Are you struggling with low self-esteem? You can harness the power of your mind to transform how you feel about yourself. Start with these four steps to a healthier self-esteem.
How you feel about yourself affects every aspect of your life, including your relationships, your job and even your health. But you can take steps to increase your self-esteem, even if you’ve been entertaining a poor opinion of yourself since childhood. Start with these four steps.
Step 1: Identify troublesome conditions or situations
Think about the conditions or situations that seem to collapse your self-esteem. Some common triggers might include:
- A business presentation
- A crisis at work or home
- A challenge with a spouse, loved one, co-worker or other close contact
- A change in life circumstances, such as a job loss or a child leaving home
Step 2: Become aware of thoughts and beliefs
Once you’ve identified troubling conditions or situations, notice your thoughts/feelings about them. This includes your internal dialogue – what you tell yourself – and your interpretation of what the situation means (your meaning frames). Your thoughts and beliefs might be resourceful, non- resourceful or neutral. They might be rational, based on reason or facts, or irrational, based on false ideas. Observe them all.
Step 3: Challenge limiting or inaccurate thinking
Your initial thoughts are probably not the only possible way to view the situation – so test the accuracy of your thoughts. Ask yourself whether your view is consistent with facts and logic. Ask, what other explanations might be plausible.
Be aware that it’s a challenge in itself to recognize unresourceful thinking. We all have automatic, habituated, long-standing ways of thinking about our lives and ourselves. These long-held scripts, thoughts and beliefs feel normal and factual, and many are actually just opinions or perceptions.
Also pay attention to thought patterns that tend to erode self-esteem:
- All-or-nothing thinking. You see things as either all good or all bad. For example, “If I don’t succeed in this task, I’m a total failure.”
- Mental filtering. You see only negatives and dwell on them, distorting your view of a person or situation. For example, “I made a mistake on that report and now everyone will realize I’m not up to this job.”
- Converting positives into negatives. You reject your achievements and other positive experiences by insisting that they don’t count. For example, “I only did well on that test because it was so easy.”
- Jumping to negative conclusions. You reach a negative conclusion when little or no evidence supports it. For example, “My friend hasn’t replied to my email, so I must have done something to make her angry.”
- Mistaking feelings for facts. You confuse feelings or beliefs with facts. For example, “I feel like a failure, so I must be a failure.”
- Self put-downs. You undervalue yourself, put yourself down or use self-deprecating humor. This can result from overreacting to a situation, such as making a mistake. For example, “I don’t deserve anything better.”
Is any of this really true?
Step 4: Change your mind… Adjust your thoughts and beliefs
Now replace unresourceful or inaccurate thoughts with accurate, constructive thoughts. Try these strategies:
- Use hopeful statements. Treat yourself with kindness and encouragement. Pessimism can be a self-fulfilling prophecy. For example, if you think your presentation isn’t going to go well, you might indeed stumble through it. Try telling yourself things such as, “Even though it’s tough, I can handle this situation.”
- Forgive yourself. Everyone makes mistakes – and mistakes aren’t permanent reflections on you as a person. They’re isolated moments in time. Tell yourself, “I made a mistake, but that doesn’t make me a bad person.”
- Avoid ‘shoulding’ on yourself and others. If you find that your thoughts are full of these words, you might be putting unreasonable demands on yourself – or on others. Removing these words from your thoughts can lead to more realistic expectations.
- Focus on the positive. Think about the good parts of your life. Remind yourself of things that have gone well recently. Consider the skills you’ve used to cope with challenging situations.
- Reframe upsetting thoughts. You don’t need to react negatively to negative thoughts. Instead, think of these thoughts as signals to shift to new, healthy patterns. Ask yourself, “What can I think and do to make this less stressful?”
- Encourage yourself. Give yourself credit for making positive changes. For example, “My presentation might not have been perfect, but my colleagues asked questions and remained engaged – which means that I accomplished my goal.”
These steps might seem awkward at first, but they’ll get easier with practice. As you begin to recognize the thoughts and beliefs that are contributing to your low self-esteem, you can actively counter them – which will help you accept your value as a person. As your self-esteem increases, your confidence and sense of well-being are likely to soar.
Be transformed by renewing your mind!
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