Build Your Self-Esteem

Most people, at some time or other, have experienced a loss of confidence, a feeling of failure or some other negative feeling about life, about people or about themselves.

Have you ever been dissatisfied with your work or school performance? Perhaps you behaved badly in a personal relationship. Or you suffered a streak of one bad event after another. In cases like those, what did you do? Did you get angry at the world? Did you blame yourself, even if you weren’t to blame? Did you get depressed or anxious or just plain stressed-out? Did you make rash decisions or did you feel like giving up?

If that describes your life, year after year, it only makes sense that you’d become an outright pessimist, complete with low expectations, poor self-esteem and no ambition to accomplish anything at all.

Fortunately, counseling, coaching and therapy can help people who have been conditioned – sometimes from their earliest years – to take on a generally negative viewpoint.

You may have heard an old saying: It’s not the events in our lives that create problems for us; it’s our way of reacting to those events that determines the outcomes. And the way we react is the result of our nature and the way we’ve been raised and trained.

Let’s look at the training part only, for now.

When bad stuff has piled up year after year, people begin to question their abilities, aspects of their personalities and self-worth. Their life’s motto might be, “If it wasn’t for bad luck, I wouldn’t have any luck at all.” I have clients who have been told, literally, “You’re worthless!” or “you should just die”. When this kind of message comes from someone a child can’t dispute, like a parent or other authority figure, it tends to stick. The child doubts his self-worth, his ability to solve problems, to deal with frustration and to bounce back after a setback. A negative mind set – along with low expectations for success – has been created. So, when a bump in the road comes along, the tendency is to get mad, anxious, depressed or to simply give up. Unchecked, such patterns will ultimately degrade a person’s self-esteem.

When a negative mind-set becomes the story of our lives, it is especially destructive, because we conclude that it’s hopeless and we’re helpless to change it. ‘That’s just the way it is’, we tell ourselves. Secondly, we make the mistake of viewing this as a part of our identity: ‘Well, there we go again. This is just a part of me. I’ve never gotten anything right, so why should this be any different?” So, we become programmed to believe any number of self-defeating messages. Here are some examples:

Things will never get any better.
Some people just have it made.
People are always looking to get me in trouble.
I’ll never do anything right.
I don’t trust anybody.
I’m not good enough.
I don’t fit in, anywhere.
Why does it matter? Why bother?
Why me? What have I done?
No one understands me.
I give up.
Why live? Would anyone miss me? I wish I was dead.
I don’t care anymore.
I’m alone.

To make matters worse, the impressionable youth may have no one to offer a competing message, like, ‘You are lovable, worthwhile, and good at so many things. The people who put you down are wrong, and you have a right to be proud of yourself and stand up for yourself. I believe in you and I always will! I love you.’ In the absence of a supportive and loving presence, the victim of negative programming must deliberately, actively and vigorously seek out other resources to combat the negativity.

Now the question is, ‘What are those resources? How and where do I find them and start using them?’

We can find resources from two places: inside ourselves or outside ourselves.

Internally, for many of us, our greatest resource is the mind: the imagination and the ability of the mind to be ‘rewired’, so to speak, so that it works constructively, instead of destructively. Recent research has proved that the old saying, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks” is false! In other words, age in itself is irrelevant; anyone can learn to use his or her mind in new and constructive ways, to break negative thought patterns and habits.

External resources include everything in our environment: people, our work or career situation, our home life and relationships, our leisure activities, and much more. People who’ve developed a negative mind set and low self-esteem tend to avoid successful people and challenging situations. Why? They think they’ll look bad by comparison. Additionally, their internal message might be, ‘I don’t fit in with normal people’. It’s out of their comfort zone, so it’s emotionally safer to stay with other miserable people. The fear of change keeps us from moving on.

Getting past the fear is the key. One way to get started is to focus on solutions and start putting them into action, even when you don’t feel like it. Here are some ways to build self-esteem.

Take care of yourself: eat healthful foods, avoid street drugs and excessive alcohol use; get a good amount of exercise and sleep; avoid negative and destructive people and situations.

Purposely seek out successful people. Find a way to spend time with them, and notice the things they do that have made them successful.

Don’t depend on others for your self-worth.

Accomplish self-stated goals.

Study and apply effective communication skills – be a good listener.

Be willing and able to help others.

Be willing and able to seek help, when you need it.

Build on your strengths – in career, leisure, family and any sphere of activity – the more you succeed, the better you feel. Put yourself in situations where you have a strong chance of success.

Challenge yourself to expand your skills and knowledge.

Boost your ability to handle stress, conflict, frustration and adversity.

Conquer the fear and anxiety that stops you from setting strong boundaries to keep you safe. Learn when to say, “No”.

Develop good social skills – be comfortable in a number of different situations.

Keep yourself safe in every way.

Respect people’s rights, needs and welfare.

Understand and accept your proper role in any given situation.

There’s a partial list for you. Naturally, there’s a lot more to it, and we have just scratched the surface.

If you’d like to explore this in greater depth, please feel free to contact me. It would be a pleasure and honor to be of service, and I’ll gladly give you a no-cost consultation by telephone at 219 309 3928.