Mindfulness meditation has so many benefits in the way we interact with others. Many organizations are finding ways to incorporate mindfulness training, wellness programs are offering it as well as as universities across the country. What is often overlooked are the incredible benefits mindfulness meditation can bring about in the way in which we interact with ourselves, including our self-esteem. In addition to the overall increased self-awareness we develop as meditators, mindfulness meditation trains our minds in a couple of key areas that can significantly affect the way in which we relate to ourselves, and therefore, feel about ourselves. These are not abstract concepts, but rather tangible differences that are felt immediately and accumulate to strengthen our self-esteem considerably over the long-term.
The first key area is the ability to pause and bring non-judgmental awareness to the present moment, rather than reacting habitually. The second is the opportunity to use compassion in the way we approach ourselves in moments of perceived failure.
One of the most invaluable skills that we gain in the course of our mindfulness meditation practice is the ability to pause before reacting. This moment of non-judgmental awareness goes a very long way in enabling us to live in alignment with our values. When we pause before jumping to fill the space, we can see things as they actually are in the present moment rather than reacting in our habitual manner. In the same way that this is invaluable when responding to outer stimulus, it is equally, if not even more crucial, when facing our inner critic. When we sit in meditation and our mind inevitably begins to wander, we first react with a bit of habitual self-criticism. Over time, we learn to simply notice that our mind has wandered without the labeling of “bad meditator” or “failure”. Similarly, when we shout at our children, then immediately begin the negative self-talk about being a bad parent, or when we have a second slice of chocolate cake and call ourselves a failure, we are reacting in our usual way, without necessarily giving it much thought. However, when we practice mindfulness, we eventually start to notice the automatic self-talk. Then, we are able to notice, non-judgmentally, that we are reacting this way and we decide instead to pause for a moment to reflect. In becoming aware, we now see how we typically react and have the opportunity to choose a different way forward.
Mindfulness meditation also trains us in another vital skill: self-compassion. When our mind wanders during sitting meditation practice, which it unavoidably will whether we are meditating for the first time or for the hundredth time, we are usually quick to criticize. As we become regular meditators and strengthen our self-compassion muscle, we pause and react compassionately. . This self-compassion then translates to situations off the meditation cushion and we learn to be more self-compassionate where we used to criticize. Where we used to find ourselves wondering why we didn’t prepare the entire Thanksgiving meal from scratch for our visiting relatives and instead opted to host a potluck dinner, we would be more likely to self-talk with an attitude of kindness and understanding, rather than beating ourselves up for not being a supposed superhuman. As we meditate for a longer period of time, we begin to react, more often than not, with this kindness toward ourselves.
Does Mindfulness help us to compare ourselves less with others and to build secure self-esteem, irrelevant of our achievements? An article on Mindful.com covers two recent studies conducted by Christopher Pepping and his colleagues at Griffith University in Australia, which examined how mindfulness skills help enhance self-esteem. The authors of the studies summarized their results by saying that “In brief, mindfulness may assist individuals to experience a more secure form of high self-esteem.”
Both experience from individual practice, as well as research studies, confirm that mindfulness meditation is a solid foundation on which to build up, and also to rebuild, a strong sense of self-esteem.
Meditation instructor Alice Lash offers mindfulness meditation in Miami. Learn mindfulness meditation today by registering for one of Mindfultime’s group classes.