Self-Esteem: Be Your Own Biggest Fan!

Scott Sulak
Change For Good,® Inc.

 

I think the best place to start with self-esteem is to define the term ”esteem.” In a nutshell, esteem is valuing someone or something. Therefore, self-esteem is valuing you, taking stock in yourself, and appreciating yourself. It doesn’t sound like a hard thing to do but, for many people, it presents a real challenge.

Why is it so hard to have positive self-esteem?

Some people were raised by parents who always complimented, encouraged and supported them. In those cases, the child felt supported when mistakes were made, and they were left with the feeling of emotional strength. If they were taught that success comes from making mistakes and it is okay to fail, especially when you learn from it, then the child is reinforced as they develop their self-image. In these cases, it is easier for the child to accept him or herself and, therefore, self-love or self-acceptance is easier. Self-love and self-acceptance are vital to healthy self-esteem and self-confidence.

Not all low self-esteem problems stem from the way our parents raised us. Other contributing factors to low self-esteem are divorce, absence of a loving environment, sexual or physical abuse, trauma, or the lack of appropriate guidance early in life. The act of “esteeming” ourselves, giving ourselves value, is difficult when you have never witnessed it (or experienced it) first hand in your life. Feelings of “never being good enough” or “never doing enough” are derived from a condition, which does not foster a healthy self-image. These feelings may result in low self-confidence, underachievement and may manifest many times in substance abuse, anxiety, depression, sleep problems, anger or weight control issues. In addition, we have the added issue of the media trying to influence our feelings of self by showing us how we should look, what we should eat and what we should wear. It would appear that the people we read about or see on TV are all positive examples of high self-esteem and healthy self-confidence; yet, we read about drug and alcohol addictions (even overdoses) every day. Substance abuse is a direct sign of low self-esteem.

How to cultivate positive self-esteem within yourself.

There is hope!  It would seem that once we get the feeling that we are “not good enough,” it is a hard feeling to shake. It might be helpful for you to know that everyone doubts himself or herself from time to time. The difference is that the person who has a healthy and strong self-esteem will bounce back faster and will generally not accept “down” periods for very long. It is the human condition to be imperfect. So, take heed that you too can have your down days and still be perfectly healthy. Understanding your value and worth can be achieved through a variety of thought processes and exercises.

Positive self-esteem comes from not only realizing and valuing your strong points, but also understanding your weaknesses and knowing they are simply part of who you are. Everyone faces the fear of rejection, the fear of not being good enough, of not doing well enough, of not looking good enough. But these are just fears; they are thoughts created within us and not grounded in reality. You can begin to appreciate your self-worth in just a few minutes. Learning how to love, appreciate and accept who you are is a choice. It is made one moment at a time.

While nobody will realistically or truthfully be able to tell you that you are perfect (and get you to believe it), you can start viewing things differently. We can perceive our “negative feelings” as negative, or we can choose to see the good within ourselves. We can choose to value the very things we think are wrong with us. This comes with practice, but the following exercise is a great way to get to the root of some of your perceived shortcomings.

Exercise:
Change one thing you dislike about yourself into something else!

If possible, try to be alone when you do this exercise, and give yourself at least twenty minutes. Choose something about yourself that you dislike; for instance, a body part. Really look at it. Look at all the things that are wrong with it and all the things you hate about it. Be really clear with yourself about what makes this thing seem so bad.

Then stop. Find one thing you like about it – the color, the shape in terms of art, its symmetry – anything. Really focus your attention on that one positive aspect of this thing. Now, start thinking about all the things you like about it. Continue to stare at yourself and soon you will see a transition. It won’t look so bad. It won’t feel so bad. Start taking some of those things that a moment ago you disliked and turn them into things that you like, even love about yourself. Allow this sensation to permeate your being.

Now stop again and look at the thing you didn’t like about yourself, keeping in mind all you like or love about it. I think you’ll find that it doesn’t feel so bad, look so bad, or seem so hopeless – does it? It only matters what you think. Try to imagine living in a world where you don’t judge yourself – a world where you can observe what happens, but don’t feel compelled to place any good or bad attachments to it.

You can love or hate the things in your life. The choice is yours. If you dislike things about yourself, you will feel bad, and it will lower your self-esteem. Other people will notice that. By contrast, you can love, appreciate and really value yourself simply because you are you – and no one else is quite like you. The choice is yours – but why feel badly about yourself when it’s so easy to feel good?

If you found this exercise worked for you, try it with other aspects of your life. If you find you continue to slip into negative self-esteem patterns, try to get back to that place you were when you realized all the positive associations about yourself.

Next Steps:
The path towards positive self-esteem in within reach.

The most important thing to realize is that you have been feeling these feelings about yourself for years. In order to change, you will need to practice seeing yourself differently. If you have had long-term problems with self-esteem and self-confidence, you might want to enlist the help of a professional. Modalities such as Hypnotherapy and Neuro-Linguistic Programming are methods that millions of people have found to be affecting ways of changing self-defeating thought processes. They are usually faster than traditional therapy (which can be beneficial), but generally, cognitive processes will take longer.

Here are 10 suggestions to help you boost your self-esteem immediately:

1. Identify your strengths: Make a list of 25 things you like about yourself. You can include big and little things such as:  I like how I treat other people. I like the way I observe nature. I like that I notice cloud formations.
2. Work on your self-perceived weaknesses: Pick one thing at a time that you would change about yourself, and then make a plan to put that change into effect. For instance, if you want to lose weight, get a book on losing weight, and pick the right exercise and diet plans. Make a chart and just start.
3. Reduce the stress in your life:
Learn about relaxation techniques you can use during the day to eliminate stress when you feel it. For instance, try using guided meditation or self-hypnosis relaxation audiotapes. Also, you can do yoga right at your desk to considerably lessen the tension that builds in your body. There are many at-desk yoga websites. Or you can search on Amazon.com for “Office Yoga.”
4. Get good, sound sleep: It’s hard to function our best with or without positive self-esteem if we aren’t able to start the day with a good night’s sleep. Check out our ideas for sleeping soundly, including sleep audiocassettes that put you into a deep state of peaceful sleep.
5. Project a positive image of yourself: When others see that you believe in yourself, they will believe in you as well.
6. Praise yourself and offer praise to others: When you accomplish a goal, don’t wait for others to pat you on the back; take charge of knowing you did well.  Simply take a moment and tell yourself how great you did! Conversely, be aware of others’ successes and offer praise. It feels fantastic to help someone else see the greatness inside themselves.
7. Learn from your mistakes: If you make a mistake, don’t look at is as a failure.  Assess what the mistake was, how you made it, and decide how you can avoid making that mistake again. If you learn from the mistake, then it wasn’t a mistake. Be sure to congratulate yourself for not getting down on yourself and finding the good in everything you do.
8. Affirmations: Find a list of appropriate statements that suit you. Repeat these things to yourself daily. Search the Internet or the local library for positive affirmations such as, “Moment by moment I am feeling better and better about myself.”
9. Don’t compare yourself with others: Stop looking externally to find encouragement and standards for yourself. You can make observations about yourself and others, but don’t let those observations become judgments.
10. Exercise; Try exercising at least three times a week. Some of the benefits of exercising include boosting your energy level, helping to manage stress, releasing tension, improving your ability to fall asleep quickly and to sleep more soundly, countering anxiety and depression with optimism and enthusiasm, and helping to improve your self image.

Above all, be patient. This will take some time, but it WILL be worth it.

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