Low self esteem

HOW TO IMPROVE YOUR SELF ESTEEM?

Family-Counselling-low-self-esteem

Do not feel lonely, be comfortable with yourself… It is a waste of your life to want to be someone else…

We all know that self esteem means how we evaluate ourselves. It is a self opinion that over a period of time gets shaped with the help of our experiences. When we have a positive attitude towards ourselves along with a feeling that we are competent enough to handle the challenges and perform roles which constitute our life efficiently we have a high self esteem. It makes us believe that we deserve happiness and encourages us to dream, desire, take risks and work towards our goals. It helps us confront issues and have a problem solving approach towards life. It makes such socially attractive. It contributes in excessive measures to an individual productivity thereby creating more opportunities for success. A person who believes in himself is happier and healthier.

On the other hand when you suffer from low self esteem you do not appreciate yourself and find yourself inherently worthless. You compare yourselves and your life with others unfavorably. There are feelings of inadequacy, jealousy, inferiority. You find yourself incompetent to be able to meet life challenges and fulfill significant task. Thereby you do not set goals or wish for anything in for yourself. You avoid social situations and take peoples feedback as criticism. Due to your attitude towards yourself you lose opportunities to perform and keep making mistakes.

“Events such as emotional, physical or verbal abuse by our spouse, breakup or divorce, loosing job, financial crisis, major illness, anticipation of a failure, struggling with substance abuse or addiction and traumatic physical event can lead to low self esteem…”

Causes of low self esteem

Right from our childhood we begin to form our pattern of belief in ourselves and the world around us. All of us have a need to be wanted and accepted. We attach value to concepts and based on our experiences and the reinforcement we receive from our significant others like our parents, teachers, friends, etc; Majority of the reinforcement that child receive in their early experiences shape their beliefs in themselves. If they are given positive feedback for their achievements however minor they are it fosters confidence in them. At the same time if they receive criticism for their actions and behavior they might end up feeling ashamed and guilty. In order to develop high sense of self worth children need to feel safe and secured while they are growing up. They need to feel that their needs are important. There should be a sense of support to their individual differences. If this is taken care of they feel they are significant part of the society and grow up believing that they can make a difference. Constant devaluation of their weaknesses would help them internalise these messages as beliefs and would end up with low self esteem. Any kind of stigmatisation towards their uniqueness would take become an obstacle for them to develop on their strengths. Sometimes adults do not realise the high expectations they have from children as a result of which they feel burdened and if not able to meet them leads to a sense of failure.

Despite a healthy childhood with moderate to high self esteem we can still end up developing a low sense of self due to our experiences. Events such as emotional, physical or verbal abuse by our spouse, loosing job, financial crisis, significant difficulties in the life of our family members, major illness, break up or divorce, anticipation of a failure, struggling with substance abuse or addiction with a harmful kind, traumatic physical event can lead to low self esteem.

With the advent of social media it is so easy to keep in touch with family and friends over a long distance. Also any information is on our finger tips. It is exhilarating to exchange opinions on political, social and emotional matters. It is also very rewarding to be appreciated on very small accomplishments and do share your everyday delight on facebook. At the same time it is tough to always get the likes and comments we want and this becomes very rough on a lot of us. The benchmarks to earn that appreciation is sometimes a perfect diet plan to maintain fitness or the ravishing looks on the pictures posted. We start getting to unnecessary comparisons and swayed into mindless competition. This could sometimes lead to a lot of self doubt, trying hard to please others in order to fit in. Ultimately as research suggests a significant cause of developing low self esteem at all ages.

Characteristics feelings, thoughts and behaviours of high vs low self esteem individuals:

Individuals with high self esteem have tolerance towards mistakes which they have made and also the feedback that others give. Their perspectives towards themselves and others are reasonable. As a result they are satisfied with their relationships, believe in themselves and are more efficient professionally. They have good decision making as well as risk taking skills. They take initiatives, break away from the conventional and experiment. These actions motivate them and make them feel a sense of empowerment. They have the ability to sail through the rejections as well as disappointments that naturally come everyone’s way. They feel connected, are assertive about themselves and believe on their uniqueness.

On the other hand people with low self esteem are very critical and judgemental about themselves. They constantly indulge in negative self talk. They always brush aside their own positive aspects. They try to please others, change opinions based on others, and are very defensive about the feedback provided by others; they also find it difficult to accept compliments, but appreciate others easily. Insecurity is prominent. They usually have relationship problems. They avoid conflicts due to their fear of others perception. They usually feel helpless, frustrated also angry at times, ashamed of themselves and easily feel guilty at minor mistakes. They are usually anxious and do not relax. They might also indulge in self harming behaviours. They feel incompetent at almost various things, feeling like a foolish person or a loser. They usually work harder than others due to their guilt. They do not take good care of themselves. They are lonely and shy. They are not able to trust anyone or themselves. They do not mind giving credit of their work to others while underestimating their own capabilities. Though they are hard workers but the creativity and effectiveness is missing due to a low self esteem. They are scared to try as believe in perfectionism. They are not independent in decision making but depend on others for the same; they complain a lot and are vindictive towards themselves as well as others. It is a vicious circle the more you keep telling yourself that you are not competent the further low on self esteem you will be. Also it has got nothing to with talent or attractiveness, even very talented and attractive people who do not believe in themselves suffer from low self esteem.

 

How to work towards improving your self esteem

Gratitude: One should learn to feel blessed to stay blessed in life. In your ‘self talk’ appreciate yourself for all the skills and goodness you possess. Do also show gratitude in your relationships by accepting peoples gestures reaching out to you. Same goes for life, start observing and valuing all small blessings in your life. Appreciate your good qualities.

Be comfortable in your own skin: Usually when you are not confident of your skills and abilities or for that matter your physical appearance you tend to get inspired very easily and at times copy others attitudes as well as hold other peoples beliefs. Be comfortable with what you are and live your life. Do not lose yourself rather work towards building on your strengths. Set realistic short term goals and work towards self achievement. That will make you believe in alternative opinion of yourself.

Self Care: Taking care of your diet and exercising is a fundamental requirement towards cultivating optimal mental and physical well being. It is hazardous to ignore yourself at basic level. This is the easiest step to begin developing high self esteem as you start investing in yourself. Your hormones will play in a better way and help you achieve more. This also includes finding leisure time to develop your interests and pursue your hobbies. Take responsibility towards yourself. Take credit for anything good in your life.

Observe your own talks. Usually if you are low on self esteem it will be full of negative statements and evaluation. Try and think as positively as you can by being conscious about your thoughts. Do not be critical but try and be kind, understanding and supportive towards yourself as you try to change your thoughts gradually.

In order to develop high self esteem every individual needs to fulfil their core human needs in some form or the other at any point of time in their life. They include but are not limited to, need for attention, intimacy, spirituality, safety, security, appreciation, goals, self care, stimulation, self control, etc; We should strive to achieve these through are activities and experiences over a period of time.

• Assertiveness: Self awareness i.e. being aware of what you want and what you need helps you in increasing your self esteem. After being aware learn to express yourself assertively. Express your opinions and beliefs. Also learn to communicate when you do not agree with what others are saying. Respect yourself and do not compare yourself with others. Develop compassion towards yourself. Realise everyone is different and has unique value.

• Social media: examine the time spent by you on social media. There is a high probability that you are spending a lot of time in this virtual space. This certainly reduces self esteem as you reduce time spent on real interactions and your needs are left unsatisfied. You also tend to look for approvals on the social media and work up to it.

• Social life: Develop good relationships with family and friends, and spend time doing fun activities that you love. Learn to accept and offer compliments.

• Counselling: If you feel that your low self esteem is obstructing a good quality of life you can approach a counsellor who would help you explore the causes of low self esteem in your life and also help you look at your behaviour patterns that are a consequence of low self esteem. Counselling provides a safe place for you to build on your strengths and develop aspects of your personality that would help you feel confident. A supportive counsellor will also help you with self acceptance which increases self esteem. He or she would help you assess your values and needs which after self acceptance would help you build up a positive sense of self. It will help you take care of your emotional sensibilities as when you are highly emotional you end up having a distorted view of yourself that could lower your self- esteem. Ultimately it helps in building resilience.

To conclude self esteem improves our quality of life, relationships, health and productivity. Parents who have high self esteem raise children who are more effective with relationships and problem solving. Children with low self esteem have a high probability of ending up with any kind of abuse as a victim or abuser. Could be bullying, alcohol, drugs, smoking, teen or unwanted pregnancies or crime. Self esteem can be build up with the help of above measures. Feel free to ask me a question or book an appointment if your thoughts consists of self doubt, shame, guilt, insecurity, comparison with others, difficulty in maintaining relationships and developing life goals.

Richa Khetawat is a trained Clinical Psychologist providing online counselling services in a professionally helping manner to facilitate transitions in life. She has over 8 years of experience helping individuals cope with managing family and relationships issues, stress and anxiety, life transitions, children parenting and adolescent issues.