Ways to Improve Self Esteem
Self-esteem literally means to esteem, or respect, yourself. Having high self-esteem means that you have a positive image of yourself. Let’s look at where such a positive self-image comes from and ways to improve self esteem.
In her classic book Celebrate Yourself, Dorothy Corkville Briggs makes a distinction between the real you and your self-image. She says that the real you is unique and unchanging. Most of your self-image—what you think is true about yourself—is learned. It is not necessarily accurate at all!
Where are your beliefs about yourself drawn from? Where did you learn them? If you think about it, you’ll see that they came from:
• What others said about you
• What others told you
• What others did to you
Your self-image is the result of all the messages you heard about yourself as a child. These messages added up to a set of beliefs about who you are. It may have nothing to do with who you really are.
For example, you may believe things like:
• I’m not very smart.
• I’m naturally passive.
• Girls aren’t any good at math.
• I’m too old to start over.
• All of the women in the Breski family become doctors.
• I’m painfully shy.
• The Hurleys never lie.
In addition to learning to believe certain things during our early years, there are certain situations that make most people feel inferior or lacking in self-esteem.
Examples of Situations that Impact Self-Esteem:
• Being criticized
• Not being loved
• Being rejected
• Experiencing failure
What Low Self-Esteem Feels Like
In situations like these above, it is not uncommon to feel emotions such as:
Cognitive Therapy and Negative Self-Talk
Cognitive therapy can help you feel better by identifying how negative or irrational ways of thinking (negative self-talk) impact your emotions. In cognitive therapy, the assumption is that the way you think affects the way you feel.
Negative feelings like guilt, anger, and depression do not result from the bad things that happen to you, but from the way you think about these events. Oftentimes, these automatic thoughts happen so rapidly that you don’t even notice or question them.
Have you noticed times when you’ve attributed a situation to something wrong about yourself? For example, “he didn’t ask me out because I’m too ugly.” This is an example of negative self-talk. In actuality, there could be many reasons why you weren’t asked out (maybe he was too shy).
Here is an example of how our self-talk can impact our interpretation of a situation and subsequent feelings about ourself. Example: the boss scowls as he passes John and Bill in the hall. John begins to feel down on himself as he thinks, “Oh no! He’s upset with me.” Bill only gets concerned, not disturbed as he tells himself, “The boss is probably having another battle with the front office.” What is the difference between the two? Not the event, but the way John and Bill thought about the event.
Practice catching your negative self-talk, challenge your logic, and replace them with thoughts that more closely align with reality instead of thoughts that depress. One strategy that I like to use is that for every negative assumption (negative self-talk) of an upsetting event or situation challenge yourself to come up with three alternative perspectives either positive or neutral to explain the situation.
To elaborate further, you can try to identify the upsetting situation that preceeded the distressing feelings; second, record your thoughts about the event; third, identify the distortions in your thinking process; and fourth, substitute rational responses. This can usually help you to feel better about yourself.
Paying attention to your negative self-talk and adjusting to more neutral responses is one way to feel good about yourself. Combining cognitive with supportive therapy can help you get on track to make lasting changes in how you think and feel about yourself.
Now let’s talk about a second way to increase your self-esteem: by taking a look at your life environment and seeing whether it supports you feeling good about yourself.
You may find that some nourishing elements need to be replenished. Here are some questions to ask yourself:
Do you have people in your life who:
1. Treat you with love and respect?
2. Encourage you to do and be anything you want?
3. Help you find out what you want to do, and how to do it?
4. Encourage you to explore all of your talents and interests?
5. Are thrilled when you succeed?
6. Listen to you when you need to complain?
7. Help you bounce back from failure without making you feel bad?
Take a moment to think about each of the items on this list. Note where your environment is providing adequately for you, and where it is lacking. This can give you clues to how to build your own self-esteem.
Strategies for Esteem Building
- Pay attention to how you are feeling from moment to moment. Tune in to what your five senses are experiencing. Take it down to the most basic level of “I feel warm right now,” “I feel light-headed,” “I feel a tightness in my stomach.”
- Revisit your interests and goals. Make a list of things you’d like to do and learn. Today, take one step toward learning more.
- Spend less time with critical people and more time with those who appreciate you.
- Spend some time with yourself at the end of each day. Review what happened and how you were feeling. Write about it in a private journal.
- If you are feeling bad about yourself, consider finding a therapist to help you get your life on a positive track.
- Learn how to set healthy boundaries with others.
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The book demonstrates compellingly why self-esteem is basic to psychological health, achievement, personal happiness, and positive relationships. Branden introduces the six pillars-six action-based practices for daily living that provide the foundation for self-esteem-and explores the central importance of self-esteem in five areas: the workplace, parenting, education, psychotherapy, and the culture at large.
This classic is still the most comprehensive guide on the subject and the only book that offers proven cognitive techniques for talking back to your self-critical voice.
From the author of Your Child’s Self Esteem, a practical step-by-step guide to building a positive self-image that will enhance every area of life and create new joy and satisfaction.
You will benefit from this revolutionary way of brightening your moods without drugs or lengthy therapy. All you need is your own common sense and the easy-to-follow methods revealed in this book by one of the country’s foremost authorities on mood and personal relationship problems.
• Discover your strengths and skills
• Turn your fears and negative feelings into positive tools
• Diagram the path to your goal—and map out target dates for meeting it
• Chart your progress—day by day
• Create a support network of contacts and sources
• Use a buddy system to keep you on track
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