Getting to the Root of Self-Esteem
Written by: Janice Hagans-Higgins, MEd., LPCC-S
Our mind often plays tricks on us, especially when we get caught up in comparing ourselves to others. Once we begin to make these comparisons to others, our thoughts can affect us both negatively and positively. If we see ourselves comparing in a satisfactory manner it leads to confidence or a sense of belonging and self-esteem. However, more often than we would like to admit, we interpret the comparison to show a weakness, flaw or a short coming in ourselves and this creates a sense of negativity. This disapproval can evolve into low self-esteem or an altered sense of self. When we remain in this whirlwind of negative self-talk for more than a few moments it leaves one feeling less than, disgusted, guilty, shame, or sad. For example we might say:
- I’m not good enough
- They will laugh at me
- I just can’t do anything right
We can find ourselves being critical, fearful, indecisive, not able to accept complements, blaming ourselves, or even getting overly upset and engaging in destructive self-criticism.
To avoid these negative thoughts and to work on self-esteem one should get to know and understand the unique entity that is you. A good way to understand yourself begins with an evaluation of your personal values and beliefs. Some of those core values and beliefs might need to be challenged. You might ask yourself:
- Where did this come from?
- Who said that?
- Is this true?
- Why do I believe this?
The mind is a beautiful instrument that has the potential to learn, unlearn, relearn, revise, compare, analyze, deduce, and construct. It is important that we continue to assess who we are and how we became what we are. To do this we must understand where our thoughts derive from, because that knowledge helps bring forth understanding of one’s own distortions. Once critical thoughts or beliefs are reviewed and evaluated, then change can take place through replacing those thoughts that are debilitating with positive ones, such as:
- I’m worthy
- Everyone makes mistakes
- Focus on your strengths
- Evaluating your mood
- Remembering that it’s not a blame game
You can reword a negative statement and challenge that internal critic to gain a sense of positivity. Yes, the internal critic can be challenged and quieted through the diligent practice of positive self-talk. Don’t get me wrong, I completely get that this change doesn’t occur over night. And of course, over time those negative thoughts still creep up. But you can develop a sense of control and lower the level of intensity.
It’s important to gain the tools necessary to cultivate affirmation. Tools that can create self-compassion, caring, validation, and permission to nurture positive autonomy by creating a supportive environment around yourself. If you feel the need for support in developing stronger self-esteem and self-value then speak with your doctor, a counselor, family member, or friends – someone who can assist you in creating a self-helpful environment.
Want additional resources? I recommend reading, 50 Mindful Steps to Self-Esteem, by Janetti Marotta, Ph. D., or The Self-Love Experiment, by Shannon Kaiser.