Are you a people pleaser who apologizes for things that aren't your fault? Do you put your needs last? Are you excited to try new things, or are you scared to look foolish? Does the voice inside your head say things like:
"How can I be so stupid?"
"I guess I am unlovable."
If you relate to these examples of low self-esteem, it's time to ask yourself two important questions:
- Who else has talked to you this way in the past?
- Why are you still listening to them?
Low self-esteem is a widespread problem for children and adults, affecting nearly 85% of the world's population. An impaired self-image can interfere with a person's ability to be happy, healthy, and successful and increase the chance of self-harm.
The good news is that there are mental health professionals, like the ones at Goodman Psychologist Associates, that can help. For example, self-esteem therapy can show how to have healthy self-esteem, why you might have low confidence, and how to have compassion, appreciation, and love for yourself.
What Is Self-Esteem?
Self-esteem is the way a person feels about themselves and defines their value and worth to themselves. Self-esteem is a part of our core belief system: our deep-down feelings about ourselves, others, and the world. Our core beliefs inform our personal values, shape our reality, and greatly influence our decision-making and behaviors. It is the driving force behind most of our thoughts and feelings and affects every aspect of our lives.
A person can have healthy or high self-esteem, an all-encompassing self-esteem struggle, or a mixture of both. For example, you can be confident at work but hesitant in romantic situations. Self-esteem therapy can be beneficial whether your self-image is low all the time or only conditionally.
What Is Resilience?
An important component of self-esteem is resilience. According to the American Psychological Association (APA), "Resilience is the process and outcome of successfully adapting to difficult or challenging life experiences, especially through mental, emotional, and behavioral flexibility and adjustment to external and internal demands." In other words, it's a measure of how you use your inner strength to adapt to the ups and downs of life.
In self-esteem therapy, you can learn to validate yourself, lessening your comparison to other people and raising your self-esteem. You can also understand and remove obstacles that make positive self-esteem difficult and practice coping skills that help heal emotional distress. When you can learn to self-evaluate fairly, you can begin to have a better sense of yourself.
Signs of High Self-Esteem and Resilience
High self-esteem and resilience aren't the same as arrogance. A person with healthy self-esteem and resilience will:
- Be self-aware of their strengths and weakness without judgment.
- Feel optimistic, confident, and capable.
- Have a sense of identity, purpose, and belonging.
- Be able to self-validate.
- Rarely compare themselves to other people.
- Believe they deserve good things like love and accolades.
- Hold themselves accountable.
- Not be devastated by criticism or easily defeated by setbacks.
- Not be overly defensive when questioned.
- Be assertive about their needs.
- Aren't worried about looking foolish or failing.
- Not hypercritical of themselves.
Signs of Low Self-Esteem and Low Resilience
A person with low self-esteem and a lack of resilience may have the following traits:
- Mental health conditions like social and general anxiety, depression
- Give little value to their time, talents, abilities, and worth
- Continual harsh self-criticism, judgments, and a focus on weaknesses
- Feeling overwhelmingly incapable, victimized, self-conscious, or guilty
- Lacking assertion
- An eagerness to please people
- Avoiding challenges
- Feeling unmotivated
- Unhealthy coping mechanisms like risky behaviors and substance abuse
- Missing empathy and compassion for themselves
How Can Self-Esteem Therapy Help?
Emotional health is as important as physical health, and learning to improve your self-esteem is an essential part of both. Counseling and therapy sessions with a trained mental health professional often involve cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and other psychological techniques designed to alter your self-image and provide new ways to think about yourself.
Self-esteem therapy will help you feel more confident, develop a sense of self-worth, be more assertive, discover your needs, and address co-existing mental health conditions. Treatment and counseling can make you feel good about yourself and develop a sense of self-worth by addressing the cause of your low self-esteem, learning to stop negative self-talk, and boosting your resilience and confidence.
Finding the Cause of Low Self-Esteem
Self-esteem issues are often the result of the way people treat you as a child. Children and adolescents are just starting to build their self-image, and their experiences will form core beliefs that determine how they interact with the world.
Psychologytools.com lists past experiences in childhood that can lead to the development of poor self-esteem:
- Punishment, abuse, or neglect. Children are especially prone to believe they are bad and deserve punishment when not raised in a loving, stable, encouraging, and calm environment.
- Insufficient warmth, affection, praise, love, or encouragement. Children who aren't receiving sufficient reinforcement that they are good, loved, wanted, or deserving of having their basic needs met often begin to believe they aren't good enough for anything.
- Failure to meet other people's expectations. You can feel like a failure if you don't meet your parents’ standards or disappoint other authority figures like teachers. It doesn't matter if these expectations are impossible to meet - we still feel bad about ourselves.
- Inability to fit in with your peer group. We can feel left out if we don't like the same hobbies or activities as the rest of our family or friends. When we don't feel like we belong, we absorb into our core belief that we are disappointing, not good enough, or "weird."
Ending Negative Self-Talk
The negative self-talk, harsh criticisms, and cruel judgments we tell ourselves can limit our potential and create an overall negative self-image. Negative self-talk has consequences, like perfectionism, depression, and relationship challenges. A new, fact-based narrative can greatly impact how you feel about yourself.
Build Confidence and Resilience
Self-esteem impacts our resilience. If we think we are worthy of rebounding from adversity, we will try to do it. On the other hand, if we think we are worthless, getting up and brushing traumatic events off will be harder.
Success is a large part of the circular process of building self-esteem. When we experience success of any kind, we grow in self-confidence. As self-confidence grows, we feel empowered to face new challenges. As we succeed in confronting each challenge, we develop the capacity to cope with whatever life throws our way. That feeling leads to further resilience growth. The basic end goal of self-esteem therapy is to build resilience for better self-confidence and strong, positive core beliefs.
You can work on boosting your self-esteem by making small changes like:
- Permitting yourself to celebrate your strengths and achievements.
- Forgiving your mistakes.
- Not dwelling on your weaknesses.
- Trying different ways to talk to yourself - stop putting yourself down.
- Ensuring you are not judging yourself against unreasonable standards.
- Stopping comparisons to others.
You cannot change your past, but you can change how you talk to yourself today. Start by making a long list of all the good things you have ever done. Be mindful of when you say nasty things to yourself - then stop and recite your list of achievements. Remember what Oliver Goldsmith said, "Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall."
If you are suffering from low self-esteem or doubt your ability to handle difficulties, are thinking of self-harm, or need help understanding your worth, remember you are not alone and are valuable. We can help you live a more fulfilled and satisfied life by rebuilding your resilience and self-confidence. Find a therapist, book an appointment, or call 630-377-3535 now.