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Self-Confidence / Self-Worth Boost

Hello again, how are you doing? My last blog was about dealing with anxiety - if we do not deal with anxiety or anxious thoughts, or are indeed unable to do so, it often effects our self-confidence and our self-worth, causing us to view and perceive ourselves in a negative way.

We tend to go through life evaluating ourselves and others according to a scale of worth. The concept of self-esteem is the amount of value that we consider we are worth. These values vary from person to person. Whilst we might rate ourselves as being of little value, others might rate us much higher. If we get into the habit of thinking negatively about ourselves or comparing ourselves against others, then low self-esteem, or placing little value on ourselves, is the result.

Low self-esteem can be a result of negative life experiences, particularly when we're young and most vulnerable. These experiences may include being criticised or judged negatively, such as from a parent or school bullies. As adults, abusive relationships and very stressful life events or prolonged anxiety can also cause low self-esteem. See Different Perspectives to learn how past experiences can affect our lives today.

Low self-esteem can stay low, because of our own self-critical thoughts, which can be triggered by criticism, or perceived criticism (even if none is intended, we believe we are being criticised).

How Low Self-Confidence/Worth Affects Us

Low self-esteem can affect how we think, how we feel, both emotionally and physically and how we behave and each of these areas can influence the others. It affects how we think when you have low self-esteem, you often have self-critical thoughts and negative beliefs about yourself and the kind of person you are. You will tend to dismiss positives about yourself and focus on weaknesses and flaws.

Typically, someone with low self-esteem might:

• Think that they are not good enough

• Worry about what others think of them

• Blame themselves for things that aren’t their fault

• Automatically assume that they can’t do things without even trying

• Dwell on criticism and perceived mistakes

It affects how we feel emotionally

If you have a low opinion of yourself and you are constantly putting yourself down, you may begin to feel a range of negative emotions including feeling sad and unhappy, depressed, anxious, guilty, ashamed, frustrated, angry and so on.

It affects how we feel physically

If your emotions are negatively affected by low self-esteem, this may have an impact on how you feel physically. You may notice that you experience uncomfortable bodily sensations such as fatigue, lack of energy, headaches, blushing, and tension, to name a few.

It affects how we behave

Low self-esteem can affect your behaviour and how you act in everyday situations. It can have an impact on how you behave at work, in your relationships and in your leisure time. Some of the typical behaviours of people with low self-esteem include:

• Avoidance – not going out or seeing people

• Avoiding activities that involve being judged e.g. competitive sports

• Working too hard, trying to be perfect in everything they do

• Not engaging in enjoyable activities because they don’t believe that they deserve to relax or enjoy themselves

• Passing up new challenges or opportunities

• Avoiding speaking out

• Not being assertive and expressing their wants, needs and opinions

• Eagerness to please others and gain others’ approval

• Reacting over sensitively

• Constantly seeking reassurance that things are okay

• Being overly apologetic

• Doing things that they don’t agree with or that they don’t want to do

• Taking responsibility/blaming themselves for things that have nothing to do with them or are not their fault

• Comfort eating or closely monitoring weight.

• Body language such as poor posture, lack of eye contact, downturned head and hesitancy may also be a sign that you have low self-esteem.

Self Help For Low Self Esteem

Making Changes

• Doing things differently

• Communicate with others assertively

• Set achievable and realistic goals. When you achieve them, congratulate and treat yourself, and allow others to congratulate you

• Accept compliments - say thank you, and smile

• Act the person you want to be - play the role for long enough and you can become that person

Visualise positive change

• Look after yourself - eat healthily, exercise, do more things you enjoy doing

• Stand, walk and talk confidently

• Change your image - hair, clothes, make-up

• Learn mindfulness

• Take up a new hobby or interest

• Learn a new skill

• Overcome Avoidance

• Reward yourself for achievements and successes - however small

• Thank others - show your appreciation, and others will appreciate you

• Do things for others - help someone out. It makes us feel better about ourselves. Set limits and agree what you will and won't do.

• Write a compassionate letter to yourself

• If you can do something well, let others notice - when they notice your work, so their opinion of you will be raised, which in turn, raises your own self esteem

Thinking differently

STOP! Pause, take a breath

Ask yourself:

What am I reacting to? What have I been thinking about here?

Is this thought: fact or opinion?

Is that "Internal Critic" operating again?

There's that parrot again! I don't have to listen to it.

Thoughts are just thoughts!

Am I getting things out of proportion?

How important is this really? How important will it be in 6 months’ time?

Am I expecting something from myself that is unrealistic?

What's the worst (and best) that could happen? What's most likely to happen?

Am I using that negative filter? Those gloomy specs? Is there another way of looking at it?

What would I think about someone else in this situation? What would I say to a friend?

Am I spending time ruminating about the past or worrying about the future? What could I do right now that would help me feel better?

Am I putting more pressure on myself, setting up expectations of myself that are almost impossible? What would be more realistic?

Am I jumping to conclusions about what this person meant? Am I miss-reading between the lines? Is it possible that they didn't mean that?

What do I want or need from this person or situation? What do they want or need from me? Is there a compromise? How could I act in a way that was more effective or helpful?

Am I just focusing on the worst possible thing that could happen? What would be more realistic?

Am I focusing on the negative, putting myself down? What would be more realistic?

Is there another way of looking at this?

Am I exaggerating the good aspects of others, and putting myself down? Or am I exaggerating the negative and minimising the positives? How would someone else see it? What’s the bigger picture or the Helicopter view?

Things aren’t either totally white or totally black - there are shades of grey. Where is this on the spectrum?

This is just a reminder of the past. That was then, and this is now. Even though this memory makes me feel upset, it’s not actually happening again right now.

What would be the consequences of doing what I normally do?

Is there another way of dealing with this? What would be the most helpful and effective action to take? (for me, for the situation, for the other person)

Be compassionate with yourself - just as you might be with someone else

What would a caring friend say to me in this situation?

What is a kind and constructive way to think about how I can improve this situation?

Whoever said human beings are supposed to be perfect?

Would a caring mother say this to her child is she wanted the child to grow and develop?

How will I learn if it's not okay to make mistakes?

Acknowledge your strengths - start by writing out a list of things you're good at, or what others have or do say about you.

Build a compassionate image

• If you want to boost your self-esteem it is important to start noticing and acknowledging your positive qualities.

• Keep a diary or journal of your positive qualities and set aside time to complete it.

• Each day, or whenever you begin to feel down about yourself, read over your list and remind yourself of your positive qualities.

• Deal with any self-critical thoughts by challenging them.

One way of doing this is keeping track of past experiences – times when you did well, times when you did less well, what you have tried and how you got on.

It is important to be realistic about your progress. It will take time to increase your self-esteem and to notice changes in it. Things will not run smoothly all of the time. You may find yourself in a muddle and face some setbacks; this is to be expected and they can teach you about what you can do differently next time.

Improving your self-esteem should be seen as a long-term goal. It will take practice and effort over time. You may well face setbacks and have bad days, but you can try to accept these as normal and learn from them to keep you moving forwards.

If you would like to discuss your difficulties with me regarding self-confidence and/or self-worth, please get in touch with me on the contact page of this website.

Eveline Houiellebecq

Therapeutic Counsellor

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