The struggle for self-esteem

Self-esteem by the rich and famous:

“Why should we worry about what others think of us, do we have more confidence in their opinions than in our own?” reports Brigham Young, perhaps you prefer Elizabeth Taylor when she says, “I don’t entirely approve of some of the things that I have done or am or have been. But I’m me. God knows I am me” but yet again maybe Marilyn Munroe was nearer the mark when she spoke the words, “Wanting to be someone else is a waste of the person that you are”.

The rich and famous are much quoted on the subject of self-esteem.

The real self-esteem
All these fine words are cold comfort in a dark place, of self-criticism and self-blame. You feel shame, often the problem, rather than someone struggling to get it right.  Negative experience can build through our lives to make us question our value.  Perhaps we had critical parents, maybe we did badly at school, and perhaps we were bullied by a boss in work or were in an abusive relationship. Often these beliefs will have built up over time and have a cumulative effect till the point where our first reaction can be what did I do wrong?

It is typical that we will criticise ourselves in a sharp tone in absolute terms, you should have… or you are stupid… if only you had… Our tone lacks any compassion or forgiveness that we would be quick to offer a friend.

Your self-esteem
Yet there are simple steps that you can take if you start to notice your behaviour and start to think differently about yourself.

  • You probably already are aware when you are being self-critical, but as soon as you notice it you should ask yourself is that a fact?  I think I am stupid:  But what factual evidence do I have for that statement and similarly for other unhelpful thoughts. Challenging those thoughts and really noticing that beliefs and feelings are not facts will help put the unhelpful thoughts in their place.
  • Alongside that notice the skills that you do have, and you will have some even if they are very small like taking the time to read this article, praise yourself for taking the time to make positive changes focus on the future it promises.
  • We have all made mistakes in the past, indeed that is the way that the human race learns things like talking, walking, riding a bike and so forth. Mistakes are part of being human; we learn from them and move on. So learn from your mistakes even the huge ones accept the learning and move on. If it comes to mind again gently move it aside telling yourself that you have accepted it is in your past.
  • Finally, if it were your best friend think of the words of empathy you would offer them, can you not offer yourself at least that level perhaps if you can offer yourself that level of love then you can grow as a person build the self-esteem for you are worth it

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Counselling Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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Glasgow, G46
Written by Graeme Orr, MBACP(Accred) Counsellor
Glasgow, G46

Graeme is a counsellor and author living and working on the south side of Glasgow. In his practice he sees a number of clients with emotional, anxiety and self-esteem that have relevance to us all. His articles are based on that experience and are offered as an opportunity to identify with, or to challenge you to make changes in your life.

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