Updated: Jun 8
So what is self-esteem?
Well let’s just cover what it’s not.
Self-esteem isn’t self-confidence.
Self-confidence is believing in our competence and our ability to do something, whereas self-esteem is believing in our goodness as a person and how we value and perceive ourselves.
It's based on our self opinions and it’s crucial to how much or how little we enjoy our life and it’s so important that we learn ways to value ourselves and build our self-esteem so that we can be really happy.
What causes poor self-esteem is the way we talk to ourselves. Most of us who suffer from poor self-esteem are very self-critical people. For me I used to go over and over in my mind all the things that I thought were wrong with me. That little voice in the head chipping away trying to knock me down.
This voice is hyper critical and judgmental which frequently finds faults in our actions and thoughts and frequently blames our self and others for the way life has turned out.
If our self-esteem is very low the chances are that this has been going on for sometime, this voice has been pounding on us like a sledgehammer on a rock day in day out.
How to increase your self-esteem
So the way to increase self-esteem is two fold. The first is to stop the internal critical voice acting like a sledgehammer. And then the second part is to recover the part of us that wants to be happy.
Identify the critical voice
So let's start off with identifying this in critical voice. And it can take a while to identify it because we become so comfortable with negative thoughts that we don't see how self-critical we are being.
Even when other people point out that self-criticism, it can seem confusing, or very subtle and difficult to detect. That criticism will also tell us that we can never escape it, making it a powerful sabotaging voice.
We need to stop this critical voice as soon as possible and here is how to do it. It is a three-step process:
1. Identify it
So identifying it can be the hardest bits because we are so used to hearing it that it's become a part of us. So how we do it is when our self-esteem feels very low, write down the messages that critical voice is giving us?
Here's an example, if we feel lonely, that voice will be telling us that people don't want to see us because we aren't worth it. Or that we aren't a good enough person to have friends. Or we are so rubbish we deserve to be on our own. Right now all we have to do is identify that voice and identify it every time we feel low.
2. Challenge it
Once we've started to identify that critical voice, we can begin to challenge it. We weren't born with that critical voice, so it's come from someone else. Whether it was a parent or a teacher or sibling it doesn't matter. What does matter is that we stop believing what it's telling us because what it's telling us is not true. That's all we need to do. We just need to know that voice is untrue.
3. Change it
Once we've begun to challenge that voice we can begin to change it. So instead of hearing we are not worth it, we can start to tell ourselves:
We are worth it.
We are worth being valued
We have a right to be happy
We are allowed to enjoy life
We have a right to be treated well
And to be respected
The challenge for you is to do this three-step exercise until you start to feel different and you will feel the difference if you do this for 21 days.
Recover the part of us that wants to be happy
The second part to increasing self-esteem is to pay attention to the part of us that has been criticized and bullied for so long. This part of us is a childlike and vulnerable that special part that needs our Focus and love and attention now more than ever.
By focusing on this part of us, we are able to reconnect to that beautiful soft side of us to help build us back up into confidant happy people.
This inner part of us has been in hiding for as long as we've been criticizing him or her. It will take time to discover this part of us but it is a wonderful journey to undercover our true self so that we can be a part of everyday life again.
So there are three ways that we uncover this hidden part of ourselves.
1. Write to ourselves and what I mean by this is we take a notebook, and if we are right-handed, we take a pen in the left-hand and on the left-hand page of the notebook we write out how we are feeling and what we want.
Because this part of us is young, childlike and quite fragile, the writing will reflect this and may sound like a child talking. This is perfectly normal. On the right hand side of the notebook we then talk from an adult perspective and we can respond to everything that has been asked.
For example the left-hand page may read I am sad and lonely and on the right we can respond to that with more adults perspective, which could be, I'm sorry to hear you feel that way but I am here to listen. Or whatever feels good. Of course if you are left handed, you flip the left and right.
This exercise is great to do every day for 21 days. This build up a picture of the part of us we have ignored for so long.
2. Feel our feelings. Whatever we feel is right for us at this moment. Whether we feel angry, sad, disappointed, loving, frustrated, judgmental, creative, joyous, our feelings are never wrong.
Opening up to our feelings can seem scary because we may have been numb for a long time in order to survive our self-criticism.
However we will begin to trust our feelings and that will become normal. But we can learn to acknowledge all of our feelings without putting any limits on how much we allow ourselves to feel.
Whatever comes up for us in the moment is okay. We can learn not to pretend we're fine when we're not. Claiming true feelings will then become a basic need for us. We will no longer let others try and shut us down if they feel uncomfortable.
Every day we can allow our feelings to safely wash over us and this will give us the strength to be our true self.
Related: What Depression Can Cause
3. Create positive affirmations. This is a wonderful way of creating a loving self-image and finally appreciating those wonderful things about us.
We notice we feel kinder towards ourselves - and others - once we start doing this work. So every day for 21 days we go to a mirror, we look at ourselves in the eye and we tell ourselves these things:
I am beautiful and I am lovable
I am kind and loving
I have so much to share with other people
I am talented, intelligent and creative
I love my body
I am growing more and more attractive everyday
I have so much to offer and everyone recognizes it
I am willing to be happy and successful
I deserve the very best life has to offer
I love and accept myself completely as I am
I don't have to try to please anybody else
I like myself and that's what matters
I love the world and the world loves me
I am willing to be happy and successful.
You can come to this part of the audio and just listen to me repeat these affirmations to you.
Or sometimes it's useful to say these affirmations by addressing yourself in the second person.
For example, Alex you are so loving and warm and people really appreciate that about you. Alex you are a very interesting person and I like what you have to say very much.
Either of these will work. What is important is you do these everyday to 21 days
The thing about building self-esteem is that it’s actually very simple but it can be a challenge to implement because we have been so used to putting ourselves down.
But now you have two exercises with six different tools to do every day for 21 days and whenever you need afterwards to start making the shift from self-criticism to self-love. These tools will help build your self-esteem and get your life back on track.
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