We live in a world where it is easy to notice the negatives. Whether we are noticing them in other people or ourselves. Over time it can have an affect on our self-esteem and how we see ourselves.
What is low self-esteem?
A low self-esteem means you will have slightly more critical opinions of yourself. Everybody is different. A low self-esteem will be different in each person and each person will have different levels of a low self-esteem.
Below are a few common ways in which a low self-esteem can represent itself in different aspects of our lives.
- Main focus is on mistakes/weaknesses
- Difficulty making decisions
- Avoiding any challenges or opportunities
- Not taking care of yourself
- Avoiding eye contact or shyness
- Difficulty being assertive or speaking out
- Difficulty sleeping
- Worrying or being paranoid about what other people think
- Trying too hard to please others
- Withdrawal from others
What causes low self-esteem?
In our childhood years we form ideas about ourselves based on how others people treat us. Over the years these ideas continue to be shaped by experiences. It is believed that a low self-esteem stems from adverse experiences during childhood but also from bad/traumatic experiences that can occur when we are adults or still children. Some experiences that lead to low self-esteem are;
- Physical/emotional neglect
- Being bullied
- Physical, sexual or emotional abuse
- Excessive criticism
- Parents having unrealistic expectations of us
- Parents having a low self-esteem
- Other traumatic events ( e.g assault, accidents, bereavement)
Bottom Line Beliefs.
Bottom line beliefs are something i learnt in counselling when we were understanding where my low self-esteem comes from. A bottom line belief is believed to be central to self-esteem and these have a underlying influence on our opinions of ourself. For example, thoughts such as “I’m not good enough” or “I’m unloveable” are bottom line beliefs. Now, bottom line beliefs can sometimes be accurate, but they can also be inaccurate, false or outdated. So we could carry a negative belief about ourselves that we formed in childhood, into our adult lives when it isn’t even relevant anymore. When we experience bad things, we tend to form a opinion or several opinions of ourselves and how or why the experience happened to us. Some of these opinions turn into beliefs which then can stay with us for years.
Overly negative bottom line beliefs can lead to us forgetting about the positives such as our strengths, achievements and compliments. These then get replaced with the negatives such as weaknesses, mistakes and criticism.
It’s all about balance. The first step is recognising what is fact and what is fiction. For example, i used to always have thoughts about me not being good enough. This belief came mostly from past relationships. Whenever i doubted myself i used to challenge the thought. If i truly wasn’t good enough would i have a job? Would i have gotten into college? Would i have passed my driving test? If i wasn’t, then maybe not no, but i did. Trust me, it’s hard at first. You’re trying to convince your biggest critic that you are worthy, but after months of practising and challenging it starts to sink in.
Other methods you can use are:
- Activity diary. This might help you to improve your mood and self-esteem through planning your days with satisfying activities. Something for you to look forward to. It can be anything from planning a day out to just taking 5 minutes out to looking after yourself. This is also useful for those who have depression. Having a activity diary can help you plan more exciting activities and make you look forward to your day. It can help you change your perception of your everyday life. To start off with, it’s good to note down your current lifestyle and decide where you would like to improve. It is important to not take on too much too soon!! Its a gradual process.
- Positives notebook. This is something i have. My journal. It’s a place where you can write down anything that made you feel good, smile or made you feel positive. You can write down good deeds that other people have done for your or what you have done for other people. At first it’s quite difficult to notice anything positive, but once i got used to it, i realised my life is actually far less negative than i thought it was!
- Thought record. This will help you become more aware of your thoughts and help you deal with them. It’s good if you want to improve how you feel and want a more realistic view of yourself. If you get quite a few negative thoughts this one may work for you. It’s more about challenging those negative thoughts and figuring out whether they are actually fact or just fiction. So for example with this one, say your boss pointed out your mistakes one day at work. That could lead you to feeling sad, which will then start the negative thoughts such as “I’m not good enough, i can’t do my own job”. But is that really true? Everybody makes mistakes. Making a few mistakes does not mean you aren’t good at your job. If that thought was true, you probably would’ve received a harsher telling off.
I’ve never really been confident. I’ve always had a pretty low self-esteem. My bottom line beliefs of myself were “I’m not good enough”, “I will always fail” and “I’m weak”. These were thoughts i constantly had. They never switched off. So over time, naturally i believed them, but by doing that, i doubted myself and i put myself in the corner. These beliefs stem from different aspects of my life. I didn’t always know where my beliefs developed from, but i realised this year, that over time i was taking the opinions/comments that others had on either myself or others then mixed them all together and the formed a belief. Then, whenever i would doubt myself by thinking about this belief, all of those opinions/comments would come back as well. That’s when i used to hide in my shell. So i had to start challenging them. I had to stop hiding from them! I needed to grab my balls and confront them. It was difficult. Your brain can be your best friend but your worst enemy. When i first started challenging my negative thoughts, i was doubting my positive thoughts, as though they were fake. Yes, that still happens now, but only for a few seconds. I know now, that i am good enough, i will succeed and i am strong. It just takes time. It’s not a over night process.
My counselling this year has made me realise that not all beliefs are facts! I think because i carried these beliefs and thoughts for so long, and they started for me at a young age, i naturally just believed them and believed that they were true. I had to work through my traumas and through my past to realise they were all bullshit! Unnecessary bullshit that i carried around for years. At the end of 2017 i vowed to find my real-self in 2018. Although i don’t feel i am quite there yet, i almost am. I’m more confident, happy and outgoing than what i was just 3 months ago.
Confidence comes from within. Sure other people can make you feel more confident, but you have to believe it and you have to know it! You have to know you are unique. You have to know that there is only one you on this whole god damn planet! OWN IT! Life is way to short to be paranoid or worried about what others think. Have confidence in yourself. Believe in yourself. You are a beautiful flower waiting to bloom.
I have faith in you. You’ve got this.
I’m always here,
With lots of love,