By Greg Dalton
Someone who looks quite successful, happy, content, healthy and all together doesn’t look like someone who suffers from low self esteem. It may even come as a shock to others that this person actually has a problem and needs help.
Looks can be deceptive.
It still amazes me today as a client walks in to my practice, walking tall and full of confidence, where underneath is a life full of stress which is having a such a negative effect on their lives that others wouldn’t believe was happening to them.
What is self-esteem?
Some people think that self-esteem means confidence - and of course confidence does come into it – but self-esteem is a bit more than that.
The fact is that there are any number of apparently confident people who can do wonderful things but yet who have low self-esteem. Individuals can be stunningly attractive and highly successful yet still, deep down, find it hard to value themselves highly. Think of the modern icons Kate Moss, our own Colin Farrell, and of course the late George Best, and you'll accept, that public admiration is no guarantee of self-belief or in achieving high self-esteem.
So, if self-esteem isn't quite the same thing as confidence, what is it?
If you ask yourself, deep down, your gut feeling…am I an OK person and do I feel happy in myself? If you answer yes then thankfully you won’t have low self-esteem. But if you are finding it hard to answer ‘yes’ what can you do about it?
Lets firstly look at the possible consequences of suffering low self-esteem.
Insecurity about who you are and lack of belief in yourself
Inability to open yourself to others and inability to trust others even close friends & family
Inability to make decisions because of confusion or a fear of making a mistake or disappointing others
Anxiety in the face of the need to change and the fear of change
Inability to have spontaneous fun or the inability to play for pleasure
Problems in establishing intimacy with others and problems in interpersonal relationships
Lack of independence and openness to a variety of alternatives in decision making, a tendency to resort to "black and white'' judgments
Problems in handling anger, either by denying its impact on life or by not being able to control it, and then experiencing persistent hostility
Persistently affected by the need for approval and acceptance by others, affected by the fear of abandonment, fear of rejection, and disapproval
Excessive use of masks to hide our true feelings, the use of exaggeration and lies in order to avoid conflict or disagreements
Inability to take direction from or to be controlled by others.
Chronic seeking out of others for whom one can feel responsible
Inability to feel like one has done "good enough'' on the job or at home; a tendency to be a workaholic
Inability to say one deserves "good things'' in one's life; a tendency to always place themselves last
Constant sense of depression, discomfort, or inadequacy
Frequent sense of feeling different from others; keeping away from and isolating oneself from others
Inability to reward oneself for one's own accomplishments
Addiction to novelty, challenge, differences, risks and thrills.
Addictive or compulsive behaviour. e.g., alcoholism, chemical abuse, food, gambling, sex, excitement, money, shopping, smoking
Being overly serious, unable to see humour in life
An overriding sense of guilt and inadequacy
Inability to forgive and to forget past harms and hurts from others
Meeting others with similar problems and then matching up with them in relationships
Inability to let go of problems, such as fear, guilt, anger, or other negative aspects in life
Inability to tune into one's own feelings, but usually able to identify and to be sensitive to the feelings of others
Inability to face one's problems and the need to change, a tendency to use denial as an excuse not to change
Overreacting to things and acting impulsively, often getting into problem situations which need lots of work to straighten out
Can be meticulous, fussy, over demanding, and perfectionist; or can be careless, lackadaisical, and irresponsible
Can become frustrated when realising the magnitude of problems and the immensity of effort required to solve them
And again, often looks quite successful, happy, content, healthy, and together to others. It comes as a shock to self and others that one actually has a problem and needs help
The type of people vulnerable to having low self-esteem
- People who have been hurt badly in a relationship, in marriage, in school, at work, or in the community
- People who work in a co-dependent work environment
- People hurt in a relationship at work or in the community with someone and/or married to someone who is dependent (alcohol, drugs, gambling, food, shopping, sex)
- People in a relationship with someone or married to someone who is a workaholic
- People in a relationship with someone or married to someone who comes from a co-dependent family or work system
- Members of a family in which a child with a developmental disability is born and reared
- Members of a family in which a chronically ill family member is cared for
- Members of a family or work environment in which a compulsive individual lives
- Compulsive or dependent individuals once they are treated and enter recovery
Many people with poor self-esteem think that they're not important and that their views carry no credibility. Is this you? If so, you need to stop these negative thoughts, because if you go around believing them, you'll encourage other people to believe them too. The more we tell ourselves something, the more we will believe it.
If you can convince yourself of something negative, surely you can convince yourself of something positive. The power of a Positive Mental Attitude (PMA) in not to be ignored.
How can you improve your self-esteem?
You can begin by accepting that you are certainly not alone. Many people suffer with low self-esteem. Start to change your thought processes…
Start thinking of yourself as someone who has constructive and positive rights, opinions and ideas that are just as valid as anyone else's. This will help you to improve your self-esteem. Once you believe in your own abilities, people will see you in a different light, and start to believe in you.
Be wary of the knockers though, the ones who don’t want to accept that they also have a difficulty with their own self-esteem.
Don’t take things personally.
If people don’t like you or something about you, it is their problem not yours.
Tips to improve your self-esteem
People with poor self-esteem often fail to give themselves enough time and space. So find 5 minutes every day to be alone and to just sit and do nothing. Try a quick 5 minute relaxation exercise, simply sit or lay down and slowly and mentally begin to relax every muscle and joint in your body. Start with your toes, and slowly work up your body till you reach your head and can feel even your scalp relax. (I dare you not to enjoy it!) Enjoy this time. It is yours - and yours alone. And you deserve it.
Finding 5 minutes for you is a helpful thing to do and you will feel better for doing it. Guaranteed!
Stress the positive
Often we make ourselves unhappy because we go over and over mistakes that we have made, in the past. Why do people dwell so much on the past? What can we do about the past? Absolutely nothing, it is gone, it’s history, forget about it, but do learn from the mistakes you made.
The definition of insanity…
Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result!
We often do things successfully but yet remember the one thing that went wrong or we cocked up on one minor thing. We can feel happier, and improve our self-esteem, if we re-think those things we believe we have done wrong or badly. Go back over what you did, and make amends for the next time you are in a position to make the adjustment.
When you have a bad day, meeting, or something goes wrong in your relationships, write down the details of what actually went right with that day, not what went wrong. The results will surprise you - and improve how you see yourself.
List 10 things you like about yourself
If you're seriously lacking in self-esteem ask a loved one, they’ll be honest and you might even remember some things yourself.
When you’ve finished your list, put it some where you can see it all the time, photocopy it if you need to.
The next thing you need to do is add to this list…daily! Yep, daily. Think of something you like about yourself everyday. Write down your personality, your looks or something you did today that made you feel good about yourself. Even if it was helping someone cross the road.
Do the things you want to do.
People who suffer from low self-esteem often over commit their time to other by trying to please everyone all of the time.
STOP! Think about the consequences before you make the decision or commit yourself to something you don’t actually want to do or you are unable to do. This will take time to get right and you may feel awkward or uncomfortable initially, but persevere, it will pay off for you.
Imagine being asked by your boss to do something which he/she forgot to ask you to do a few days ago. Your boss comes up to you and asks you in an apologetic manner to achieve something you know is unachievable within the time frame needed and you say…YES! You know that when it’s due to be completed that it won’t be done properly. But when your boss comes to collect he gives you a bollicking for not completing it on time…because you said it could be done!
Don’t over commit to something or someone which you know deep down you won’t complete on time. Think about it, ask for either more time or more resources. Don’t be afraid, it will make them think about it next time.
Learn how to say no!
Start by using the ‘I’ word… I won’t make it to the lunch, I want to get some things in town. I would like to make lunch next week though? Do it without feeling guilty, make other people value you and your time. But you must first start to value yourself and your time before they do.
Practise the above and watch your self-esteem grow and watch the respect others will give you.