Assertiveness: the key to improving low self-esteem

We all have times in our lives when we feel that we are not quite good enough. However, people who suffer from low self-esteem can often set standards that are impossibly high. We were not born feeling this way. At a certain point in our lives we picked up the message that we were not quite good enough and that we needed to compensate for this by aiming so high. This may have resulted from formative experiences in our family, schooling or from mixing with peers.  

Try not to aim for perfection. You don’t always have to be top of the class. It is fine to strive to be the best person you can be but that doesn’t mean giving yourself a hard time on each occasion when you don’t achieve the highest marks.

Here are three easy steps to help improve your levels of self-esteem:

1. Identify the aspects of yourself that you know to be okay. Try to notice at least five positive qualities about yourself. These can be things which you know are true and which will help you to challenge the negative views you hold about yourself.

2. Try to change the way you think about yourself by using your positive qualities list. Use that list to remind yourself about your special talents. Say to yourself that you are just like everybody else with strengths as well as weaknesses.

3. Change the way you behave. Identify someone who holds the qualities you aspire to and copy them.  When we have feelings of low esteem we compare our inner feelings of insecurity and self-doubt with the outer appearances of others who appear more self-assured. But you can learn to act confidently. When speaking in company speak with a higher volume and try not to stoop but walk tall. It is important to act confidently by not looking away, not frowning or looking down. Confident people seem to smile effortlessly. Try it. When you smile, people will usually smile back.

Assertiveness without respect for others is when aggression occurs. Being aggressive will be counter-productive as that may only add to the negative views you hold of yourself. Being assertive means having the right to say no, not being responsible for the behaviour of others, having the time to think things over, the right to change your mind and giving yourself time to reflect on decision making. You can be assertive whilst still respecting others. That is what it means to have healthy boundaries.

Counselling can help by giving you the opportunity to reflect on your past experiences that have contributed to your negative self-belief. A counsellor can help you to build your self-esteem by reflecting back your qualities and achievements and help you to practice your assertiveness in the world.

Counselling Directory is not responsible for the articles published by members. The views expressed are those of the member who wrote the article.

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London SE1 & SE26
Written by Noel Bell, MA, PG Dip Psych, UKCP
London SE1 & SE26

Noel Bell is a counsellor/psychotherapist based in London who has spent the past 20 years exploring and studying personal growth, recovery from addictions and inner transformation. Noel draws upon the most effective tools and techniques from the psychodynamic, cognitive behavioural (CBT), humanist, existential and transpersonal schools.

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