In cases where a specific statement made by the critic is particularly difficult to challenge, The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook suggests using a rational method of investigation to deconstruct the statement. The Workbook suggests the following statements:
- “What is the evidence for this?
- Is this always true?
- Has this been true in the past?
- What are the odds of this really happening (or being true)?
- What is the very worst that could happen? What is so bad about that? What would you do if the worst happened?
- Are you looking at the whole picture?
- Are you being fully objective?” (168).
The final step in quieting the critic is for the client to affirm her own intrinsic worth. This, too, is highly personal. However, it can take the form of the client identifying the qualities she has that she admires in other people, taking ownership for her accomplishments, verbalizing or writing down her positive attributes, or exercising self-care through small, achievable actions that the coach can suggest or help her to formulate.
Achievement and Celebrating Strengths
While perfectionism and overly lofty goals can damage self-esteem, achieving smaller goals and celebrating them can have a positive impact on self-esteem, both in the present moment and in the long-term. Celebration is an integral part of coaching, so this is an especially useful tool for coaches to utilize with clients.
Coaches can encourage celebration during sessions by verbally recognizing all achievements, no matter how small. The coach can take a few minutes to revel in the accomplishment with the client, thereby demonstrating that each accomplishment is worth stopping to recognize. The coach can also solicit celebration on the client’s part by asking her what she would like to recognize herself for, and requesting an explanation of why each item is worthy of celebration.
The coach may also encourage the client to continue this habit of celebration by assigning the client to give herself rewards, large or small, for each achievement. One popular tool with many coaches is to task the client with writing a “Ta Da! List” each day. The “Ta Da! List” is a play on the well-known To Do List. However, instead of writing down the things she needs to do that day, the client lists the things she has achieved that day. This is a simple, playful, and fun way for the client to recognize even seemingly mundane achievements.
Acting As If
So far, the methods we have discussed have focused mostly on changing cognition in order to eventually change behavior. This last tool, however, utilizes behavior to influence cognition. A coach can ask a client to imagine or pretend to be someone she knows or someone she imagines who has the qualities of confidence that the client desires. The coach can then ask the client how this person would act in specific situations, what actions she would take, and what her beliefs would be. By using her imagination to “try on” the personality of another person, the client can experience what it is like to be momentarily free of her own limitations. Once she is aware of the possibility of encountering the world in this new way, she might become more able to imagine that reality for herself, and gradually begin to experience more confidence and freedom in her own life.
As demonstrated in the above techniques, coaching can be a useful tool in helping clients to increase their self-esteem and, thereby, their efficacy and enjoyment of life. While many clients would alternately (or also) benefit from engagement with therapy, coaching offers a way to put cognitive-behavioral tools into practice in the present moment. This allows clients to not only use these techniques to be functional in their current lives, but to gradually craft more ideal lives and work toward an exceptional future.
Bourne, Edmund J. The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger Publications, Inc., 2000.
Brown, Brene. I Thought It Was Just Me (But It Isn’t). New York: Gotham Books, 2007.
“Coaching: What Is It?.” Learning Level 1. International Coach Federation, 2010.
“Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.” Psychology Today. Kaja Perina. 3 June 2012. <http://www.psychologytoday.com/basics/cognitive-behavioral-therapy>.
Engel, Beverly. Healing Your Emotional Self. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.,2006.
Fanning, Patrick, and Matthew McKay. Self-Esteem. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger Publications, Inc., 1987.
Forbes, Angus, Maria Gardiner, and Hugh Kearns. “A Cognitive Behavioral Coaching
Intervention for the Treatment of Perfectionism and Self-Handicapping in a Non
Clinical Population.” Behavior Change 24.3 (2007): 157-172. Digital.