The pursuit of high self-esteem: Part 1

My last article outlined the difference between self-esteem and self-confidence. Self-esteem refers to how much value people place on themselves internally. Psychological research indicates that high self-esteem can be an important factor in regards to relationships, health, self-image, academia and career achievements. Most people believe that self-esteem is important and that cultivating feelings of self-worth are beneficial. The main reason being that when self-esteem is high we feel good, and are more able to do more, take on new projects, assert ourselves and have greater resilience in times of adversity. In contrast when self-esteem levels are low it can keep people stuck in a rut. Also, it can create feelings of worry, stress and low mood. In my clinical experience, cultivating self-esteem can be done although there is no quick fix. Here are a few points I’ve drawn up that can begin to help:

Negative comparisons:

Do you compare yourself to others? Notice when you do this next time and the consequence on your feelings. Often people end up feeling worse about themselves. “Compare and despair” is a common negative thinking style. One helpful way to manage this is to remind yourself that everyone’s circumstances are different and that what people choose to show of themselves is not always an true or full picture especially on social media apps like Instagram.

That critical inner-voice:

Are you critical of yourself in a way that you would never be to your friend or partner? People who are self-critical often put themselves down and blame themselves for situations which may not be their full responsibility. When you notice yourself being self-critical try to take a step back and consider what a compassionate friend would say to you. In this way,  self-esteem is enhanced by eliminating our critical monologue to a kinder more self-compassionate voice.

Accepting compliments:

One of the interesting aspects of low self-esteem is that when we feel pretty rubbish we become resistant to compliments even though that’s when we could do with hearing them. Those that have low self-esteem have a plethora of ways to manage unease such as brushing them aside, minimising the comment, complementing the complimenter, moving the subject swiftly on or begin the process of self-depreciation. So when you are next complimented whether face to face or on social media, try to tolerate it even though it will make you uncomfortable, especially to begin with (sorry, not sorry). Then change your behaviour by acknowledging the compliment by saying or writing “thank you” or “that’s kind of you.” With practice it will become easier.

These are just three ideas to get you started and sure it requires some work, but the brain is like a muscle that requires training. The more you train, the greater the change you will find in your levels of self-esteem.

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