What is self esteem anyway? It has been described as the experience of being competent to cope with the basic challenges of life and of being worthy of happiness. Guess that pretty much sums it up… Too little self esteem is as harmful as too much. I have heard it said that positive or balanced self esteem is the immune system of the spirit.
So today I will attempt to talk about negative or too little self esteem. Can you change your perception of yourself? Yes, the process is simple, but actually putting it to work is more difficult. Self esteem is built upon the experience of success. Think of it as a circular process. When people experience success, they grow in self-confidence. As self-confidence grows, they feel empowered to face new challenges. As they succeed in confronting each challenge, they develop the capacity to cope with whatever life throws their way. That feeling leads to further growth of self-confidence, self-reliance and self esteem.
Healthy self esteem means thinking as highly of yourself as you think of your friends and peers. We are so used to negative feedback that we are more aware of our weaknesses than our strengths. We are often taught we will “fail”, so it is often hard to enjoy success, no matter how small each “success” might be. We wait for the other shoe to fall… We’ve had folks always pointing out our shortcomings (or that is what we hear), we rarely get positive feedback for a job well done (again, that is what we hear), we take for granted the things we do well because they are so familiar to us, and we have learned to focus only on our mistakes in total exclusion to our successes. I can go on to say that when I make a mistake I think, “What an idiot! How can I be so stupid?” “Can’t I get anything right?” “What a loser”, “There I go again! You are besting yourself in stupidity today!” We can’t change the past, but we can change the way we talk to ourselves today. (I have been working on this self esteem issue, so you guys don’t have to come back at me with all sorts of “good talk”. I am just trying to lay the groundwork for where one starts or could start.)
So what if you don’t know if you have low self esteem? It may be unconscious… it may be so patterned into your core beliefs that you think it is normal. Often low self esteem could surface in thoughts and in feelings and will often appear to manifest physically in body postures, actions and health.
- Feelings of being stuck
- Low motivation
- Low energy levels
- Lack of physical activity
- Potentially destructive behaviors
- Feeling helpless to change anything
- Relationship difficulties; Settling for less than you deserve
Typical behavior patterns of low self worth and esteem
- General lack of participation
- Negative commentary/response to questions
- Sluggish physical behavior
- Excessive use of activities for escapism (TV, videos, internet, video games, reading).
- Aggressive/argumentative behavior
- Unwillingness to try anything new
- Inability to say no (needing to be liked/loved by others by saying yes)
- Needing to prove self worth and status by boasting, making public claims about capabilities
- Negative self talk (I can’t, I won’t be able to)
- Frequent future-based mental movies that end in disaster or unwanted outcomes
- Mental “replaying” of past events where personally unpleasant outcomes were experienced
- Disassociation from success or high self esteem activities.
How to improve it??? This can get tricky as any change requires a certain amount of motivation, something those experiencing low self-worth may not have much of. Just by trying to be a cheery and positive person can make things worse. Self esteem is not something that we have; it is something we do…every minute of every day. So a treatment plan for low self esteem is do… not… not do.
- Pay attention to self talk… really – do this, you’d be surprised at how many times you “diss” yourself each day.
- Use some form of physical activity to provide an endorphin boost, this will result in a “feel good” sensation…. This can be as simple as walking around the block… just do something.
- Realize that stuff happens… it isn’t what happens but how we respond to it… not react but respond.
- Learn to laugh at yourself because no one is perfect not even you. Don’t let your weaknesses become roadblocks in your life. Instead let them become strengths so you can help others overcome the same challenges.
- Love yourself because no one else can love you better than you. How well you can love yourself will determine how well you can love others. Learn to appreciate who you are and where you’ve come from. Give yourself the respect you deserve. There is not one else in the world like you, that alone should make you feel special.
- Change the way you have always done things. Sometimes we can get in a rut and our lives become boring and dull. Change can be a positive.
- Learn a new skill or craft. Learning new things can give us self-confidence and increase self esteem. Life is full of adventure, so what in the heck are you waiting for?
- When given a compliment or praise learn to accept it gracefully and move on. Don’t stop to explain what should have happened or what you meant to do instead. Simply say thank you and with a smile or handshake move on…
- Take value in yourself because you are worth it. Stop thinking that you aren’t worthy because you are. Believe in yourself, your talents and abilities so that your life will be productive and profitable. You are worthy of greatness – so take value in yourself.
- Take a look in the mirror and see who you want to be not who someone else wants you to be. Life your life for you not for someone else. Whatever negative thoughts you have about yourself will dominate your life. So why not dominate your life with balance?
- Must say here, if you feel that therapy will help you improve your thinking good about yourself, then find yourself a good therapist….
Positive or balanced self esteem is knowing who we are and living in harmony with ourselves without needing to have the approval of others. Really now, other people’s opinion about you does not have to be in your reality. I am working on this… it is a journey.
Life is too short to live through other people’s opinion and reflections of us. Live your own life. It takes courage, but I believe it is worth it.
- Celebrate your strengths and achievements.
- Forgive yourself for your mistakes.
- Don’t dwell on your weaknesses; every human has them.
- Change the way you talk to yourself – stop putting yourself down.
- Be sure that you are not judging yourself against unreasonable standards.
- Berating yourself for your weaknesses is self-defeating. Use that energy for balanced thoughts about you.
Once you accept yourself…
- You will be able to accept and learn from your mistakes
- Be confident without being obnoxious or conceited
- Not be devastated by criticism
- Not be overly defensive when questioned
- Not be easily defeated by setbacks and obstacles
- Unlikely to feel a need to put others down
- Be open and assertive in communicating your needs without being overbearing and rude
- Not be overly worried about failing or looking foolish
- Not be harshly or destructively critical of yourself
- Not be aggressively driven all the time to prove yourself
- Again, be able to laugh at yourself
Enough today? Almost… since this is an issue I am working on I tend to get a bit wordy… self esteem is an experience. It is a particular way of experiencing the self. It is a good deal more than a mere feeling… it involves emotional, evaluative and cognitive components. It also entails certain actions: to move toward life rather than away from it; to move toward consciousness rather than away from it; to treat facts with respect rather than denial; to operate self responsibly rather than the opposite.
Whew… a lot of words…. I became the journey for a bit….. c-o-f-f-e-e
Thanks for sticking with me for a bit longer than normal……