinton’s audience had numbered 1,200  — limited only by the size of the space, presumably.

I crossed my fingers for a fraction of that turnout as I waited for people to arrive…

I guess 1/600th counts as a fraction.

What has she got that I don’t have?

On the other hand, at one of my library talks, a good-sized room was filled to capacity.

Yes, my mother and 11 of her friends happened to be there. What are you implying?

It’s another reason to love TV: You can imagine whatever number of viewers you’re most comfortable with.

I had a genuinely good time chatting with Frank Mallincoat during this KPIX interview:

You can see at the end that we started talking again after the interview. We talked for so long that the studio cleared out and we were the only ones left.

The people (and sometimes animals) I met and the interesting conversations I had (mostly with the people) were the highlights of the tour for me.

This sign at the entrance to the North Vancouver City Library told me I was in the right place.

It was a special treat to finally come face to face with the creative and dynamic souls in my publisher’s office, and with Janet, my literary agent.

We’d been working together via phone and email for more than a year to bring Constructive Wallowing to market.

The handshakes and hugs when we met face-to-face were heart-felt. It truly takes a village to publish a book.

The long-distance travel may be over now, but the interviews and short-distance travel continue as I work to introduce the book to everyone with a pulse.

If you’d like to listen to some of the interviews and learn a little more about Constructive Wallowing, you can find them on the Press Room page on my website.

If you’re in the Portland area, please come see me at the Multnomah County Library this fall. I’ll be in multiple branches on multiple dates.

You never know; maybe Hillary Clinton will be there!

Photos courtesy of Tina Gilbertson Photography, Inc.