Are you constantly comparing yourself to others?
You can escape this barrage of negative thoughts!
SELF ESTEEM affects self-confidence, the ability to assert oneself, and the ability to enjoy what comes our way. When our self esteem is low we have fear of taking risks, making commitments, and facing challenges. Problems of anger, anxiety, depression, and a feeling of powerlessness can result. We also tend to depend too much on other people's approval. Sound familiar?
Positive self esteem grows from self-acceptance, and a realistic appraisal of our assets and liabilities. In addition, if we accept our humanness and vulnerability, we can develop a resilient and confident sense of our self.
Are you ready for the challenge?
From infancy we look for encouragement and approval. We have a basic human need to be wanted, noticed and included. We want to contribute, to be of value and to make a difference – in other words to matter to those around us.
Yet our culture does not readily give this. Being proud of and positive about oneself can be viewed as boastful in our society. And parents can be tough taskmasters in seeking the best for their children, as many of you may know. Perhaps your parents were abusive or neglectful, leaving you feeling unwanted or worse, hated. Family rules and boundaries may have been confusing and inconsistent, making it hard to know what was expected when. Folks sometimes come for counselling because even in adulthood, they have a sense of not being good enough for their parents and are still trying to be. Others come because of trauma associated with being different from their peers when young and having been mocked for it.
Your past experiences are active in your daily life through your 'inner voice'
- berate yourself for making mistakes?
- criticize yourself for doing things or not doing things?
- tell yourself that you should be like someone else?
- ruminate about your conversations with people and think about the things that you could have said or done differently?
This is your negative 'inner voice'
You may not hear that voice in the same way as a spoken one, but in many ways it constantly repeats negative messages to you. Your inner voice can have a huge impact, even though you are not aware of it.
Self-esteem continually fluctuates and is affected by events and encounters with other people. Observing ourselves in relation to other people can be a helpful source of learning and feedback. Yet all too often comparison slips into competition and others become a yardstick by which we evaluate ourselves as good or bad, competent or inadequate. Read Chris's article for a fuller explanation of self-esteem and intimacy.
The reality is, each of us is unique. We have our own strengths and limitations which we need accept. There are aspects of our behaviour and appearance we may seek to change or develop, but a sense of self is also based on self-awareness and self-acceptance.
Ways to improve your self-esteem
- Perception fortunately can be changed. Nurturing our sense of self is a lifelong project. Counselling can find and eliminate roadblocks. Experiencing compassion and non-judgmental acceptance from your therapist can in itself be healing.
Do things for fun
- Taking pleasure in life reflects a good feeling back to you.
Look after yourself physically
- Eat well and make sure to get the amount of sleep you really need.
- Exercise is the anti-depressant that has no side effects and works 100% of the time. It can give confidence and help you to feel good about your body. Pay attention to how you stand and walk. Think tall.
Use rewards, not punishments
- Reward yourself. Make a list of the people, activities and interests that nurture you. Make sure you book time to enjoy these things.
- Listen to how you treat yourself – the internal conversation. If you bully yourself your self-esteem will plummet. Reward yourself with compliments and a focus on your strengths.
Cultivate good relationships
- Are you expecting more of yourself than you do of others? If you accept the troubles, mistakes and variability of other people, how about being happy with "good enough" in relation to yourself?
- Involve others. Ask for support, feedback, affection.
- Join in with others. Do not assume you are not important; other people have an effect on you and you affect them. Most people are interested in making new friends, and friendships can begin at any time in life. Say hello; do not wait for other people to come to you. Smile. Be nice to others, volunteer, be helpful, pay compliments.
- It is no good waiting for others or circumstances to leave us feeling better about ourselves. So accept responsibility for your own actions; as we cannot make other people change, we need to make the changes in ourselves.
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