Understanding and Overcoming Low Self-Esteem
You’re stupid and incompetent. You don’t contribute anything. No one really likes you and they certainly don’t rely on you. Look at you – is anyone less attractive? Don’t even bother trying, because you’re just going to mess this up like you do everything.
If a family member, a friend, or a co-worker talked to you that way, what would you do? Fight back, probably. Get angry. At the very least you’d get away from such a negative and damaging individual.
But, when you are the one telling yourself that you’re a loser, it’s not so easy. That poisonous voice goes with you everywhere, refusing to be silenced, constantly whispering its toxic opinions in your ear.
Each of us is born innately prepared to be a glorious part of the life we’ve just entered. It doesn’t take long, though, for hypercritical parents, a biased society, negative friends, or judgmental teachers to convince us that we’re not all that glorious. One researcher estimates 85 percent of the world’s population suffers some level of low self-esteem. That’s a lot of people avoiding challenges they fear they can’t rise to, downplaying their accomplishments, and feeding themselves a daily diet of negativity. Logically, it’s a loss to the world when even one of us doesn’t contribute all we’re capable of. When so many of us hold back, it’s a tragedy.
So, what can be done about this damaging, pervasive infection? This is truly a case where we must heal ourselves. Some of the techniques below will get you started toward greater self-confidence and self-regard.
- Stop the cycle of negativity. As a child, using a child’s mind, you made a child’s sense of whatever critical, dismissive, or abusive things you heard or endured. You continue to repeat those blows to yourself, even when they are illogical and your accomplishments prove them false. The only way to get rid of the negativity is to tell that nasty voice in your head to Stop! When you hear the first sound of the message you are too familiar with, cut it off. Refuse to listen.
- Replace it with a positive message. Remind yourself of a success, something you are proud of, even a little. Tell that story to yourself and listen to the telling. It’s important to be specific; just telling yourself (or hearing others tell you) that you’re the greatest won’t change your mind. Your mind is skeptical and wants hard facts before it will begin to shift.
- Do something. Part of the low self-esteem package is paralysis born of the fear that whatever we do won’t be good enough. That fear can keep us from trying anything at all. Make up your mind to conceive, start, and complete some activity. Chances are you’ll come through just fine and you’ll have another positive story to tell yourself. Perfection isn’t the goal; trying and finishing is.
- Keep a journal about your journey. The more you expose your negative ideas to reflection and analysis, the less sense they will make. But, what if you don’t write the journal well enough? Oh, stop that. This is your journal just for you, not to be judged by anyone else or even yourself. It is a record of your feelings and your progress, not a grammar lesson.
- Get help. Sharing your uncertainties with a support group can be cathartic. When you hear others voicing the same sorts of fears you have had, it is easier to see them as nonsense. And, providing support to others is a boost to your own self-esteem. Individual sessions with a therapist are also valuable. An experienced therapist will catch you when you slip into old thinking patterns and can help you with your self-policing.
You can make a big change in your thoughts and feelings. You can gain in self-confidence and courage. You can gain new appreciation for your contributions and you can be the one telling yourself all of this.