We all have thoughts and feelings about ourselves and how we fit into the world – this is called self-esteem. People may notice a healthy self-esteem when life is going well for them, and sometimes a lower self-esteem when life has become difficult for a prolonged period, or even after a tough situation. Our self-esteem can take a plunge following a range of difficult experiences, including; being teased, being too self-critical, having overly critical parents, relationship breakups, any type of abuse, or even just lacking particular success over some time (and many more reasons). Having a healthy self-esteem is not just about seeing the good things about ourselves. It is important to be balanced and realistic about ourselves, but also accepting and forgiving of ourselves. It is important to base our self-esteem on unconditional factors, and recognising that we are all worthwhile people, regardless of our job, previous successes or difficulties, assets or number of friends.
So often, people become caught up in judging themselves, especially on external factors such as; our job, car, number of friends, particular successes, how people react or interact with us, and the list goes on. Now all of these things can be nice to have, however, we are more than the sum of these parts. So much of life is maintained by things out of our control, and so much of it is not a reflection of who we are as people, or what we are worth as people, yet it is all too easy to be dragged into this style of judging and thinking about ourselves. When these external factors do not run well for us, it may impact our self-esteem and have some of the following consequences;
– Takes energy away from you being able to be productive.
– Reduces your ability to overcome challenges and barriers.
– Prevents you from achieving your goals.
– Leaves you feeling inferior, or lesser than others.
– Might make others see you as pessimistic and difficult to be around.
A healthy self-esteem can produce quite the opposite, with functional outcomes, including;
– Having more energy for life.
– Overcoming challenges and barriers with less disruption.
– Feeling comfortable within yourself, despite the external world.
– Feeling comfortable and happy around other people.
– Being positive about your life and future.
It can be helpful to adjust the way that we relate to ourselves in helpful ways. This is especially important in helping us cope when the external world and factors out of our control, do not go to plan. Here are a few tips to keep our self-esteem healthy:
– Identify your negative and unhelpful thinking.
We can have many automatic negative thoughts about ourselves and the world in situations. However, most of these thoughts are ingrained, or reflective of past experiences, and not always helpful. While we cannot just stop these thoughts, we can recognise them and decide if we believe them or not. Ask yourself is that thought realistic? Is that thought logical? Is that thought supported by evidence for the current situations? Is that thought helpful? We can also start to recognise our thoughts from the point of view of an observer of our self. This will take practice, but it will assist you in noticing the thought and resulting reaction on our emotion, without having to struggle to react to it, change it immediately, or see it as an unchangeable part of ourselves.
– Learn to accept yourself for who you are.
This is about accepting ourselves ‘warts and all’, about accepting our weaknesses and even embracing them. It is okay to lack skills, make mistakes, and get things wrong. We need to try to forgive our mistakes. Some things we can change, and others we cannot. Our self-worth is not changed by these things.
– Reduce your self-judgement
Again, these thoughts may occur quite automatically. It is easy to fall into the trap of comparing yourself to others, and judging yourself on your performance, or your body, or on external factors out of our control. It is important to recognise how judgement can be unhelpful, and remind ourselves to be more accepting of ourselves, our qualities, and our quirks.
– Use healthy motivation habits.
Remind yourself of the positive reasons for difficult tasks. It can be easy to focus on the difficulties, and the struggle with life’s chores and commitments. However, giving yourself perspective about why a task is important for you can help you engage with the task in a more helpful and functional manner. It can be helpful to identify the important areas of your life, so that you can put your efforts into those areas.
– Find your self-worth.
Self-esteem and self-worth can be seen as being quite similar, however, self-esteem relates to how we feel and think about ourselves at any given time, however, self-worth relates to a deeper underlying knowledge or truth about our worth as a human being. It important to recognise that we all have self-worth, equal to others. For self-worth, it is not about creating it; rather it is about finding and knowing the worth that is already there. We are more than the sum of our parts, and we are not just the reflection of our hardships from the past. Being able to connect with the core principle that each person has self-worth, including yourself, can be protective when our mind falls in to those traps of comparing and judging ourselves.
Important – self-esteem and self-worth issues can be ingrained and deep seeded, so don’t expect it to change overnight. Worthwhile things often take time, and your happiness is worth the effort so stick with it, and continue to improve your self-esteem, and find your self-worth.
Disclaimer: Content on this website is provided for education and information purposes only and is not intended to replace advise from your doctor or registered health professional. Readers are urged to consult their registered practitioner for diagnosis and treatment for their medical concerns.
Blog written by CBT Professionals Clinical Psychologist on the Gold Coast, Dr Adrian Ashton. CBT Professionals are a team of clinical psychologists on the Gold Coast with offices in Coomera and Nerang. Gold Coast CBT psychologists offer services to adults, children, and couples. Please call and make an appointment on 56 683 490.