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Self-Esteem - Part I

Everyone experiences struggle in life. We can see where we are and even where we want to be, but we have no idea how to get from one side to the other.


Remember, if we want something different, we choose something different.


Einstein once said, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.”


Change requires us to be proactive. We are responsible for where we are now. Each choice we’ve made has gotten us to this point in our lives. We are responsible for where we will end up in the future. The choices we make from today forward will determine where we will end up one, three, five, or ten years from now.


Change also requires us to be strategic. It requires a plan. How do we make this plan? We ask ourselves:


What do we WANT for our future?

Define this. Imagine it. Visualize it.

Write this down…every detail we can dare to dream.


Now….we ask ourselves:


What is holding us back from having what we want? What stands between us now and us living in our imagined, visualized future - where we actually want to be?


There is only one thing holding us back.


US.


We are the ones responsible for what we want, what we have, and how our life looks, feels, and is.


Looking at ourselves is hard though. A lot of us don’t like what we see. A lot of us aren’t kind to ourselves. A lot of us haven’t cared for ourselves well. We haven’t surrounded ourselves with safe people who support us. We haven’t challenged futile thinking. We’ve allowed ourselves to swirl in and around negative thought patterns and life choices.


These very things have held us back! Realizing this sucks, right?


Take a minute to feel bad about that. It’s okay to grieve the loss. We have kept ourselves imprisoned in areas of our lives because we’ve acted as our own jailer! We’ve been the prisoner and the jailer.


But do not feel bad for too long because once we figure this nugget of truth out, we can formulate a plan to begin to change.

Change begins with self-awareness. CHECK!


Now, we can list what has been holding us back and then make a plan to overcome these areas. We then execute that plan over and over until we begin feeling better about ourselves as we care for ourselves, get the right view of ourselves, and learn how to challenge automatic negative thinking.


We overcome day after day by harnessing the power of our thoughts. We begin to CHOOSE what we think about. Over time, these thoughts help create a new belief system that allows us to have the right view of ourselves and thus, raises our self-esteem.


As we become aware of our thoughts and beliefs, we can learn which situations in life affect our self-esteem, then notice our thoughts on them. This includes self-talk and how we view situations. Our thoughts and beliefs might be positive, negative, or neutral. They may be rational, based on reason/facts. Or they may be irrational, based on false ideas. So, we ask ourselves if these beliefs are true!


It is important to challenge negative thinking. Our initial thoughts might not be the only way to view a situation. We can ask ourselves whether our view is in line with facts/logic or whether are there other explanations. It can be hard to see the flaws in our own logic. We all have long-held thoughts and beliefs that feel factual even if they are just opinions.


It is also important to challenge negative self-talk. We are often hard on ourselves. To challenge our self-talk, we can ask ourselves, “would I say this to a friend?” If not, ask why we would say them to ourselves?!


Are these negative thoughts eroding our self-esteem over time?? Do we struggle with:

  • All-or-nothing thinking. This involves seeing things as either all good or all bad. For example, we may think, "If I don't succeed in this task, I'm a total failure."

  • Mental filtering. This means we focus and dwell on the negatives. It can distort our views of a person or situation. For example, "I made a mistake on that report and now everyone will realize I'm not up to the job."

  • Converting positives into negatives. This may involve rejecting our achievements and other positive experiences by insisting that they don't count. For example, "I only did well on that test because it was so easy."

  • Jumping to negative conclusions. We may tend to reach a negative conclusion with little or no evidence. For example, "My friend hasn't replied to my text, so I must have done something to make her angry."

  • Mistaking feelings for facts. We may confuse feelings or beliefs with facts. For example, "I feel like a failure, so I must be a failure."

  • Negative self-talk. We undervalue ourselves. We may put ourselves down or joke about our faults. For example, we may say, "I don't deserve anything better."

We need to adjust our thoughts and beliefs! The good news is we CAN replace negative and untrue thoughts with positive, accurate thoughts by using these strategies:

  • Use hopeful statements. Be kind and encouraging to ourselves. Instead of thinking a situation won't go well, focus on the positive. We tell ourselves, "Even though it's tough, I can handle this."

  • Forgive ourselves. Everyone makes mistakes. But mistakes aren't permanent reflections on us as people. They're moments in time. So, we tell ourselves, "I made a mistake, but that doesn't make me a bad person."

  • Avoid 'should' and 'must' statements. If we find that our thoughts are full of these words, we might be putting too many demands on ourselves. So, we try to remove these words from our thoughts and vocabulary. It may lead to a healthier view of what to expect from ourselves.

  • Focus on the positive. Think about the parts of our lives that work well. Remember the skills we’ve used to cope with challenges.

  • Consider what we’ve learned. If it was a negative experience, what changes can we make next time to create a more positive outcome?

  • Relabel upsetting thoughts. Think of negative thoughts as signals to try new, healthy patterns. Ask ourselves, "What can I think and do to make this less stressful?"

  • Encourage ourselves. Give ourselves credit for making positive changes. For example, "My presentation might not have been perfect, but my colleagues asked questions and remained engaged. That means I met my goal."


Low self-esteem can affect nearly every aspect of life. It can impact our relationship with ourselves, our relationships with others, our jobs, and even our health.

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