Human beings are fragile creatures. Despite the outward appearances some might project, we are all susceptible to the slings and arrows of insults, belittlement, and just plain cruelty. As children, we are especially vulnerable to negative attitudes and the psychological damage that can be easily done when others point out our real or perceived shortcomings, our inadequacies, and the quirks that make us, us. The result can be low self-esteem and the damage can be long-lasting unless we do something about it.
In order to talk about self-esteem, it’s important to understand what it is. Simply put, self-esteem is the way we feel about ourselves and it’s a critical aspect of our emotional well-being. Individuals with high self-esteem generally feel pretty good about themselves and confident in the things they do and the decisions they make. Of course, people with too much self-esteem can have too high an opinion of themselves and their abilities which others can find downright insufferable.
What we’re concerned about in this post are individuals with low self-esteem. They’re the ones who don’t have a very good opinion of themselves, who feel they don’t look right, act right, make the right decisions. A clinical definition of someone with low self-esteem describes it as having “deep-seated, basic, negative beliefs about themselves and the kind of person they are. These beliefs are often taken as facts or truths about their identity.”
Untreated, low self-esteem can often lead to lifelong problems, such as being the victim of abusive relationships, feeling constantly self-conscious, and being so afraid of failure that one doesn’t even try to set goals. Fortunately, low self-esteem does not have to be a lifelong affliction. Recognized for what it is, it can be treated and defeated. So if you suspect that low self-esteem is at the root of what’s keeping you down in the dumps.
Here are three tips that can help you take charge of your emotional wellbeing and see yourself as the valuable – and valued – human being that you really are:
1. Evaluate your self-esteem
Knowing that you have low self-esteem is the first step to improving and overcoming that mental habit. Start by doing an assessment to see what kind of relationship you have with yourself, how you treat yourself, and the words you choose to use when describing yourself and your activities – are they positive or negative?.
If your assessment points toward negativity, chances are good you may have low self-esteem. These thoughts can revolve around one specific trait, such as your weight or body image, or it can encompass many areas of your life, career, and relationships.
Use journaling to take a closer look at yourself. Write at the top of a page “Who I am Today” and describe yourself and your thoughts on a regular basis to develop a comprehensive internal picture of how you see yourself.
2. Challenge negative or inaccurate thinking
Based on your journaling, you might discover that your initial thoughts might not be the only way to view a situation — so test their accuracy. Ask yourself whether your view is consistent with facts and logic or whether other explanations for the situation might be plausible. Be aware that it can be hard to recognize inaccuracies in your thinking. If you’ve been exposed to negative input and have created your own negative environment, long-held negative beliefs can feel normal and factual, even though many are just inaccurate opinions or perceptions.
Use journaling to analyze your thought patterns to see how they might contribute to low self-esteem:
- All-or-nothing thinking: Do you see things as either all good or all bad? For example, "If I don't succeed at this task, I'm a total failure."
- Mental filtering: Do you see only negatives and dwell upon them, distorting your view of yourself, another person, or a situation? For example, "I made a mistake on that report and now everyone will realize I'm not fit for this job."
- Converting positives into negatives: Do you reject your achievements and other positive experiences by insisting that they don't count? For example, "I only did well on that test because it was so easy."
- Jumping to negative conclusions: Do you reach a negative conclusion when little or no evidence supports it? For example, "My friend hasn't replied to my email, so I must have done something to make her angry."
- Mistaking feelings for facts: Do you confuse feelings or beliefs with facts? For example, "I feel like a failure, so I must be a failure."
- Negative self-talk: Do you consistently undervalue yourself, put yourself down, or use self-deprecating humor? For example, "This is fine -- I don't deserve anything better."
Writing down these different aspects of your negativity can serve as the jumping-off point for closer examination of how and why you put yourself down; to help you discover the origins of your low self-esteem and begin to build a new, more positive you.
3. Set a goal to improve your self-esteem
The key to developing self-esteem is to turn your inner voice from a negative, critical voice to a positive, encouraging one. Ultimately, you will have to decide to work at re-calibrating the way you think about yourself. Setting an initial goal to be more positive about yourself will put you on the path to greater self-confidence and establishing a healthier, more compassionate relationship with yourself.
If you want to learn more smart steps to build your self-esteem and a positive outlook in life, please download the free eBook titled Avoiding the 24/7 Motherhood Struggle Through Journaling.