It’s impossible to know where low self-esteem begins.
Maybe it’s during the awkwardness of being a teenager, not really feeling like you fit in.
Maybe it’s from a series of failed relationships. With others, it could be the unfair words of a parent or role model. There are literally millions of places where low self esteem begins, but only one place where it can end — with yourself.
Low self-esteem is one of the silent plagues of our time. There are no real statistics for it, because many who suffer from it won’t recognize it to others. They’ll say they are just fine, and suffer in silence.
But we know it’s out there. As counselors, we see it all the time, and in terms of relationships, low self-esteem can be that ticking time bomb of self-fulfilling prophecies that ultimately doom the relationship and most any new one that comes after it.
But knowing where it started cannot be tantamount to finding the blame. Most negative and self-defeating beliefs are the ones we create ourselves. We may not have control over other people’s thoughts or many of the events in our lives, but we definitely have control over our own thoughts and beliefs and what we choose to say to ourselves.
So if you feel you might suffer from low self-esteem, or know someone who does, here are some ideas that can help turn the tide:
- Be Aware – You can’t fix a problem until you become aware of it. Think about some of the negative and self-defeating things you may say to yourself or others. There is a difference between self-deprecating humor as a means to show humility and self-deprecating statements that tend to reinforce feelings of self-esteem. Realize that these thoughts are not helping you. They are only holding you back from feeling positively about yourself and keeping you from all you deserve in your life.
- Challenge – Once you have targeted these negative thoughts, challenge them. To help you with this, imagine what you would say if your child or best friend was saying these hurtful things about themselves? Remember, YOU deserve the same gentle care and love that you so freely offer to others.
- Think Again – If you find during this process that you’ve spent a lot of time with negative thinking, maybe it’s time to think again. Make a list of positive and healthy self-affirming thoughts and read the list often. List your talents, things you enjoy, things you are good at, good deeds you have done for friends. Basically, act as your own attorney and build a case for how cool you really are. If you set to that task, you might be surprised how many good things you may find. You may not even believe them all at first, and that’s okay. This is a process. You are just planting healthy new seeds. It will take time for them to grow.
- Be Grateful – Before you go to bed, create a gratitude list. Make a list of everything you appreciate and are grateful for about yourself and your life. Again, you’ll surprise yourself at how many blessings you have to count.
- Make it a Habit – Once you get through the initial process, keep it up every day. Just like working out, you get better results the longer you do it. Everyday, challenge yourself to look for the positive in all things, including yourself, people, and situations.
Think of these tips as important exercises to help you build your self-esteem muscle. Remember to do them everyday…you deserve it!
Drs. Chuck and Jo-Ann Bird