Six Options for Building Healthy Self Esteem
In a previous article you looked at the various factors that influence your self esteem and determine why some people have high self esteem and others low self esteem. You saw that your nature, nurture, locus of evaluation and self talk all contributed to creating your self image. Knowing why you feel the way you do about yourself may empower you take some steps to change your unfavourable self concept.
Click here to read the article Influences that Determine Self Esteem.
As nature refers to our inherited personality predispositions and nurture to our environmental influences there may be very little that you can do to change these, and it therefore could just be the ‘luck of the draw’ that determines your nature/nurture makeup. You may have more control over your environment as you get older, but a lot of damage may already have been done in the early years.
So what power and control do you have to change your negative self perception?
In this article we will briefly look at 6 Options for Building Healthy Self Esteem:
- Change Self Limiting Beliefs
- Acceptance of these Self Limiting Beliefs
- Change your Self Image and the Way You Feel About Yourself
- Relaxation and Positive Suggestion
- Change your Locus of Evaluation
- Change Self Limiting Beliefs
Since poor self esteem is the by product of negative thinking, it makes sense that good self esteem is the result of a positive belief system and the self talk that goes with it. There is a commonly held view that ‘you are what you think’. This being the case it follows that we should all be creating thoughts and beliefs that allow us to feel good about ourselves. If you hold negative and limiting views you have a good chance of creating a negative and limiting reality.
So change your beliefs and your reality changes!
This is obviously easier said than done otherwise you would have done this a long time ago. And realistically negative beliefs are tenacious thinking patterns that enjoy the hold they have on us. But you are not stuck. A lot of time and effort has been spent by various professionals to devise strategies aimed at releasing the grip of these stubborn thoughts, allowing you to regain control of your beliefs, and enabling you to eradicate your negative thinking patterns.
To begin you need to bring these beliefs into your awareness so that you can expose them to the light of day and challenge their validity and accuracy.
As painful as it may be it is necessary for you to examine the thoughts that are streaming through your mind and are influencing your evaluation of your own worth. With thoughts such as: “I am worthless and no one likes me ”, or “I will never get a promotion as I am useless”, or “If I say what I think people will think I am stupid”, it is no surprise that you have a low opinion of your self. Such thoughts are self limiting and deny you the life you want.
Once these thoughts are out in the open you can examine them and query their truth. You no longer have to accept them as an absolute and can begin to dispute them by asking specific challenging questions, unmasking them for what they are – simply words whose sole purpose is to cause displeasure, minimise your self worth and stop you from enjoying your life.
Some challenging questions you can ask are:
- What is the evidence that supports this belief?
- What is the evidence against this belief?
- Is there an alternative explanation?
- What is the effect of my believing this belief?
- What could be the effect of changing my thinking
The purpose of this exercise is to encourage you to view your beliefs from all angles and determine whether they are rational, realistic and functional. If your beliefs are deemed to be self limiting and harmful then you can take action and initiate change, and replace these beliefs with thoughts that are positive, promote healthy self esteem and allow you to create the life you want.
The process of changing self limiting beliefs is widely applied in the helping professions as a means of eliminating the mental distress that is a source of low self esteem. If this concept resonates with you there are a number of techniques and exercises available for you to explore further.
Acceptance of these Self Limiting Beliefs
Identifying, challenging and changing beliefs is one way of gaining control of the self talk that is a constant in your mind and is contributing to poor self esteem. Some people however think that the necessary vigilance required to control and change your thoughts can be exhausting and can actually be futile, as once you have conquered one stream of negative thoughts new ones will emerge. So if it is really difficult to change your thoughts the question they ask is why spend time any energy attempting to do so? Rather than continuously confronting and challenging your negative thinking patterns they propose that you accept these thoughts as words floating in the background of your mind.
You no longer need to fight the hold they have on you because by simply acknowledging their existence you disempower them and deactivate the domination they have over you. As a negative self limiting thought drifts through your mind you merely nod your head, recognise it as a negative thought and let it glide by. This allows you to get on with your life and to take actions that reflect your values and what is important to you. When a negative thought is diffused in this manner it cannot create negative self talk nor poor self esteem.
Not everybody likes this idea of acceptance. Some think that by allowing negative thoughts to exist they are admitting defeat and are actually giving credence to these thoughts, and are thereby conceding that there may be some truth to these self limiting views. At the end of the day you need to decide which method, or if a combination of methods, may help you eradicate the hold of negative thinking.
Change your Self Image and the Way You Feel About Yourself
As you can see it is probably quite important to do something about those thoughts that are influencing your self view. But you can further help yourself on this journey of positive growth by not only working on your self talk, but by also cultivating the image you want to have. Somewhere within yourself is the person you want to be- an individual who feels strong in self and purpose, confident in what they say and do, and receptive to the challenges the world holds for them. Such a person does not question their value or struggle with their self esteem. They simply are who they are- and that is enough.
You may not feel that person as yet, or have not made the inner connection to your true self- but you can start acting as if you have.
For those who find visualisation easy enough you can close your eyes and imagine yourself manifesting strength, confidence, self respect and healthy self esteem in any contexts significant to you. Or you can take on the role of someone who epitomises the qualities that you want to embrace and act the part until the role has been transformed into your true self.
What else can you do?
- Consider your own needs and feel confident in asking for what you want
- Receive compliments with ease
- Recognise the worth of others and freely offer compliments
- Speak well of yourself and eradicate any put downs
- Separate your behaviour from your Self Worth- your worth is constant even if you might do a silly thing
- Respect your body
- Let people know how you want to be treated
- Use Affirmations
- Learn to say “No”
- Accept all of your self
To be able to implement these considerations may require some work and the practice of additional skills such as assertiveness skills. But there is no reason why you cannot walk the talk of positive self esteem before you have totally internalised this concept. Be the person you want to be. Act the part and you will become it.
One of the most popular ways to beef up your self image and to help you walk the talk is through the use of affirmations. These are declarations or statements of being that confirm or reconfirm the qualities of the person you are/or want to be. They are written in the present tense as “I am” statements to encourage your mind to recognise these statements as present truths and realities. Stated with power and conviction they move you forward in creating the person you want to be and in fabricating the life you want to live.
Some Affirmations you could consider are:
- I accept myself the way I am right now
- I am worthy, simply because I exist. I do not have to earn my worthiness
- I do not compare myself to other people
- I am kind to myself and do no use “shoulds” and “oughts” to put myself down with value-judging comments.
- I do not dominate others or allow others to dominate me
- I am responsible for changing what I do not like
At all times the language you use must sit comfortably if you are going to speak these statements with credibility. Some of these above affirmations may resonate well with you and may be incorporated into your language of positive regard, but it still may be worth spending some time considering other affirmations that truly reflect the person you really are.
Relaxation and Positive Suggestion
Affirmations on their own can be quite successful in developing a positive self belief. If these affirmations are repeated while you are in relaxed state they can be even more powerful. They encourage a change in your unconscious mind and foster a healthy self view which motivates you to move forward in the direction you want.
Relaxation and Positive Suggestion is a two step process. Step 1 requires you to find a relaxation exercise that you are comfortable with. A very basic and simple one could be as follows:
- Sit or lie down comfortably
- Start by relaxing your shoulder muscles and then relax your whole body
- Empty your mind
- Close your eyes
- Take ten deep, slow breaths
- Breathe from the pit of your stomach and feel your lungs filling
- Continue your deep breathing and let all tension drift away
- Relax your body muscles once again
- Relax your face muscles readying them to say your affirmation
When you are relaxed and your mind emptied of thoughts you are now ready for Step 2: the declaration and repetition of your chosen set of affirmations. As noted before you use “I am” statements to reinforce your value and worth. You are introducing your sub conscious mind to the person you are in the process of becoming, a person who has high self esteem.
Change your Locus of Evaluation
As you have worked your way through this article you have seen that there are a number of avenues available to modify the impact of your self talk and improve your self esteem. Once you have been able to address your self defeating negative thoughts by either changing them or accepting them, and you have developed a good set of affirmations asserting your “I am” worth, you have the ability to take the step to shift your locus of evaluation from an external controlling source to an internal self powering one.
It is now you who are in charge of validating yourself. You are no longer dependent on the whims and fancies of your external world. And you can see that there really is no measurement by which to evaluate yourself, because whatever you do and whatever mistakes you make, you are still Okay, and you know this to be the Truth.
Many of us have suffered the negative effects of poor Self Esteem. Some have found the means to swing the pendulum towards a positive self image. For those others who are still struggling hopefully there may be some answers in the options that have been outlined in this article.
I would like to end this discussion by listing Eight Principles of Self Esteem that are taught to teenagers to enable them to build Positive Self-Esteem. I present them as something for all of us to think about.
Eight Principles of Self Esteem
- Always accept yourself
- Look internally for you self worth- not outside yourself
- Stop placing judgments on yourself
- Remember- you are not your behaviour
- Your worth is constant so there is no point comparing yourself to anyone
- You can always change what you are doing but you are doing your best
- Worth cannot be earned – you are worthy because you exist
- You are responsible for your life
- Become the person you want to be.
Author: Zahava Starak