Emotional Wellbeing

Inspiration

Mandy Kloppers

What is healthy self esteem?

We all tend to place a value on ourselves. Some of us quite like who we are and some of us tend to engage in far more self loathing. I am used to seeing clients feel very uncomfortable receiving a compliment. Why is it that we find it so hard to like and accept ourselves? After all, we have to make the most of who we are as this is what we have to work with for the rest of our lives. We can’t go to the shop and ask for a newer model. So what does it take to have healthy self esteem?

For one thing, self acceptance and liking yourself is a very different concept from thinking you are superior to others. Many people struggle with low self esteem and the main reasons for this are:

  1. Negative messages during childhood eg. you aren’t doing this right, can’t you ever get anything right?, you are fat, lazy etc
  2. Comparing ourselves to others
  3. Buying into the perfection the media show us on a daily basis
  4. Negative beliefs about ourselves (often from childhood)

Healthy self esteem is about thinking about ourselves in a balanced way. It’s okay to acknowledge our weaknesses as no one is perfect but instead of negative self talk (eg I am ugly; I am worthless; I am not good enough), we can say to ourselves: “I may not be perfect but no one is; we all make mistakes.

What we need to accept is that we aren’t perfect but that we can always strive to improve and understand ourselves better. We can recognise our strengths too. Having healthy self esteem doesn’t mean you will never think another negative thought about yourself, it means that you can come up with a rational alternative for a negative thought. If you have done some work on your self esteem, then the situations that are risky for you will be less frequent than before. This means it will take a lot more to ‘set off’ your low self esteem and insecurities.

How to improve your self esteem:

  1. Engage in positive self talk

Speak to yourself as you would a best friend. Never criticise yourself or call yourself names.

2. Challenge old beliefs about yourself that may no longer be valid

Sometimes our parents and significant authority figures in our lives when we are growing up make the mistake of criticising us. We can internalise these negative messages and begin to believe them. These beliefs can be updated and challenged by looking at the source. We are a lot more open to believing others when we are young but as we grow older we can decide whether these negative messages still hold true for us. Normally you will find that they no longer apply and it can also start a process of seeing that our parents have their own issues too and that their negative messages say more about them and their outlook than our actual worth as a person.

3. Focus on your strengths and minimise weaknesses

Acknowledge weaknesses but focus on what you do well.

4. Nurture self belief

Others don’t always know best. Most of us are trying to get through life as best we can – we are all trying to make sense of things. You have as much chance to be seen as an equal when it comes to value. Self belief can take you far in life – make sure you believe in yourself. You can’t afford not to.

Healthy self esteem takes work as we are regularly confronted with situations that bring out our insecurities but we can watch our thoughts and protect how we view ourselves by dismissing the negative thoughts. They are just that – thoughts NOT facts.

Mandy X