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Self-esteem - the good, the bad and the ugly

Self-esteem can be defined as - the opinion which we have of ourselves.

Having high or low self-esteem is not usually related to the actual abilities which we have but is predominantly based on the perception that we have about ourselves.

Having good self-esteem allows you to have a sense of control over your life, by enabling you be aware of your strengths and weaknesses, so that you have realistic expectations and the ability to set yourself attainable goals. People who are self assured are able to communicate effectively, take criticism and use it constructively.

In contrast people with low self-esteem often have errors in their thinking, which causes hyper-sensitivity and feelings of negativity, self-doubt and inadequacy, creating a tendency towards viewing things critically, being easily offended and mistrusting of others, perhaps even feeling inferior to them,

So how does low self-esteem occur?

For some people low self-esteem is caused by feelings of inadequacy and not being good enough, possibly relating to an unhappy experience in childhood, where a negative message such as “you are not good for anything and will never make a success of things” has become ingrained in memory and carried through to adulthood. It could also be as a result of a fear of failure or an ongoing stressful situation, such as being in financial difficulty, a bereavement or the breakdown of a relationship.

Some people are simply more prone to negative thinking or constantly setting themselves unrealistic expectations, which results in them consistently failing, impacting on their self-esteem.

Living with low self-esteem can have a debilitating effect on mental health, preventing you from socialising or attempting new challenges, even stopping you from doing things we once enjoyed doing.

Whilst in the short-term avoidance could be seen as an act of protection, in the long term it can become a habit, adding reinforcement to fears and self-doubts. Ultimately, this can lead to depression and anxiety or harmful behaviours, such as excessive drinking and smoking, which whilst undertaken as a coping mechanism can quickly and easily become an addiction.

How to increase your self-esteem

1. Write down at least 5 positive things about yourself - this could be personal attributes or personal achievements. Keep the list where you can see it and add to it daily.

2. Spend time with people who are generally positive and make you feel good, with the things that they do or say.

3. Set yourself some realistic goals, focussing on what you CAN do, rather than the things which you can’t.

4. Try not to use the word should at times where you could use CAN. Using the word should is setting yourself up for not following an action through.

5. Think about the situations or events which have gone well during your life and focus on the positive and happy feelings which they may have brought.

6. Make time to do the things which you enjoy or perhaps take up a new interest, you may discover a hidden talent!

7. Focus on yourself instead of comparing yourself to others, which can lead to negative self talk. Remember that just because someone portrays themselves as having the perfect life on social media, it doesn’t mean that they are actually happy.

8. Make time to help and be kind to others, as this creates feelings of being connected and appreciated, which in turn can make you feel happier.

9. Take regular exercise, as this causes the nervous system to naturally release chemicals called Endorphins, these are also known as “feel good chemicals”, increasing positivity and energy, boosting happiness.

10. Look after yourself by drinking plenty of water to stay hydrated and eating regular healthy meals. Avoid sugary or processed foods as much as possible, as these can increase negative emotions.

Increasing self-esteem decreases the chances of self-sabotage, because it makes you feel more deserving of a happy and fulfilling life, motivating you to overcome challenges and achieve goals.

If you need help to improve your confidence or self-esteem, hypnotherapy can help.

Contact Asense Therapy to discover more.

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