It’s that time of year. You know the one I mean. The excitement of the start of the school year has passed, the holiday hustle is over, the energy that comes with the start of the new year is waning, winter is in full swing and the start of the long haul stretch until spring break is upon us. This can be the toughest time of the school year for many of us and, even more, our students. The winter blues are real and can put a damper on just about everything, including mindset, our attitude towards work/school and even worse, our attitude toward ourselves.
Self-love. We all need it. It feels awkward and like we should already have it, but if we are being honest with ourselves, we probably don’t.
We definitely don’t. We preach it to our children, to our students, yet struggle with doing it ourselves. We know we need it, we WANT it, yet the big question is- HOW do we get there? How do we share this with our students?
I’m not writing as an expert on it, because really- who is? We are all a work in progress. I am writing as an educator and a person who has, over the years, used all the tools I could gather together and done a lot of work on getting to the place of self-acceptance and self-love.
The Benefits of Positive Self-Talk
There are so many pieces to this intricate puzzle. One of the biggest of these is positive self-talk. Researchers continue to study the effects of positive self-talk on optimizing health. Some of the benefits can include:
- Lower levels of stress
- Lower rates of depression
- Better coping skills
- Increased physical and psychological well being
- Increased cardiovascular health*
Stress, anxiety and depression continue to be growing issues for children. In a society where 70 percent of teens say anxiety and depression is a “major problem among their peers,” these benefits are looking really good, which makes positive self-talk even more worth incorporating into our own lives and the lives of our students.*
Undoing a Bad Habit
The tricky part of all of this is that most of us are programmed in a completely different way. Most of us are used to saying negative things about ourselves. So much so, that we likely don’t even realize we are doing it half of the time. We can very easily list the things about ourselves we don’t like, finding every flaw we can, pointing out every goal not met, quickly yelling at ourselves for making even the smallest mistake. This is NOT ok and the inner dialogue needs to change. You have the power to do that for yourself and you have the power to help your students do the same.
I am smart. I am kind. I am strong. I am determined. I am capable.
Just writing those words can feel uncomfortable. Saying them out loud as a positive affirmation for self-care can feel impossible in the beginning, which is EXACTLY why we need to do it daily.
This is a practice I do with my daughters every morning. They are 5 and 7 years old and look forward to it daily. It is a very important part of our daily routine. We started doing this together when they were 3 & 5 years old, so it’s never too early and anyone can do this. I have seen a dramatic increase in their confidence in social settings, their willingness to try new things and believing in themselves when a task seems challenging.
They don’t think saying their positive affirmations daily, their list of kind words to themselves, is awkward or weird and they certainly don’t struggle with finding awesome things to say about themselves. That’s the goal. To KNOW these things to be true so none of it makes us feel like we are crazy and self-absorbed in saying it. I mean, who taught us that anyway? Like self-loathing is what we should be doing? No.
Start with 3 things you love about yourself.
You can think of 3. Your intelligence, your eyes, your witty sense of humor, your killer style, your teaching style- anything! Start with 3. Do it every day. Imagine you are talking to a friend or your child, or a student – telling them how incredibly AMAZING they are and do it for YOURSELF! Write it down and say it out loud!
In the Classroom
Model this and then have your students do the same. Some students may find this to be very easy, while others may be frozen by it. If they are struggling with ideas, brainstorm as a class a list of positive self-talk phrases they can pull from; have students work in small groups to come up with some general ideas they could use, or work with some students one on one to share some more personal ideas. As their teacher, you’re one of the best people around to help them come up with a list of their best attributes!
It will likely feel really uncomfortable at first, like wallflower-at-a-middle-school-dance uncomfortable, but do it anyway. It will get better. Day after day, it will get better. You can incorporate this into a daily classroom routine too- something to do when they enter your room to start the day or your class together. They don’t need to share it with others in the class; they can say it out loud on their own time. Just writing it down in class for themselves, telling themselves something they love about themselves or something they are good at: the impact it will have on each of them over time will be great.
Over time, you’ll all get more comfortable with this practice and can start adding to that list of what makes you so incredibly awesome and why you love yourself as much as you do.
Go ahead. You can do it. You are worth it.
- Meghan Smerillo
The Mayo Clinic. “Positive thinking- stop negative self-talk to reduce stress.” January 2020
NEA today. “The Epidemic of Anxiety among today’s students.” March 2019