Self-esteem is so important, yet we tend to neglect this issue so many times. When we are more confident, we believe we are worthy of a good health, a fulfilling job, a wonderful partner etc. When we are not, we believe we deserve only mediocre results or less. Keep in mind, that there is no such thing as too high self-esteem. It is like saying you have a too strong immune system. Being confident and loving towards yourself, can only cause you to live more joyfully. How can we raise our self-esteem? I will describe some of the reasons for low self-esteem and what you can do to start raising it.
What might harm our self-esteem?
Our inner dialog- The things we say to ourselves on a day to day basis, are the ones that will determine our self-esteem level. Those simple words, are the ones that can predict how high we will rise or how low we might fall. It’s not other people’s words that hurt our self-esteem, it is only the way that we choose to interpret them, that can hurt us. We can hear great compliments, yet we might choose to ignore them, thinking that they don’t really reflect our true nature. It’s important to realize that we are the only ones that are in charge of our inner world. Only our thoughts can cause us to lose faith in ourselves and not any other word that came from someone else.
Generally speaking, there are 10 thinking patterns that most damage your self-esteem (you can read more about them in David D.Burns’s wonderful book- ‘Feeling Good’). I will describe 3 of those thinking patterns that are very common.
Wrong Conclusions: You might be in a hurry to reach conclusions, that have no actual facts to support them. This distorted thinking has two forms- “mind reading” and “predicting the future”.
“Mind reading”- You might be so certain that other people don’t appreciate you, that you don’t even bother to check the facts. For example: In the middle of an excellent lecture you give, you spot a man in the first raw sleeping. This man was awake all night long, but of course you have no way of knowing this. You immediately think that you are boring the crowd. This is obviously a wrong conclusion.
“Predicting the future”- you feel that something bad might happen, even though there is not any fact for supporting this prediction. For example: You need to give a lecture for your co-workers at work. You keep on preparing, yet you are sure it is going to be a disaster. You choose to ignore the fact that your co-workers really appreciate you and will keep on respecting you no matter what. You choose to keep on predicting the future in the way you see it.
Black and White thinking: This thinking pattern is characterized by the tendency to see everything as very good or very bad (black or white, without any other colors in between). Those kinds of thoughts lead us to an endless race towards being perfect. A race that will never be over, since being perfect is not a real option, it is just a fantasy you have created in your mind. Not being aware of that fact, will cause you to keep running towards the perfect life you desire and fearing the mistakes that might harm it. Every mistake you will make, might seem as the one that will cause you to lose everything you worked for. You fear mistakes, since you fear not being perfect. You might irrationally assume that the failure to achieve perfection, can imply that you are worthless. Unfortunately, the reality tends to ignore your plans and it keeps being as it is- not perfect.
It is easy to see how this sort of thinking can damage your self-esteem. For example: A top student, who gets only 90 or above, got a 70 once and immediately decided that he is a total failure. The example shows, how irrational this type of thinking really is.
“Must do” and “Must not do”: must sentences can cause many disturbances during our everyday life. When reality doesn’t fit our expectations, the must sentences that you keep throwing at yourself, might cause you to feel tremendous shame or guilt. Even other people’s behavior will not always fit your expectations and then you might feel anger and frustration.
It is your choice- if you don’t wish to spend your life being bitter, you will have to make some changes to your “must sentences”. But how can you make the changes? How can you change any of the thinking patterns listed above?
In order to make the change, you need to keep a journal. Spend 15 minutes every day, writing your disturbing thoughts (the ones that harm your self-esteem and damage your happiness). Write them on one side of the paper. Name that column – “Automatic thinking”. On the other side of the paper, write a logical answer for each disturbing thought. Name that column – “logical thinking”.
Example: let us assume that you have just got back from a date. It was terrible and you feel very disappointed. You keep saying to yourself that you are a looser and you might never find a partner. Write this thought on one side of the paper. Now, it is time to write a logical response to this thought. Keep in mind, that you need to do it on writing, since those thoughts are flying extremely fast in your mind and only when you write them you can give them the proper attention and gradually wipe them. Now, for an example of a logical response that you can write: “I had many great dates on the past and one bad date isn’t going to change everything. I am still pretty young and quiet attractive, so there is a good chance that I will find a partner and get married. I am definitely not a looser, only because one date went wrong. It is only natural that some dates will be better and some won’t be as successful.” That’s it… It’s an example for a logical response. It’s important to write things that are true and that you really believe in, so it will be easier for you to adopt this new logical thinking pattern.
For conclusion, I hope you will enjoy a high self-esteem, since you deserve it. Take the time and give yourself a little compassion. As always I wish you happiness! Feel free to leave your comments.