Self esteem is the way we see ourselves in the universe; how we think about ourselves, and what our internal voice tells us about ourselves. Without help, low self-esteem can spiral into a life of more and more negativity. A person with low self esteem experiences negative self talk and negative beliefs about themselves, which creates a painful existence. When a difficult situation occurs, a person with low self esteem will think they are wrong or bad, whereas a person with healthy self-esteem will think their ok, but recognize the situation was difficult.
Often people with low self esteem seek constant validation from external sources-including work, financial or sexual approval. They are more likely to abuse themselves, and may stay in a physically or emotionally abusive relationships. According to author Caroline Myss, low self esteem can effect every aspect of our lives-our relationships, our income, and our health. I have seen first hand how low self esteem can lead to under earning, debit, obesity or anorexia, and anti-social behavior.
According to the website for Counseling and Mental Health Center at the University of Texas, in Austin, “our self-esteem develops and evolves throughout our lives as we build an image of ourselves through our experiences with different people and activities. Experiences during our childhood play a particularly large role in the shaping of our basic self-esteem”. Many times, if we suffer from low self-esteem in childhood, this may plague us into our adolescence and adulthood. If we suffer from negative thoughts about ourselves we can attract negative situations, or when given several options, we may only see a negative solution, because it matches our comfort level.
I grew up in a loving but chaotic household. My older sister died shortly after birth. My brother was accident prone and constantly needed medical attention. Most likely my father suffered from a personality disorder and my mother suffered from depression. My parents were not able to meet my emotional needs. Low self esteem plagued me in childhood and grew worse during adolescence and early adulthood. I had thoughts of suicide, suffered from an eating disorder, experienced periods of depression, found it difficult to maintain work, and continual recreated my childhood pattern of chaos by frequently moving. Beginning in my late twenties I sought therapy and with help, began to heal my low self-esteem. We have many more Self Improvement Articles Now Available.
Several years ago, I heard that if we are absorbed in low-self esteem, we are as egocentric as if we had an inflated ego. So much of our time is spent dealing with the self absorbed negative thoughts that we cannot be of service to other people. That motivated me, because I’m a spiritual person and want to be able to help others. For the past decade I have studied ways to improve my self-esteem and have been keenly aware of how self esteem issues impact the lives of friends and family. Here are a few tips that have helped.
1. Find something you like about yourself. Let’s say you hate your body. Find one thing you can truly say you love about your body. For me, I learned to love my wrists-they are thin and delicate. Eventually, I began to feel a great deal of appreciation for other parts of my body and I came to value my good health. This led to improving my diet, and dressing better, which in turn lead to more productivity and satisfaction in my work life, which lead to more income and opportunities. Also, think about your personality. Find one thing about yourself that’s admirable. Are you compassionate, kind, tenacious, or creative? Focus on that one aspect of your personality and watch what happens.
2. Look at what’s going well-what you’re doing right. Nothing is ever black and white. Ok, let’s say you have no job, no home, no friends, poor health, and no money. You still are helping the planet by the release of your carbon dioxides, which feeds the plants. Even if you get fired from a job, look at what you did well while you were employed and focus on that. If you have a job you hate, at least you are working, going through your third or fourth divorce, you’ve been willing to get involved with another human being. Look at what you’re learning. When you’re feeling especially bad about yourself, write a list of accomplishments. The list should include everything you’ve done and ways you’ve helped others. Items on the list don’t need to be big. Maybe you brought a newspaper to your disabled neighbor, didn’t scream at your husband when you wanted to, got a lot of filing done at work, or helped your son pick out a shirt…write it down. When your list is complete, you may want to read this to a trusted friend. Seeing a list of accomplishments can help us appreciate ourselves. Also, remember some days it’s OK just to suck air. If you are fighting a tough emotional battle, staying alive and sucking air can be a huge accomplishment.
3. Find someone to help or someway to be of service. Recent neurological research indicates that when you give to someone else, a chemical in your brain called dopamine changes. Your brain can’t tell if you are giving or receiving, but you feel better. Find simple ways to help other people. Write and post a helpful ezine-article, baby sit a friend’s child, give someone a flower, go talk to a shut in, walk dogs for the humane society in your area, or volunteer for a one day community project. When I was suffering from a mild depression, I found the strength to get out of bed because I was taking care of a stray cat. Whenever I had a really bad day, I held onto the fact that this particular stray cat was better off, because I was alive and helping it.
4. Do something you love. People who suffer from low self-esteem frequently punish themselves. Their inner voice may say, “I can’t go to the beach I have to get more work done.” Ignore the voice and go do something you love. If doing something you love causes a backfire of negative thoughts, do something you love for a short period of time. Maybe spend 15 minutes reading an art magazine, working on a jigsaw puzzle or working on your garden. Sure you have bills to pay, family needs to tend to and there’s always work that needs to be done. But you’re only spending 15 minutes away from your responsibilities. Expand your pleasure time as you are emotionally able. Observe how much time you can spend having fun before your inner critic voice tries to take over. According to Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz, authors of “The Power of Full Engagement”, learning to have down time actually increases productivity.
5. Give yourself time limits on “Pity Parties”. Try to observe the way you speak to yourself. If you find there is and internal voice that wants to point out everything that is bad or wrong about you or your situation, and you cannot seem to stop the negative self talk, allow negative self-talk once a day, but set a time limit. For example, “For the next 15 minutes I gone to think and feel as bad as I can about myself”. Have at it. Think of everything you hate about yourself, how your life is a disaster, how you’re too fat, thin, poor, lonely, stupid, hopeless, etc. Allow fifteen minutes of negative thinking, but at the end of the 15 minute period stop. When negative thoughts come up again, tell yourself you can’t think about it right now, but you’ll think about that tomorrow during your fifteen minute pity party. I found this action helpful. Once I allowed my negative voice to reign free, the energy behind it disappeared. Instead of 15 minutes, my pity parties turned into 5 minutes, then 2 minutes, and now I rarely need one. Many times I’d find myself laughing at how ridiculous my negative internal voice was. It put things in perspective and helped me be more present and available throughout the rest of the day. We have many more Self Improvement Articles Now Available.
Recovering from low self-esteem is possible. According to science we shed and recreate the cells of our body. Every seven years, on a cellular level we are a new person! Often, if you have low self esteem, you may have some depression. Many people benefit from using anti-depressants. Check with your physician if your energy is low, you feel indifferent or depressed about life. Speaking with a therapist can also help. Many other actions may be helpful such as exercise, spending time outdoors, changing your diet to be more organic and whole foods based. The recovery process can feel like the “two-step”-two steps forward, and one step back. There will be days when you may feel like you’ve made no progress. Be gentle with yourself. It takes time to retrain your thought and behavior pattern, but I’m living proof it’s possible and worth the effort.