There are some problems where you can’t think your way to a solution. Anyone who’s ever been anxious knows this all too well: once you’ve lost your cool, thinking tends to make things worse!
Still, it’s tempting to believe you can think your way to happiness and better mental health. After all, if the problems are all in your head, maybe the solutions are too.
But the old cliché that actions speak louder than words often applies even when the speaking is between you and your own brain. What you do can influence how you feel more than what you think.
This is one reason strategies like using motivation quotes don’t always work out the way we want. Now, I’m not here to trash motivational quotes — who doesn’t love a good motivational quote? Motivational quotes can be a great way of reminding yourself what’s important to you.
Here’s the thing, though: before you can remind yourself what’s important to you, you need to have established what’s important to you to begin with. Tools like motivational quotes can help you maintain meaning in your life, but they’re not as good at creating meaning.
That’s why making your life more meaningful and figuring out how to get to a place where you feel better about yourself — in other words, improving your self-esteem — is such a complex project.
It might seem like a simple idea that you can’t just think your way to higher self-esteem, but a lot of self-help advice never really goes beyond thinking about self-esteem into concrete steps you can take to improve your self-esteem. Maybe you’ve tried approaches to raising your self-esteem that didn’t go anywhere, if so I’ll bet some good money that these techniques had more to do with thinking than doing.
The common misconception that positive thinking is enough to build self-confidence was one of the things that motivated Marie Hartwell-Walker to write Unlocking the Secrets of Self-Esteem. Last year, she sat down with Daniel J. Tomasulo in an Ask the Therapist video to talk about what she discovered in the process of writing the book.
For a rundown on some must-knows about self-esteem, including a surprising research finding, some common myths about self-esteem, and — most importantly — concrete steps you can take to work on your self-confidence, check out the video of their conversation below.
In the meantime, if you want a motivational quote to put on a post-it note that’ll change your life, why not make it this: What meaningful thing can I do today that will make me feel good?