Healthy self-esteem enables us to feel okay about ourselves. We can recognise our good points, accept the not so good parts and are comfortable in our own skin. This sense of “not perfect, but good enough” allows us to be optimistic, to see and go for opportunities and to give new things a try, which enables us to continue to grow and develop.
Low self-esteem – putting a low value on ourselves – causes us to feel that we are not at all okay. We can find it difficult to see anything good about ourselves and to focus instead on what we see as the negative parts, and so feel bad about ourselves, and often about life in general. This can keep us trapped where we are because we either don’t notice new opportunities, or if we do, we don’t feel we can go for them.
If you currently recognise yourself in the second description, the good news is that self-esteem is not fixed. Healthier self-esteem can be developed at any age or stage, with awareness and action.
If you have low self-esteem, the chances are there is a mismatch between how you think you should be and how you think you are.
Notice I used the word ‘think’ in the previous sentence.
And how you think you should be could be unrealistic and impossible to achieve.
And how you think you are may not be a true reflection of yourself.
So on both sides, you may be being unfair to yourself. And the good news is you have the opportunity to challenge and rethink both sides of the equations and maybe come up with a more attainable ideal self (how you think you should be) and a more accurate view of your real self (how you think you are).
You can change the way you feel about yourself by changing how you think and what you do. Notice when you are being down on yourself and challenge what you are thinking – see if you can prove yourself wrong. Then alter the way you talk to yourself, for example; “Okay, so I may not be perfect, but I am doing the best I can, I have learned from that situation and this is what I am going to do next/another time”. It can be helpful to consider what you would say to a friend if they were facing the same situation.
Do the same if other people say something hurtful. It is possible that what they say is true, in which case, we have the chance to learn from it. It is also possible that what they say is untrue, unkind and designed only to serve their own agenda. Look at the evidence. Check it out with other people if that is helpful.
A lot of things we believe about ourselves derive from messages we picked up as children. We had a child’s brain, experience and power then. We may have misunderstood things; we may have been unable to challenge what was being said to us; we will have had limited opportunities to take action to protect ourselves, if necessary.
As adults, we can re-examine what we think about ourselves and how true it is. We can change or modify what we think about ourselves – for example, from “I am stupid!” to “I sometimes do stupid things”. We can encourage and support ourselves; set ourselves small targets we can achieve; do things we enjoy; do things we are good at; choose to spend time with positive people and limit time with people who don’t support us. All of these things help to build healthy self-esteem.
Notice how you are talking to yourself and what you are thinking.
Notice the impact it is having on you.
If it is not helpful, take action.
Do something positive – which could be as simple as making yourself or someone else a cup of tea. This will help to break the pattern and give you chance to switch from being your worst enemy to being your best friend. Then consider is there could be another way of looking at things, which might be more helpful and productive. This won’t make you perfect, but it will help you to be kinder to yourself and feel better. And that will enable you to be much more resilient, resourceful and to go and try things that will make you feel better about yourself again.
Do get in touch if you would like some support, encouragement, and help with challenging your thinking. I would love to hear from you. Feel free to call me on 07708 034395 or to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I offer an initial no-obligation, no-cost discovery session.