Dr. Jacqueline B. Sallade offers advice for maintaining your mental health.
Years ago, when consulting in school settings, I coined the term "reputation-changing comments." I recommended that teachers and parents boost kids' self-concepts by praising in such a way that the germ of a new reputation got emplanted in their fertile minds. For example, rather than saying, "Good job!" or "Wow, an 'A'," the adults would say, "You're becoming a better student." or "You're really learning more." Instead of rewarding a child for not getting into trouble fighting with siblings, or saying, "Good girl," the parent would say something like, "It's nice to see you becoming a better sister." Or with peers, "What a sweet friend you were today." The idea is that the child now has a new concept to attach to her self-image. She's no longer the "bad kid." He's no longer the "loser," "the cut-up," "the clown," "the failure," etc. but the "student," "friend," "kind person," "helper," etc.. As the child hears the new label(s) repetitively, the new mental reputation becomes real, something to live up to.
It works with adults, too. Call the grouch at the office "Smiley," now and then in a non-offensive, non-mocking way, when the situation warrants (even if rare). Make sure your recalcitrant partner or spouse is recognized when he is able to participate fully in a conversation (or something) as "smart," "a true lover," "the best," "Mr. Handy," or whatever. Let the woman of your life know that she's seen as "beautiful," "friendly," "happy," etc., even if it's not as often as you wish. The feeling that there's an aspect of the self that you acknowledge may help the other acknowledge it, too, develop it and grow it until it becomes part of the solid self.