Improving Low Self Esteem

Improve Your Low Self Esteem

improve low self esteemBased on our discussion thus far it is obvious that improving low self esteem should be a major goal of someone engaged in a personal growth effort. We know that healthy self esteem is, “The disposition to experience oneself as being competent to cope with the basic challenges of life and of being worthy of happiness.” (Nathaniel Branden). We have also looked at some symptoms of low self esteem and discovered a few ways it infects us. And with that background information in hand it’s time to move on to the good stuff; improving low self esteem.

Here are a few of the proposed remedies I found on the ‘Net:

1) Accept that you are a wonderful person, unique in the entire world.
2) Halt destructive thoughts; try to stop thinking negatively about yourself.
3) Accentuate the positive; think of things you do well.
4) Make a list of things you like about yourself.
5) View mistakes as opportunities to learn.
6) Make a contribution.
7) Recognize your potential.
8) Stop comparing yourself to others.
9) Use affirmations: “I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggone it; people like me!”


improve low self esteem

“I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggone it; people like me!

(By the way; that affirmation was recited in a “Saturday Night Live” skit by Stuart Smalley, a character created and played by Senator Al Franken of Minnesota.)

I’m sure that the people (all of which had impressive initials behind their names) who prescribed those remedies are all well intentioned despite being somewhat misleading. Those suggested cures will alleviate feelings of low self esteem about as much as a Band-Aid would relieve bleeding from a radial artery; not very long and not very well.

improve low self esteemSuggesting to an adult who was sexually abused as a child that the feelings of unworthiness that have haunted her all her life will magically disappear by standing in front of a mirror and repeating, “I am a wonderful person, unique in the entire world” is ludicrous I can only believe that psychologists and therapists who offer these methods as cures either have no personal experience with this malady or their fees for preaching such nonsense are more important with providing a real remedy. Granted, the Band-Aid’s time will come, but not until the wound is sufficiently healed; it is inappropriate and insufficient until some major mending takes place.

On my “About/Contact Me” page I state “My purported expertise on the topics presented here was not acquired in the theoretical environs of the classroom, nor did I learn them solely while reading Napoleon Hill in the comfort of my easy chair. Rather, I learned them by experiencing them.” And the experience of improving self esteem that had wallowed in the gutter for decades is the source of my expertise and uncharacteristic arrogance on this subject. Herewith I present the unique approach of improving self esteem that worked for me—and will work for you!

“I define self esteem as one’s beliefs about oneself,”

… I said earlier. The operative word here is “belief”; beliefs are not facts, they are merely a confidence in the truth of a person or thing. Santa Claus; the Easter Bunny; a flat world; “I am not worth of success”; “I just can’t face the world another day”; not facts, just beliefs. Beliefs can be wrong and beliefs can be changed. And if we can change a disempowering belief about our self we can begin improving self esteem.

I’ve written extensively about the power of beliefs and how to change them. If you’re reading this page because you’re seriously looking for a remedy I urge you to spend some time digesting those two pages. I will continue, however, to present a “lite” version on how to change a belief.

Step 1: Identify the belief.

Ask yourself, “What are my beliefs about myself that make me feel unworthy or unable to cope?” This may take some work but it’s critical that you clearly identify those thoughts you harbor about yourself that are causing your self esteem to suffer.
Example: “I’m an underachiever.”

Step 2: Confirm or discredit the belief.

Is it true? Are you in fact that which you accuse yourself of being? Who told you so? Are they a credible source? Beliefs are supported by “references” much like a table is supported by legs. If the legs are defective the beliefs they support crumble; truth prevails.

“I can’t do anything right.” Anything? Or just that one thing? Oops, there goes a leg!
“It’s your fault I turned out this way.” Are you a marionette? Do you have no say whatsoever in how your life is run? There goes another one!
“I’m an underachiever.” In all things? Do you not do well at anything you attempt? Tim-ber!

We’ve discredited three beliefs and those who held them should be on their way to healthier self image. Can it happen that fast? Absolutely; never underestimate the powers of awareness and logic.

For example; let’s say that you’re a little kid and your parents have told you that Santa, who you steadfastly believe in, might show up to pass out an early gift on Christmas Eve.

improve low self esteemSure enough, there’s a knock on the door, a hearty “Ho, Ho, Ho,” and in he walks. After the initial excitement dies down you notice that your rotund grandmother is not present; “Hey! Where’s Grandma?” you ask. The room suddenly gets very quiet and you notice odd looks on the faces of your parents and older brothers. “Oh, I think she went upstairs to the bathroom,” your mother replies. A closer look at Santa’s face tells you in no uncertain terms that she’s here in the room with you.

I remember that event pretty clearly. The instant I became aware that Mr. Claus was actually my grandmother dressed up in a red suit and cheap beard the belief died. When I made a list of all the beliefs I held about myself that disempowered me I wrote “I’m lazy”. It took about 30 seconds to note plenty of evidence to the contrary. I’d become aware that I was in fact pretty ambitious with most tasks I performed; the legs crumbled and the belief died.

Step 3: Pain and Pleasure Associations

Your table is rockin’ because the legs that support it are getting shaky. Now it’s time to put that belief six feet under by evaluating the pain and pleasure associations of keeping it or getting rid of it. Ask yourself,

“If I retain this (now discredited but long-held) belief how much more pain will I have to endure?” And then,

“If I accept the evidence that this belief is invalid and let it go, how much pleasure will I experience when it’s gone?”

Make it hurt—bad! Make it feel blissfully good. Write it down; shout it out, cry from the pain, dance naked from the pleasure! Your associations of pain and pleasure drive every action you take. Use the power of this deceptively simple fact of human behavior to shatter those limiting beliefs and start living your life!

That should do it for the beliefs that were based on false references;
…but sometimes it doesn’t. There’s one possible “catch” to letting go of long-held disempowering beliefs.

Low self esteem often involves blame.

By exorcising the demons of esteem you now come to the terrifying realization that you and you alone are responsible for the results you produce in your life. You can no longer say, “I’m unworthy and unable to cope because of the man who molested me”, or “the parent who debased me”, or “the people who teased me mercilessly for being overweight.” But you’ve blamed someone for years! You have a choice to make. Will you blame you or embrace the newly liberated you?

One option will lead to guilt and a whole new rationalization for your continued low self esteem and the ensuing misery that’s become so familiar to you. And the guilt you’ll feel is far worse than the anger and blame you’ve endured for so long—trust me, I know.

The other option will lead to acceptance of personal responsibility and the unknown. To prosper in this new world you will have to rely on the talents, abilities and values of a person you lost touch with many years ago. Which path will you choose?

Step 2 of this process states “Confirm or discredit; what if the belief is in fact true?

“I’m just an average salesman.” That was one of my disempowering beliefs, and here’s my comment to self:

“Guilty. My attempting to excel as a salesman would be akin to a chicken trying to excel as a chicken hawk.” I was trying to be good at something I just did not have the talent to do well.

I continued selling for several years after I did the “beliefs exercise” and nothing changed; the disempowering belief continued to prevent me from improving my self esteem until I made a critical decision.

improve low self esteemSuccess (and the ensuing pleasurable feelings we all desire) in any endeavor comes easier to those who are “designed” to do that thing. An acorn is designed to become an oak tree; it cannot become an elm. I was not designed to be a salesman but I tried to be one anyway, and with not-so-good results. And to make a bad situation worse I felt terribly guilty and angry at myself for betraying the “design” that I knew lived in me; I had chosen the first option described above.

I’d begun writing “Conversations with Katherine” 16 years earlier and one day, after becoming unusually sick and tired of living the lie, I decided to embrace option 2. I didn’t know where this would lead but I vowed to proceed with the faith that I would grow into a magnificent oak tree. I began writing and in short order two amazing things happened; the guilt disappeared and my low self esteem became a thing of the past.

Does that mean the radial artery wound has healed?

Almost. The bleeding has stopped and the stitches are out but the wound still requires a little TLC. That’s where the techniques at the top of this page come into play. Negative thoughts still try to creep in and convince me that I’m just an average guy who doesn’t sell very well. While I can’t quite bring myself to sing my own praises I do demand those self deprecating thoughts vacate the premises. I don’t care what others think, do or have; I like the way I think, I do what I want (sometimes!) and I have everything I need to be happy. I am doing my best to make a contribution by sharing this story. I learn from my mistakes. And most importantly, every morning I stand in front of the bathroom mirror and proclaim,

 “I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggone it; people like me!”

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