“It is not what you are that holds you back but what you think you are”
Self-esteem is the foundation for maintaining positive mental health. Those who experience mental health difficulties usually have underlying self-esteem issues. Our self-esteem starts to develop from birth. How our loved ones, friends, teachers speak to us as we develop as a person effects how we view ourselves as we get older. For example if your parents don’t appraise you for your successes and don’t tell you how proud they are, how well you have done in your spelling test, how amazing they think you are, then how are you supposed to believe in yourself, when those closest to you do not believe in you either? Culturally, Irish people don’t do well with receiving compliments. American’s on the other hand are really good at self-appraisal and self-belief. It’s something we should all be aware of. Our beliefs and thoughts about ourselves.
What is self-esteem?
Its about how we value ourselves and what we perceive we are worthy of.
How do we recognize low self-esteem?
When we cannot recognize our own value as a person. When we feel ‘sh*t’ about ourselves. We feel we are not good enough when faced with a difficult situation like’rejection, criticism, being judged by others’. No matter how much appraisal others may give you or how much you have achieved this feeling of ‘not being good enough’ does not lift.
What are the signs of low self-esteem?
- not feelings good enough
- feeling un-likeable
- feeling unsuccessful
- feeling anxious, tense, unhappy
- comparing self negatively to others
- feeling powerless
- needing lots of reassurance
- easily influenced by others
- being withdrawn of uncommunicative
- being oversensitive
- blaming others for my own problems or failures
Ok so I have low-esteem how do I fix it?
- By identifying and re-evaluating negative self-beliefs. A person with low self-esteem is active in interpreting reality in ways which lead to feelings of low self-worth.
- By developing coping strategies for dealing with situations which lead to feeling ‘not good enough’.
- By engaging with humour
- By developing wider interests. Get involved in an activity that takes the focus away from your-self.
- Learn relationship techniques to develop objectivity
- Set manageable goals. Write them down and decide on steps you need to take to achieve these goals.
- Exercise well, eat well and rest well.
- Talking to a supportive person provides the opportunity to
- Explore these and many other ways of working to increase self-esteem.
Specific strategies to improve self-esteem:
- Thought Stopping – when you notice that you are giving out to yourself, tell yourself to stop or distract yourself (Listen to music, go for a walk, whatever you’re interested in).
- Identify your strengths – Identify one thing every day that you feel good about (Keep those thoughts in a jar and reflect back on them at the end of the year).
- Repeat affirmations and coping statements to yourself everyday (below are some samples of affirmations you can use).
Some benefits of high self-esteem:
A person with high self-esteem could experience some of the following:
- Self-acceptance; the ability to accept and live with personal strengths and weaknesses
- Coming to terms with past behaviours
- Feeling likeable
- Having a strong sense of self and of personal belonging
- Being able to act independently and take responsibility for one’s own actions
- Feeling confident and empowered
- Being relaxed and able to manage stress
- Being able to communicate their feelings
- Being able to ask others for help when necessary
- Feeling happy and having a good sense of humour
- Feeling proud of personal accomplishments, big or small
Unhelpful Thinking Styles:
We are all prone at times to ‘distorted thinking’ but when we are either under excess stress or are depressed these distortions become more exaggerated. When people experience mood difficulties we can tend to use unhelpful thinking styles all the time such that they become an automatic habit. It is something that happens outside of our awareness and can cause great distress.
Some of the following will sound familiar. Have a read through and see how many you can relate to.
Jumping to Conclusions:–
You make negative interpretations even though there are no definite facts. You start predicting the future, and take on the mantle of ‘mind reader’. “They must think I am a really boring person”.
Black and White Thinking:–
You see only one extreme or the other. You are either all wrong, or all right, or all bad or all good etc. There are no in-betweens or shades of grey”. There are no second places, there is only one winner”
You focus on the negative, ignoring or misinterpreting positive aspects of a situation. You focus on your weaknesses and forget your strengths, looking on the dark side.
Shoulding and Musting:–
Sometimes by saying “I should…” or “I must…” you can put unreasonable demands or pressure on yourself and others. Although these statements are not always unhelpful (e.g. I should not get drunk and drive home) they can sometimes create unreasonable expectations and lead to unnecessary guilt, frustration and disappointment. “I should always get things right, I should never get upset with my partner”, “People shouldn’t get angry at others”.
You take responsibility and blame for anything unpleasant even if it has little or nothing to do with you. “It’s my fault”.
You tend to magnify and exaggerate the importance of events and how awful or unpleasant they will be, overestimating the chances of disaster; whatever can go wrong will go wrong. “What if…..”
You blame other people rather than chance for bad events happening without any evidence and assume people are more interested in you than they might actually be. e.g. “the government did this”; “they are following me”.
The only evidence you have that something bad is going to happen is that you feel like something bad is going to happen. Feelings aren’t facts. “I know this isn’t going to work out well”