Building Confidence & Self Esteem
The Two Aspects of Low Self Esteem
If you experience low self esteem you probably have a self image which involves you:
(1) Not valuing yourself and your own worth very highly and/or
(2) Paying more attention and attaching more significance to the aspects of yourself with which you are unhappy than to those aspects which you feel are OK.
If this applies to you, then you may find it leads you to act in certain ways that cause problems for you and sometimes for others, for example:
- Not paying sufficient attention to your own needs and wants
- Saying 'Yes' to requests from others which you do not really want to meet or do not have time to meet
- Finding it difficult to communicate effectively in relationships
- Feeling bad about yourself and guilty if you do not achieve something you promised or if you do not act in a way which you feel you should or ought to have acted.
Where does Low Self Esteem come from?
Self Esteem is part of our self image. Our self image develops during our childhood and is the combination of our own natural personality features together with the messages and influences we receive from those around us about how we should act and feel about ourselves.
Self Esteem & Childhood
If you suffer from low self esteem you may have experienced one or more of the following factors in your childhood from your parents or other important figures:
- Unrealistic or high expectations of what you should achieve
- Experience of being compared negatively to others or labelled in a negative way so that it feels like you can never be good enough or that it is difficult act in a way which merits approval
- Parents or other primary caregivers who found it difficult to give appropriate warmth, love and acceptance to you or who abused you in one or more ways (emotionally, psychologically, sexually, physically, or through neglect)
- Parents who were too preoccupied with their own issues and concerns to be able to pay sufficient attention to your needs or who seemed to favour another sibling
- Rejection or factors similar to the above experienced at the hands of other children or from adults who played a part in your development (e.g. teachers or relatives).
Media messages about your gender, race, sexual orientation, culture, or other features can also play a part in giving you a negative self image or low self esteem or lack of confidence.
It is also possible to develop low self esteem as an adult. If for example, you experience a traumatic event, rejection or abuse, or conversely if you do an action about which you subsequently feel guilty.
Can You Improve Self Esteem?
The short answer to this is: 'Yes!'. There are techniques and ideas for gradually improving your self image, self confidence and self belief, which research has shown to be effective. Some of these are given below.
Others may require the support of a coach or someone else with appropriate expertise to help you make the changes that will benefit you and help you live your life to the full.
Tips for Dealing with Low Self Confidence and Self Esteem
If self confidence is an area where you have difficulties and you would like help to improve self esteem, you may find it helpful to try out the following suggestions, which are common recommended features on self esteem courses:
- Give yourself credit when you achieve something you set out to do. Don't be too hard on yourself! Try to recognise occasions where you have done something you are proud of. There may be positive aspects of your self and of what you do that you take for granted and do not give yourself credit for.
- Make a list of qualities and abilities that you have - if you have difficulty in thinking of them, ask a trusted friend what they see as being the characteristics they like about you. Keep the list to hand so that you can remind yourself of it at times when you feel self critical.
- Eat a balanced diet and at regular times to help avoid your body getting out of balance and do some regular moderate exercise (walking or swimming is fine) to help your health and state of mind - exercise naturally releases endorphins in the body, which can help to relieve pain and induce positive feelings of wellbeing.
- Start to keep a thoughts diary recording both any positive thoughts that you have and any negative thoughts that you have about yourself or things you have or haven't done which you feel guilty about or regret. When you have negative thoughts, remind yourself of any positive ones to counterbalance them. If you find there aren't many positive thoughts then ask yourself how you can keep the negative thoughts in perspective.
- Write down these ideas for keeping things in perspective on a card or piece of paper and carry the card around so that you can refer to it when the negative thoughts come back or your confidence suffers a knock.
- Avoid comparing yourself to others if possible - you are valuable as a human being in your right and for your unique qualities. No one is perfect - and if you were, you might be rather boring!
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