How important is self-esteem? People make choices based on how they feel about themselves. When you feel you have little worth as a person it affects your life. At the least, you may perform below your potential. At the worst, you may make drastic decisions—like marrying the wrong person—because you don’t think you deserve any better. Actions you take because you have poor self-esteem can put you into a downward spiral of unhappiness. So how do you break free? How do you begin to build your self-esteem?
Be aware of how you treat yourself. Do you put yourself down, sometimes out loud? “Don’t be so stupid.” Or, “What a clumsy jerk I am.” Or, “I just can’t get anything right.” Whatever it is you say to yourself, it’s important. If you are negative with your own self, how can you ever have confidence and feel genuine self-worth? Start with noticing how your treat yourself and be aware of what your thoughts are. Negative self-talk is a habit you can break. When you find yourself being critical, take note and gently remind yourself to be more positive. And when you do become mindful of your thoughts, give yourself a pat on the back for being aware.
Change your narrative. Really. It’s almost that simple. And also terribly difficult. Your father always said you were a lazy good-for-nothing. He drummed it into your head that you’d never amount to anything. But you’re grown now. And you know there was something wrong with that narrative. That your father needed to make you a scapegoat for whatever twisted reason he had because his father was terrible to him. But it’s time to break the cycle. You know in your deepest heart that you are not as bad as your father said. And the fact is, you can make up a new story for yourself. One that is far more positive. You’ve learned to think you were no good, so you can unlearn that thought and replace it with another story. Begin with positive affirmations and repeat them frequently enough that they replace the negative narrative you’ve been living with.
Stop comparing yourself to others. There will always be someone smarter, wittier, more talented, more beautiful, whatever. When you compare yourself to others, you are setting yourself up for anxiety and stress. It really doesn’t matter what someone else’s achievements are—everything’s relative. You have your strengths and weaknesses just like everyone else. If you compare yourself to the great chefs of the world when you are a weekend cook, you are doing yourself a disservice. Everyone has his own gifts. Your best bet is not to think about how great others’ gifts are, but to take some time to identify your own. Maybe you’re the mom whose kitchen table is a place where kids want to gather—something you may not realize is a gift. But think about it. Or ask your closest friend to tell you. Sometimes it’s hard to see how terrific you really are.
Exercise self-care. That means eat healthy foods so you feel physically good. Exercise for the same reason, but also because it improves your mental state. Help other people, so you don’t dwell too much on your own problems. And when you do good for others, you feel better about yourself. Forgive all the people who have made you feel so low. Your father kept telling you that you were no good, but why? Who made him feel like such a mean guy? When you understand yourself and are compassionate to yourself and others, you can forgive and connect with the loving nature that lives within you.
Nancy Travers is an Orange County Counseling professional. If you need safe, effective counseling services, please get in touch. You can reach her here: http://www.nancyscounselingcorner.com/contact