Self-esteem is defined as how we feel about ourselves and has to do with how we value ourselves. It has to do with almost all of the choices we make in life, from partners to jobs to choosing friends. If you were raised in a dysfunctional family it is likely that your self-esteem may have suffered or not been properly developed into a healthy sense of self.
Many depressions and anxiety problems stem from self-esteem issues. If you don’t have the confidence to design a life of your choosing you may be living a life that is not truly about you. If you dislike yourself to the degree you feel unlovable you may be living alone when you would really would prefer a partner. You may not be socializing as you fear ridicule and rejection. You may feel so unworthy that you are chronically angry at the world.
We are all in this boat of life together and we all have doubts about ourselves at some point. It’s a matter of not letting the doubts win out. It is about learning emotional tools that allow you to feel as good as the next person.
Here are six things to remember in beginning your journey to a healthy self-esteem:
- Recognize and respect your own resilience-You probably already possess some of this and don’t realize it. Just making it through a dysfunctional family background or other unfortunate event builds some resilience. You made it! We cannot control our backgrounds or families or the things that happen as we go through life, but we can control how we come out on the other end. Just having a healthy set of coping skills in place as well as a social support system can help you through tough times. Knowing you are a survivor already helps you to feel better about yourself.
- See life as a process not a one-time occurrence-Look at your life as a journey. Your journey may have started slowly or unhappily, but luckily you aren’t stuck there forever. You have your future in front of you to control. You are not doomed to an unhappy life. You will have to do some extra work to learn the emotional skills necessary, but it is just learned material.
- Everyone makes mistakes along the way–everyone, no exceptions. Making mistakes is part of life and the journey. Mistakes can be corrected. If you suffer from poor self-esteem you probably are afraid of making mistakes or you expect to make mistakes and therefore let others decide important things for you. The problem with that is that they bring their own baggage to your decision making and may be making bigger mistakes with your life than you would ever make! Your life will never feel genuine to you until you call the shots, mistakes and all.
- Face the fears-You may live in fear of many things. Decisions, as discussed above are usually a biggie. There is also the fear of being alone, being unlovable, doing things on your own or just facing life in general. You may be so afraid that you are completely overwhelmed. It is ok to have fear but you cannot allow it to run your life. We all have some degree of fear and that is healthy. Too much is not healthy. You can be afraid of something but do it anyway.
- Ask yourself the right questions-Instead of asking yourself why you are depressed or how you came to be depressed or anxious, or why you are unlovable, ask yourself how you can eliminate these destructive emotions. Ask yourself how emotionally healthy people look at life or relationships or whatever you are struggling with and learn from them. Ask yourself what you can do every day to feel better. Learning new emotional skills is what will help you turn the corner.
- Eliminate Cognitive Distortions- also called dysfunctional thinking patterns. These are ways of thinking that are non-productive and actually inhibit you from seeing things in perspective. When the information you are taking in is not processed accurately then you are likely to experience an overly emotional reaction or an incorrect emotion, leading to more dysfunctional behaviour or thoughts. One misperceived piece of information can lead to a downward spiral of mood and behaviour, further lowering your self-esteem.
You deserve a place in the world and the world deserves to hear your true voice, unencumbered by fear and low self-esteem. Allowing dysfunctional thought patterns and behaviours to dictate and negate your life experience will never bring you joy. These thoughts and behaviours are again simply something you learned and they can be reprogrammed to a healthier way of living.