I love me... or not!
What’s your self image? How do you listen to your internal voice?
Listening to your internal voice is the first step in helping you define your self-image and your self-esteem. Our internal voice judges us – it can be critical and hard leading us to low self-image and low self-esteem or can be weak enough that we don’t even notice if we are mean or insensitive to others. Even having too high a self-image can be a drawback too, leading to under achievement or arrogance. So how do we find the balance where we listen to our internal voice to determine whether we can encourage growth, change, success and happiness, or judge ourselves so harshly that we believe these things about ourselves to be totally true and lead to poor self-image and self-esteem?
Look at the messages you give yourself and question their validity today. Most of how we make sense of “our world” is how we interpreted or came up with meanings from when we were younger from significant people i.e. our parents, school teachers, childhood friends etc. Therefore, we perceive that what we think others think of us tells us how we feel about ourselves. Do you need affirmations or approval from others to feel good about yourself? Do you constantly feel that if you please others or go all out to do so then you are OK with yourself? If you don’t do something right or make a mistake – does that mean the end of the world?
Catastrophic thinking like this limits our options and choices. If we can adapt, for example, our thought that we didn’t get that right so we never will and we are a complete failure, then we won’t try it again. If we can change our perception to “at least I tried and I think maybe I could do this next time to improve things” then our hopes are not dashed forever.
Our internal voice can give us a very hard time – consider how you might talk to a best friend or family member these days if they were thinking so negatively. Would you offer support, kindness and encouragement? If we can do that for others, then we can learn to be kinder to ourselves. Sometimes we listen to our internal voice to protect us from uncomfortable situations – leading us to convince ourselves we can’t do something, limiting our capabilities and lowering our self-esteem rather than saying at least we tried and correcting our internal voice when it judges us wrongly.
All or nothing thinking, or it’s only black or white, restricts us finding the “grey”. What is in that “grey” area. For some there may be feelings and emotions that are difficult to define or manage.
Building self-esteem can take some time – a whole new way of understanding yourself and amending negative thoughts.
Someone said to me “surely it’s just being self-absorbed!” – maybe we can change that statement to “giving ourselves “self-respect”. Try not to start with perfection, that’s too high a goal that isn’t realistic – try out new ways for your internal voice to talk to you – throw out the “could have” and “should have” – try a less critical statement… “next time I can try this”, “at least I tried”. Try not to blame yourself every time something goes wrong for you or others – not everything is your responsibility and some things are just out of your control.
Using just one or two strategies like the examples above can greatly increase your positive self-image and self-esteem. Therefore, learning self-awareness and the triggers that catapult you back to thinking negatively can help you move forward with your life and what you would like to do with it. Cognitive Behaviour Therapy can help you explore your internal voice and help you make changes to increase confidence in yourself and improve your life.
Related articles from our experts
- Identifying low self-esteem thoughts and behaviours
Claire Black - MSc, BSc, Dip. MBACP17th October, 2016
- The pursuit of high self-esteem: Part 2
Dr Sarah Jane Khalid12th October, 2016
- A picture paints a thousand words: Using photos in counselling
Angela Keane, PgDip, MBACP11th October, 2016
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