14 steps to a better you – self esteem

In Too lazy to assign a category on August 17, 2007 at 7:15 pm

Appreciate yourself

People with high self esteem think positively about themselves, and accept themselves. They think: "I'm a good person". People with low self esteem on the other hand are too critical. They don't think they're attractive, smart, spontaneous or slim, and they always feel they're never good enough.

Self esteem is one of the most important building blocks for a succesful life. People with a healthy self esteem think positively about themselves, and feel strong and in control of their lives. People with low self esteem let others or circumstances determine their lives. Not because they're lazy, but because they think it doesn't matter what they think or do.

They deprive themselves of an important opportunity to be happy. Of course one can't control every aspect of life, but many aspects can be influenced.

Your inner critic

It's not always easy to accept oneself, and to think positively about oneself. It's rarely good enough. Many people grew up thinking they have to be modest. That's why they focus on the things they don't like about themselves. Things that are positive, are not good enough, or there's always someone else who's better.

Accepting yourself starts in your youth and is encouraged by loving people in your environment. It's a mirror like effect: a child sees and appreciates itself the way it's seen and appreciated by others. If a child grows up in a loving environment, and absorps all those positive reactions by others, like a sponge, it automatically learns how to appreciate itself.

On the other hand, if a child has very overcritical, meddlesome or rejective parents, it develops an inner voice that does nothing but criticise. The voice says: "See? You're utterly worthless" or "You're too fat", or "Nobody likes you". This voice is called the pathological critic.

The pathological critic is a term coined by psychologist Eugene Sagen to describe the negative inner voice that attacks and judges you. Almost everyone has a critical inner voice but people with low self esteem tend to have a more vicious and vocal pathological critic.

The critic blames you for things that go wrong. The critic compares you to others, to their achievements and abilities and finds you wanting. The critic sets impossible standards of perfection and then beats you up for the smallest mistake. The critic keeps an album of your failures but never once reminds you of your strengths or accomplishments. The critic has a script describing how you ought to live and screams that you are wrong and bad if your needs drive you to violate his rules. The critic tells you to be the best and if you aren't the best you are nothing. He calls you stupid, incompetent, ugly, selfish, weak, and makes you believe all of them are true. The critic reads your friends’ minds and convinces you that they may be bored, turned off, disappointed or disgusted by you. The critic exaggerates your weaknesses by insisting that you "always say stupid things" or "always screw up a relationship or a job" or "never finish anything on time".

The pathological critic is busy undermining your self-worth every day of your life. Yet his voice is so insidious, woven into the fabric of your thoughts that you never notice the devastating effects. The self attacks always seem reasonable and justified. The carping, judging inner voice seems natural, a familiar part of you but in truth, the critic is a kind of psychological jackal who with every attack weakens and breaks down any good feelings that you have about yourself.

Although we refer to the critic as "he" for convenience, your voice may sound female. It could sound like your mother, your father, or your own speaking voice, and is extremely detrimental to your phychological health, more than almost any trauma or loss. That’s because grief and pain wash a way with time. But the critic is always with you, and has many weapons, among the most effective the values and rules of living you grew up with.

Building self worth

Although the critic seems to have a will of his own, his independence is really an illusion. The truth is that you are used to listening to him, so used to believing him, that you have not learned to turn him off. With practice, however, you can learn to analyse and refute what the critic says. You can turn him off before he has a chance to poison your feelings of self worth.

You don't necessarily need love and appreciation from others in order to accept yourself. You can learn how to accept yourself, and be your own mirror.

Building self esteem doesn't mean you're not allowed to have negative thoughts about yourself. That wouldn't be realistic. The more you try to suppress negative thoughts, the stronger they'll return. You don't have to force yourself to think positively, but you can do exercises to build self esteem. Here's one:

Know your qualities

Everyone has many positive qualities. Perhaps you're used to only see the negatives, but you also have many positive qualities. It helps to write them down. Write down 10 positive statements about yourself, starting each statement with "I … ". Example: I am a good listener, or I am nice to my partner.

Now read those statements out loud, twice a day.

For those of us that are courageous, it's also a nice exercise to write down 100 (!) good things about yourself. For an example, see Holly Jahangiri's post.

A third exercise is to look at your negative characteristics in a different way. Try to see them as good characteristics gone wild. Let me give you an example: disorder can be seen as an extreme form of flexibility. Intrusiveness can be seen as an extreme form of empathy. Write down 5 negative characteristics and name them in a positive way.

Read and post comments | Send to a friend

  1. [esto es genial]

  2. I've recently become aware of something called the "lid theory." It goes like this: people in management, in order to preserve their quite often pedestrian and profoundly inadequate selves, impose arbitrary lids on those unfortunate enough to be under their leadership. Sadly, that imposition trickles down to where we begin to impose lids on ourselves. The trick is to blow those lids to hell and gone and be who we were meant to be.Thanks for this post, friend.

  3. thanks again, Irma. 🙂

  4. Thanks for posting this : )

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