What was Personal Development and what did it have to do with “looking after myself” anyway?

Many years ago in an effort to learn to “look after myself” I took a course labeled personal development. I had been told that this would help me learn the necessities of looking after myself on top of mindfulness. But what was personal development and what did it have to do with “looking after myself” anyway?What was Personal Development and what did it have to do with looking after myself anyway

Well it wasn’t  what I thought at the time but it all made perfect sense in the end.  It helped me understand more about myself, my thinking patterns and about others behaviour. It was run over a number of weeks and included the following:

Change what is it?

Change doesn’t happen overnight, it takes time and effort and involves a few different stages. A very brief overview of what happens in change is as described by Virginia Satir. She described change as having six stages:

Stage 1: Status quo – nothing has happened yet but you may perceive a need to change something but not sure of what.

Stage 2: Foreign Element – an awareness of a problem arises and you feel the need to change it because of a difficulty that has arisen in your life.

Stage 3: Chaos – you can arrive in this stage and feel lost, out of control or helpless/hopeless, you’ve hit a wall of sorts.

Stage 4: New Options – you can now see something to help you and you pick yourself up, develop a better understanding of what happened and learn new ways of coping.

Stage 5: Practice – as it says you practice, practice, practice your new way of coping, this helps reinforce it in your life.

Stage 6: Integration – new methods of coping are no longer new but are a way of life. You feel comfortable using them and a new status quo has been established.

Behaviour Types

There are basically four types of different behaviour:

1. Passivity (passive, doormat) this type of behaviour is classified by some of the following traits: people pleasing – no matter what our needs are we will have an overriding need to please and help others while our own needs are not being met; low self-esteem which is briefly bolstered by the people pleasing; feelings of powerlessness and an inability to take control of our lives.

2. Direct Aggression (aggressive , bully) this stems from the need to win at all cost, it may be confused with assertive behaviour which it is most definitely not; compromise is impossible as thoughts of losing is a big no; confrontation may become physical or/and verbal.

3. Indirect Aggressive (passive-aggressive, martyr, manipulator) this type of behaviour often results from being raised within an openly direct aggressive home, where one or both parents carried on in this manner. Being indirect aggressive though can be equally as abusive as direct aggressive. It is harder to confront as they use guilt, sarcasm and put downs to manipulate people into doing what they want them to do. No direct expression in terms of feelings or thoughts but also experiencing low self-esteem within themselves.

4. Assertion (assertive, fair and square) is a behaviour where you feel good about yourself;  expressing your feelings; standing up for yourself; making suggestions is okay; refusing anything is also okay; disagreeing when you want to; complaining when you need to without fear or aggression; apologizing when it is right to do so; requesting explanations.

So when you read the above list of behaviour types which one are you? Have a think about it.

Self talk/Positive thinking/negative thinking

Understanding how we talk to ourselves and what is the basis of our thinking is so important to not just recovery but to our ability to deal with life and have good self-esteem. Self talk is automatic for most as is awareness of our thinking patterns. It can go by unnoticed but it is largely responsible for how we feel everyday. Negative self-talk is usually someone else’s tape running  in our heads, we need to overwrite it and replace it with something more positive and more truthful about ourselves. How we do this is by examining our way of thinking.

Negative thinking is distorted, irrational, unhelpful and learned from someone else. It can therefore be unlearned. There are 4 types of negative thinkers:

  1. The Worrier – always imagining the worst possible case scenario.
  2. The Critic is constantly judging themselves and putting themselves down.
  3. The Perfectionist always thinking they’re not good enough, they must not make mistakes and always have to do better.
  4. The Victim always thinking life is beyond their control, the situation is hopeless and helpless, they feel deprived, defective and unworthy.

Speaking Up and Saying No

Speaking Up and Saying No is part of assertiveness training. Always remember you have the right to say no. And that No is a full sentence and a full statement So it doesn’t require an explanation.

Constructive criticism

It’s okay to use constructive criticism, if you’re unsure of how to do this I would suggest practice make perfect. It takes time to get it right so be patient with yourself and don’t give up after one go. How to do it:

If possible you choose the time and place, prepare what you want to say making note of a few points or if there is a lot the just tackle one issue at a time ( and then leave it alone, come back to the other points in time)

When you do meet you can the focus on the following basics:

1. “When you said/did x” pause before continuing with what wa said/done.

2. ” I felt Y” ( always remember to focus on I felt not you made me feel)

3. ” In future I’d prefer if you said/did z, what do you think?” (now you negotiate/compromise but never let it get aggressive or heated. If it does take a break until you both cool off)

Building self-esteem  and self-respect

Building self-esteem  and self-respect comes from looking at what good self-esteem is and  what is self-respect. Good self-esteem/self-respect means you are comfortable in yourself and confident in your own abilities. It would include talking positive to yourself; acknowledging strengths, changing behaviours you’re not happy with; celebrating your achievements; treating yourself; looking after physical and mental health equally; taking time for yourself; seeking help and support as needed; getting to know yourself. It also means setting healthy boundaries for yourself and knowing what your self-esteem busters and boosters are.


Affirmations aren’t just about some sayings on pieces of paper (although I use these daily and find them very helpful) they are also about learning from mistakes and successes; being knowledgeable about relationships and your relationship skills no matter what kind of relationship it is – work, family, personal; decreasing excessive concerns; expecting positive outcomes; improving matching your values with what you do, think and feel.; accept compliments by just saying thank you. This is the easiest practice So the next time someone offers you a compliment just say “Thank You” and nothing else.

Knowing your rights

Do you know your rights? These rights are part of assertiveness training and are based on the idea that we are all created equal, which many people may have forgotten.

  1. I have the right to express my feelings
  2. I have the right to express my opinions and beliefs
  3. I have the right to say yes and no for myself
  4. I have the right to change my mind
  5. I have the right to say I don’t understand
  6. I have the right to be myself without having to act for other people’s benefit
  7. I have the right to decline responsibility for other people’s problems
  8. I have the right to make reasonable requests of others
  9. I have the right to set my own priorities
  10. I have the right to be listened to and taken seriously
  11. I have the right to make mistakes and feel comfortable about admitting them
  12. I have the right to be illogical in making decisions
  13. I have the right to say I don’t care
  14. I have the right to be miserable or cheerful
  15. I have the right to own my own feelings


Did you know we offer an 8 week course in personal development on a one to one basis. You can take this course over a 16 week period also so you can work on each step over a longer period before moving on to the next step.

If you feel you need to talk to someone about anything that arose from this blog post please call us on 089 4373641 Our offices are in Wexford Town and Ferns.

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