Self-esteem is a feeling of self-worth and personal value. Of course, everyone has opinions about themselves and the type of person that they feel they are. Self-esteem can either be positive or negative. If we have negative thoughts about ourselves then this can lead to low self-esteem. It has been shown that different events will affect self-esteem, for example, the breakup of a relationship or losing a job. These circumstances may cause us to look at our weaknesses and thus, this can lead to low self-esteem.
There are many issues that contribute to a lack of self-esteem. For example, feeling like a failure, worthless or inferior compared to others will contribute to a lack of self-worth. If we feel as though we are letting others down, this will also add to a feeling of low self-esteem. Another issue that may sound familiar is being afraid of being rejected, of being able to disappear without anyone noticing or caring. All these factors may add to a lack of self-esteem and may be familiar to every one of us at one point or another.
We will generally always have mixed feelings about ourselves, and these beliefs with usually change over time within different circumstances. Thoughts and feelings that contribute to low self-esteem need to be shown to be just beliefs. They are not fact. A realisation of this will help to overcome the negative feelings that we are having. It is not easy to change these beliefs about ourselves, however, by overcoming the negative feelings, this will help us to develop more positive feeling and thus, develop a higher self-esteem.
Self-esteem issues often begin early in life, when individuals rely very much on the views and opinions of others in order to make decisions on how they feel about themselves. If those around the individual are critical, unsupportive or abusive, this can lead to problems with self esteem in later life. The individual will believe and take to heart the criticisms, and often continue to inflict the negative views and thought patterns upon themselves.
This cycle of thinking inevitable makes matters worse. Breaking the pattern takes time and effort, but it can be achieved with the right kind of support and intervention from a therapist. Individuals are able to learn how to ‘intercept’ the negative thought patterns and replace them with more accurate and useful ones.
It isn’t always as simple as positive thinking. There are some self-help books that have been found to be supportive for some people; however, different methods work for different people. Working with a therapist can also be very helpful because this will be more supportive and help you to higher self-esteem step by step.
If you are affected by low self esteem and would like to make improvements, then counselling can help. Please do get in contact with us.
Crises of self-esteem is a part of the human experience. When you feel troubled by low self-esteem, check the suggestions below and choose those that are relevant to your situation and work on them. Be patient with yourself, change takes time and steadfastness.
- Free yourself from 'shoulds', 'gots', 'oughts', must' etc. Live your life on the basis of what is right for you, instead of what you or others think you 'should' do. 'Shoulds' put pressure on us and distract us from identifying and fulfilling our own needs, abilities, interests and personal goals.
- Learn to recognize and take care of your own needs. Identify what really fulfills you; not just immediate gratifications because the instant buzz dies off quickly. Respecting your deeper needs will increase your sense of worth and well-being. Look after your mental, emotional, physical and spiritual self - see my article on 'Balancing your life'.
- Establish goals on the basis of what you can realistically achieve, and then work step-by-step to develop your potential. Requiring perfection is setting yourself up to fail as this is not always possible and invites stress and disappointment. There is usually another chance to try again.
- Talk to yourself positively. Stop listening to your 'cruel inner critic'. When you notice that you doubt or judge yourself, replace such thoughts with self-accepting thoughts; balance self-assessment and self-support. Let go of can't as this puts you in victim mode; either choose to or choose not to.
- Separate your emotional reactions, your fears and feelings from the reality of your current situation. For example, you might feel stupid, anxious and hopeless about a project, yet realistically, you may still have the ablity and opportunity to accomplish something in it. Try, try and try again!
- Put yourself in situations in which the probability of success is high. Look for projects that gently stretch, but don't overwhelm your abilities. 'Imagine' yourself succeeding. Acknowledge whatever you accomplish and praise your success and enjoy the good feelings about it.
- Don't avoid problems, nor slave over them. Face them, and identify ways to solve or cope with them. If you run away from problems you threaten your self-confidence and the problem tends to come back again and tap you on the shoulder at some point.
- Practice making and implementing positive decisions flexibly but firmly, and trust yourself to deal with the consequences. When you assert yourself, you enhance your sense of yourself to deal with the consequences. You learn more, and increase your self-confidence.
- Emphasize your strengths. Focus on what you can do rather than what you cannot. Accept current limitations and learn to live comfortably within them, as you consider what your strengths are choose what you want or need to develop next..
- Trust your 'gut feeling' as this is usually right for you; the internal negative chatter just gets in the way. All the answers to your questions are already inside you ... learn to listen to your-self.
Cherry, K. (2010). Self-esteem- psychology definition of the week. Psychology.
Murphy, B. (2011). How to increase your self-esteem. Mind (National association for mental health). 2-3.
Overcoming low self-esteem. Women’s therapy link. http://www.womenstherapylink.co.uk/low-self-esteem