It’s Possible! Overcoming Low Self-Esteem
Just When I Thought Things Were Great –
Talking About Self-Esteem
Just when I thought things were going so great, I get this major slap in the face. How many of us have experienced this? It is a horrible feeling, especially when things seem to be looking up, moving toward that “I can do it” level. Then, it takes one minor incident to bring you back to the “I’m not good enough” level.
Here is a fact; we do not take criticism well. When we hear a complaint, ridicule, or negative criticism, it brings us all down, leading to negative self-thoughts or low self-esteem. What is worse about hearing criticism from others is hearing criticism from ourselves. Having low self-esteem often causes us to focus more on those negative self-thoughts than our achievements. It also leads to thinking that other people are better than us, causing sadness, depression, anxiety, shame, and anger.
I am not ashamed to say that I experience low self-esteem from time to time. Recently, I thought things were great. I started this new private practice part-time and got some clients. I also got a promotion at my full-time job and will be moving up to a different role. I have received so many compliments about my abilities from other colleagues and clients. I felt terrific and highly proud of myself. Then I received feedback about one of my sessions, and even though this feedback was constructive, a person with low self-esteem only hears the negatives. I also received a complaint from a client because I did not provide adequate support. These are two areas that a person with high self-esteem can take as a learning experience and a way to grow. For a low self-esteem person, these two areas provide a sense of failure and defeat.
What is Low Self-Esteem
Low self-esteem is characterized by a lack of confidence and feeling bad about oneself. A person with low self-esteem would often feel unlovable, awkward, and incompetent. Research has shown that people with low self-esteem are hypersensitive, where they have a fragile sense of self that others can easily wound. The characteristics of an individual with low self-esteem can have serious consequences. For instance, someone who believes that others do not like them can avoid others or show quicker defensiveness, cynicism, or sudden lash outs. In addition, the lower the self-esteem, the more difficult it becomes to believe that others could see us in a positive light.
The causes of low self-esteem can be a result of many different things. For instance, maybe people with low self-esteem have been raised in a critical environment or have poor academic performance in school. They can also experience ongoing stressful life events like relationship breakdown or financial trouble, poor treatment from a partner or parent, especially in an abusive relationship. In addition, they could be experiencing ongoing medical problems such as chronic pain, severe illness, or physical disability, or diagnosed with a mental illness such as anxiety or depression.
Let’s Overcome This
The good news is low self-esteem is entirely possible to overcome. It is a matter of developing strategies to move away from that rut of negativity and low self-esteem. Not saying that it is as simple as just changing your ways because, like any exercise, it does take time and practice. It also takes small steps to make changes in thought patterns to build self-esteem and maintain it.
There are many articles out there that provide some helpful ways to overcome low self-esteem. Here are some that I found useful to me:
Stop Comparing Yourself to Others – One of the first things I decided to stop doing is compare myself to others. Someone with low self-esteem will always think that others are better than them in so many ways. Therefore, instead of comparing myself to others, I decided to compare myself to myself. I look back at how I had grown as a person, my achievements, how far I have come, and how far I am going. I also look back at all the optimistic feedback others have said to me and provided space to accept that feedback.
Celebrate Your Achievements – Every little thing that you have done, celebrate it. Even if it’s a minor thing, it is still worth telling yourself, “You did it.” You may not think it was the most challenging feat but realize that’s the low self-esteem talking. Anything you started and completed is an achievement.
Grant Yourself Permission to Make Mistakes and See Them as Opportunities for Growth – You have a choice. You can beat yourself up over a failure or give yourself permission to make mistakes and learn from them. The reality is, we will always make mistakes in life. Beating yourself up over it can chip away at your self-esteem, but learning from it can help you become a better person. The question is, which one do you prefer?
Challenge Your Negative Thinking – Low self-esteem often leads to negative thought patterns. The way to overcome this is to challenge those thoughts by asking yourself whether your view is consistent with facts and logic or whether other explanations for the situation might be plausible. One strategy I sometimes use is writing down the thought and then asking myself about evidence that supports that thought and the evidence that does not. I also write down what I have learned from that mistake and what I can do moving forward to prevent myself from doing this again.
Be Kinder Toward Other People – We tend to feel good about ourselves when we do something meaningful and help others. Take notice of yourself whenever you do something as an act of kindness. These acts do not have to be something significant. It can simply be just being there and fully listening for a few minutes as you let someone vent. It can be complimenting someone, or it can be giving someone some advice.
Overall, your sense of well-being is essential. Developing your self-esteem and learning to accept yourself for yourself is a step towards accepting who you are and being proud of that. After all, don’t you deserve to maintain that “Can do” attitude?