Written by: Jenny Smith
Making a decision to shift your self-esteem
Your self-esteem is the sum of the opinions and beliefs that you have about yourself, shifting your self esteem is hard to do when you feel so negative and have a low opinion of yourself. These internal views go on to shape decisions and choices that you make in life and can be heard in the ways that you talk about yourself and the expectations that you hold in terms of what you deserve.
Low self-esteem is when you put your attention on what you believe to be your weaknesses and focus on what you perceive to be mistakes in your life. If you have low self esteem your language will often sound ‘negative’ or ‘self-critical’ and you will often feel low in yourself, sometimes hopeless and will carry expectations of things not working out for yourself.
Why is my self esteem low?
There are many many reasons for developing low self-esteem. It is often rooted in having been told certain things by people in authority such as parents of teachers or bosses and then these messages become internalised and we continue those sorts of dialogues within our own mind which simply reiterate feelings of being worthless and not good enough.
Recognising that you have low self esteem is 50% of the work! It is a courageous step to face up to those difficult feelings and come to a conscious realisation that you spend a lot of your time not feeling good about yourself. It can be easy to feel ashamed especially if you have been shamed for for simply being who you are, and sometimes low self-esteem can be so familiar that initially it can seem hard to imagine that another way of being is possible.
One way of assessing where your self-esteem is at is to look honestly at how you deal with challenges in life. Everyone faces challenges such as relationships ending or not getting the job that you go for, but those of us who experience low self-esteem find it harder to recover from knocks, especially those that are similar to ones experienced when young. This can lead to beliefs forming that there is something innately wrong.
Pay attention to your inner voice and notice how much of the time you are blaming yourself for things not going the way that you want them to or worrying about what other people think, and see if you can find the courage to admit what is actually going on for you, even just to yourself.
Make a commitment to change
If you have been able to recognise that you hold very limiting beliefs about yourself the next stage is to make a commitment to yourself to change them. One of the ways to encourage yourself to do this is to consider all the areas of your life that are affected by how you feel about yourself. These could include your personal relationships like a partner and your friends, your work life and your approach to creating and taking opportunities in your life. If you can step back for a moment and realise that feeling the way you do has a very significant impact on the overall quality of your life you may start to feel more incentive to make some changes.
Making changes is a process. It is rarely linear in that we decide that we want to become like this and go straight there! More usually it is a case of identifying the change that we want to make and gradually over time increasing our ability to head in that direction through a series of twists and turns. One of the most important qualities to develop in yourself as you take the journey of increasing your self-esteem is self-compassion. This means being kind, understanding and realistic with yourself, in a similar way to how you would be with a small child if they came to you feeling anxious and insecure. Keep in mind that in this process there will very likely be knock backs, returns to old ways of behaving and frustrations about not being able to change more quickly. A useful read if you find books helpful is The Compassionate Mind by Paul Gilbert who’s website is http://www.compassionatemind.co.uk/
Being more positive
There are lots and lots of things that you can do practically to help redirect your focus to a more self- positive oriented one. Things like making a practice of giving yourself positive appreciations each day, even just one at a time is a great way to change the habit of focusing on the negative and also shift you away from looking outside of yourself for approval and instead finding it within. Learning the practice of mindfulness is another great tool for being in the present moment rather than with future worries or historic difficulties and taking care of yourself with diet, exercise and sleep patterns are all thing that can make a difference. For more ideas on ways to increase your self-esteem see the Mind guide http://www.mind.org.uk/mental_health_a-z/8061_how_to_increase_your_self-esteem