“Self-esteem is the reputation we acquire with ourselves” – Nathaniel Branden. Many individuals experience feelings of low self esteem at some point in their life and these feelings can often lead to interruptions in personal and social life. Each person will experience low self esteem in a unique way. Broadly, self esteem is the value that you place on yourself. It encompasses a way of thinking, feeling, and acting that involves acceptance, respect, trust, and belief in oneself. Acceptance means that you learn to live with both your strengths AND your weaknesses without unnecessary self-criticism. Respect includes acknowledging your worth as a unique human being. Trust requires that you demonstrate consistency between your feelings and behaviours regardless of changes and challenges in your external circumstances. Finally, belief in yourself includes feeling like you deserve to have good things in life. Low self esteem can lead to a feeling of emptiness and a tendency to search for relief from something or someone who is external. This might serve the purpose of providing a temporary sense of satisfaction and fulfillment. However, if you are looking for a more permanent sense of relief, you need to search within yourself. That is the true path to self esteem. If you are currently experiencing low self esteem, know that there is hope that your self esteem can improve. It might take time and a willingness to work on different areas of your life, but it is absolutely possible. Here are a few suggestions to help you get the ball rolling:
- Take Care of Yourself – It is important to be able to recognize and satisfy your needs, including your physical, emotional, social, mental, and spiritual needs. What do you do to take care of yourself in each of these realms? When do you notice that you are not taking care of yourself? What gets in the way (circumstantial and psychological) of you taking care of yourself? What are some strategies that you could utilize to fulfill each realm? eg. Physical = Go for a 20 minute walk/day; Emotional = write in a journal; Social = go for coffee with a friend; Mental health = work on a puzzle; Spiritual = take a yoga class.
- Develop Supportive Friendships – Although friends cannot give you a sense of self-esteem, their acceptance, respect, and validation can enhance the positive feelings that you have toward yourself. A supportive friend is someone who you can trust and confide in, and who will stand by you regardless of what is going on in your life. How many supportive friends do you have? What could you do to develop such friendships?
- Cultivate Assertiveness – It is important that you are able to clearly articulate what you want or do not want. Otherwise you may wind up feeling frustrated, helpless, and powerless. When you honour your own needs, others are more likely to respect you and avoid taking advantage of you.
- Notice Self-Talk – Self-talk typically happens so automatically and subtly that you are not aware of the effect that these thoughts have. It can be helpful to slow down and try to notice your internal dialogue. Once you are able to become more aware of your thoughts, you can move toward acknowledging and accepting the uncomfortable feelings that go along with those thoughts. An important recognition is that your thoughts are not necessarily based in fact. Rather than being who you are, they could merely be what you do.
© Leanne Edwards, 2006