So what is self-esteem?
Essentially self-esteem is the way we think and feel about ourselves. It is ‘self-evaluation’ if you like, and as a form of evaluation this means it can be positive or negative. And because it is us evaluating ourselves it is highly subjective, that means our self-evaluation is often biased and emotionally based. How you rate yourself will most likely be quite different to how someone else would rate you.
And of course, how we think and feel about ourselves is significantly influenced by the life experiences we’ve had too. And despite us being aware of our subjective position and the influence of our experiences, we still have a tendency to be incredibly hard markers when evaluating ourselves.
Self-esteem also influences our behaviour, how well we perform, our feelings of happiness, and our sense of satisfaction in relationships and life generally. It is powerful stuff!
Where does self-esteem come from?
To build a confident and healthy self-esteem we need to experience being:
• accepted despite mistakes or failures,
• listened to,
• treated respectfully,
• shown positive attention, and
• recognised for our accomplishments.
These things provide the foundation for a strong and resilient sense-of-self. From these positive life experiences we develop a healthy self-esteem, a positive opinion and evaluation of ourselves. We come to know that we are loved and accepted for who we are despite any flaws we may have or mistakes we might make – we can accept that we are always learning and growing as an individual.
Life experiences can impact your self-esteem
On the other hand, there’s a strong chance you will experience periods of low self-esteem (a low evaluation or opinion of yourself) if you have experienced things like:
• unrealistically high expectations (from others or ourselves) – like the expectation of perfection,
• severe criticism,
• performing poorly at tasks,
• feeling lonely or left out,
• loss of employment,
• the loss of a role or position in a group,
• bullying, or
• being neglected.
Let’s be real – many of us at one time or another have experienced one or more of these things and have ended up feeling pretty down about ourselves.
The question then becomes – have you had enough of the positive, healthy experiences to help you ‘bounce back’ to the secure base of an assured sense of self, a strong self-esteem?
If you haven’t, or if you’ve lost sight of your positives due to a few setbacks, you can find yourself unpacking and getting settled in to that dark dank cave of hibernating confidence and low self-esteem.
The effects of low self-esteem
The burden of living with low self-esteem can become quite unbearable. It means you are likely to:
• focus on negatives all the time,
• ignore any of your positive achievements,
• not accept compliments from anyone,
• be highly critical of yourself,
• constantly compare yourself to others,
• talk negatively to and about yourself.
If these feelings linger for a long time and are left unattended, they can lead to episodes of anxiety and depression.
I’ve said it before – what you believe, what you think, you become.
For more information about self-esteem check out ReachOut.com
If you are experiencing low self-esteem it can be difficult to pinpoint the exact origin but this is not something you have to do alone. Nor should you. Exploring the thoughts and feelings you have about yourself, and the experiences they originate from, can be challenging and confronting. But working with a counsellor or coach you can have the support you need to help you rebuild your self-esteem and achieve positive results.
While you are mustering the courage to book a session with your counsellor / coach ( I am right here when you are ready – just one click or call away to get you feeling better), here are some quick tips on starting to heal a wounded self-esteem and getting your power back.
5 ways to restore your self-esteem
1. Stamp on ANTs
Not literally! Automatic Negative Thoughts = ANTs. Stamp on these. In my previous blog when we talked about building confidence we talked about increasing your self-awareness by identifying and tracking your negative thoughts and beliefs. Once you have started doing this and you start observing your thought patterns, you can then start working on challenging these thoughts – or stamping them out and replacing them with PATs = Positive Affirming Thoughts. PATs are more realistic, fair, and compassionate thoughts about yourself.
Stamp on an ANT = “that’s not good enough”, and replace it with a PAT = “nice effort! You’ll get better with practice”.
For every ANT you identify prepare a PAT so you are ready to ‘stamp and replace’ any time you notice ANTs appearing. There is no off-the-shelf bug spray that will do this for you! You have to do the work. But practice improves our ability to do anything, so get your boots on and get stamping!
2. Give up on perfection
Perfection is like utopia or unicorns – it doesn’t exist! I reckon even the Master of Perfection himself – Mr Heston Blumenthal – after he creates his perfect version of a hamburger, would soon decide he could possibly do better yet. And let’s be real, for most of us we just don’t have the same tenacity or inspiration of Heston to begin with!
Moreover, our ideas of perfection are subjective. Remember what this means? It means they are biased and emotional. When it comes to expectations of ourselves and our self-worth, perfection simply isn’t realistic – nor is it necessary. You wouldn’t like to see a teacher holding a child to unrealistic expectations of perfection – you would want the child’s efforts acknowledged as good enough because they tried. Show yourself the same compassion! Give up on perfection as an unrealistic expectation and give yourself credit for doing your best.
3. Forgive yourself
Per above – we are not perfect beings. Humans make mistakes! And you are human are you not?! (I trust this receives a resounding ‘yes’ – I don’t feel equipped to support a non-human audience!). So do yourself a favour and ‘step off’ your own back. Forgive yourself for your mistakes. And I mean all of them! Even your deepest, darkest, most guilt and shame-evoking mistakes. Now obviously these deeper ones may require a little more work and support – so best book that session with me if you have some of these!
Guilt does not serve you in a helpful way. So carrying it around and beating yourself up for things long since passed is wasted energy. And life is too short! I am certain you have a story, or will know someone with a story, that supports this point all too painfully. You are better served investing your energy into practicing forgiveness so you can move forward. Onwards and upwards my friend!
4. Embrace a growth mindset
So following in the same vein as ‘onwards and upwards’ – we want to embrace a ‘growth mindset’. What is a growth mindset, I hear you ask? It’s the belief that you can improve yourself with a bit of hard work and determination. It’s embracing learning as a life-long experience and accepting mistakes and failures as a necessary step along the way. It is focusing on the one thing you have the power to control and change – yourself. So embrace the philosophy that challenges are opportunities for growth and change. Love to learn. And be open to any opportunity where there is a chance to experience a new way of thinking and being. After all, this is really what life is about. Experiences.
5. Celebrate all that is positive in your life
Immerse yourself in gratitude. Be thankful for even the smallest of positive things in your life. Celebrate every little thing you do towards a better self, towards growth, towards change. Nothing happens overnight – but every little step forward with positive thoughts, acceptance, compassion, and a growth mindset, is a step in the right direction. So celebrate every step. Pick up the phone or jump online and book your first coaching session – celebrate taking your first step! Get outside and enjoy some fresh air and sunshine – celebrate the moment. Look hard and observe all – there is always something to celebrate.
Check out some of my other blogs for more ways to improve you well-being here.
Do you need a friendly ear to help you process your thoughts?
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I am a qualified Social Worker with over a decade of experience helping individuals to successfully transition through life changes, overcome obstacles, and increase self-determination. Get your FREE eBook: 5 Steps to Bring Your Confidence out of Hibernation, by clicking the button below.