Locus of Evaluation and Mindfulness: a recipe for increasing self-esteem.
In this piece, I want to look at the relationship between Locus of Evaluation, Self- Esteem and Mindfulness. I will present something about Locus of Evaluation (LoE) and something about Mindfulness, followed by a way of bringing them together, meaningfully. I am not sure if this correlation exists already.
Locus of Evaluation (LoE), was posited by Carl Rogers in the 1950’s and is one of a series of ideas that formed a Person Centred Approach to therapy. It helps us to understand that where we look for our conditions of worth can affect self-confidence and self-esteem and general mental health. Rogers (1951) defined the locus of evaluation as ‘the extent to which [one’s] values and standards depend upon the judgements and expectations of others, or are based on a reliance upon [one’s] own experience’ (p.156)
Albert Ellis (2000) from a Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy stance supports this view when he stated that, ‘Emotional disturbance is frequently associated with caring too much about what others think.’ (p176). He presents a more assertive view than Rogers.
When we spend time and energy; wondering what to wear, being uncertain how to behave, wondering what others might think of you, valuing others opinions above your own, depending on others for advice, being embarrassed when you make a mistake our LoE is likely to be external. On the other hand when we spend time and energy; standing our ground even when someone disagrees with us, relying on our own advice, openly admitting a mistake, we can be happy with ourselves irrespective of what others might say, then our LoE is likely to be internal.
The question that arises is how we might begin to shift locus of evaluation from external to internal, particularly if it is going to lead to higher self-esteem and confidence. In my experience Mindfulness is one of the most accessible ways of creating this change in focus.
Mindfulness is a Buddhist practice and means ‘Awareness.’ It is a simple idea that can have immediate results if practised regularly. Many forms of therapy today include Mindfulness as a means of taking greater control over our decision-making. Mindfulness is portable and can be practised daily whilst walking, running, in the office, at home, on the train and so on.
Mindfulness is a way of paying attention to ourselves in the here and now and encourages us to become aware of our internal states of being; thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations as well as our current surroundings. We are encouraged to receive these experiences gently and non-judgementally. As a result, we may make informed and intentional decisions in life.
Practising Mindfulness over time can begin to move our locus of evaluation from a reliance on other people (external locus of evaluation) to a greater reliance on our own judgement of what is right for us (internal locus of evaluation) Research indicates that internal locus of evaluation leads to better mental health, happiness and self-esteem.
In most situations we can take a moment to: stop; check in with how we feel and think and capture what we are experiencing internally. What we hear from ourselves and what we experience can help us to make decisions that can lead to increased self-esteem and greater confidence. It is not easy to do and takes practice, but over time it can become second nature.
I am often asked if it doesn’t lead to selfishness and in my experience it won’t. We will not easily lose our ability to consider others, nor should we, but to add a moments self reflection will offer greater intentional choices and confidence.
I suggest that the key is practice and I have added some resources below to guide that practice and also to explore journalling which can be a useful tool when beginning to take account of our internal locus of evaluation. There a lot more on the web, so look around.
Rogers, C. R. (1951) Client Centred Therapy. Boston: Houghton-Mifflin Co.
Ellis, A. (2000) Rational emotive behaviour therapy. In R. J. Corsini & D. Wedding (Eds.), Current psychotherapies (6th ed., pp. 168-204). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth
- Here are some links to mindful meditation audio downloads.
- This is a link to the free Mindfulness book, Mindfulness in Plain English.
- Keep a feeling diary or journal of feelings and emotions. Here’s a bit of motivation from the Guardian
- This is a link to Wikihow and is a general guide if you haven’t kept a journal before. Take what you want from it and ditch the rest.