The Pursuit of High Self-esteem: Part I
Friday 30th September 2016
My last article outlined the difference between self-esteem and self-confidence. Self-esteem refers to how much value people place on themselves internally. Psychological research indicates that high self-esteem can be an important factor in regards to relationships, health, self-image, academia and career achievements. Most people believe that self-esteem is important and that cultivating feelings of self-worth are beneficial. The main reason being that when self-esteem is high we feel good, and feel better able to do more, take on new projects, assert ourselves and have greater resilience in times of adversity. In contrast, when self-esteem levels are low it can keep people feeling like they are stuck in a rut. Also, it can create feelings of worry, stress and low mood. In my clinical experience, cultivating self-esteem is achievable although, as with most things, there is no "quick fix". Here are a few points I've drawn up that can begin to help:
Do you compare yourself to others? Take notice of when you do this next time and the negative consequence this has on your feelings; often people end up feeling worse about themselves. "Compare and despair" is a common negative thinking style. One helpful way to manage this is to remind yourself that everyone's circumstances are different and that what people choose to show of themselves is not always a true or full picture, especially on social media apps like Instagram.
That critical inner-voice:
Are you critical of yourself in a way that you would never be to your friend or partner? People who are self-critical often put themselves down and blame themselves for situations which may not be their full responsibility. When you notice yourself being self-critical, try to take a step back and consider what a compassionate friend would say to you. In this way, self-esteem is enhanced by eliminating our critical monologue to a kinder more self-compassionate voice.
Do you find that you refuse to believe positive comments? One of the interesting aspects of low self-esteem is that when we feel pretty rubbish we become resistant to compliments even though that's when we could really do with hearing them. Those that have low self-esteem have a plethora of ways to manage unease such as brushing them aside, minimising the comment, complementing the person complimenting, moving the subject swiftly on or even begin the process of self-depreciation. So when you are next complimented, whether it be face to face or on social media, try to tolerate it even though it will make you uncomfortable, especially to begin with (sorry, not sorry). Then try to change your response by acknowledging the compliment by saying or writing "thank you" or "that's kind of you." Although you may feel out of your comfort zone, with practice it will become easier.
These are just three ideas to get you started and sure, it requires some work, but the brain is just like any other muscle in our bodies, it requires training. The more you train, the greater the you will find your levels of self-esteem rise.