Ah, yes, self-esteem, the real “S” word! The problem of low self-esteem is the number one issue I have to deal with time and time again in my psychotherapy practice. “Robert, I don’t feel good enough about myself.” “I don’t like me enough.” Even Groucho Marx said this famous self-effacing statement, although in jest: “I would never belong to a club that would have me as a member.” (He also said, “Now there’s a man with an open mind – you can feel the breeze from here!” A little levity never hurts, right?)
But back to the subject of this blog. Without good self-esteem, how can our love relationships be successful and long-lasting? In two simple words, they can’t. Because self-esteem is such a personal, “inner” kind of thing, and a true reflection of our inner world, we have to get that part of ourselves together – at least to a “good enough” level before we can even enter into or succeed in any promising relationship!
I’m always hearing this from my clients, too: “What practical kinds of things can I do to feel more confident about myself?” “How do I actually raise my self-esteem?” Well, besides the usual tips, eating better, exercising, and getting enough sleep, let me give a few more suggestions for raising self-esteem or to help you maintain the good self-worth that you may already possess:
1) Learn to Trust Yourself More.
Somewhere along the line, we’ve all made mistakes or been subjected to another’s unhealthy influences. To really ramp up that self-esteem, you may have to learn to trust yourself and the universe all over again. Self-trust empowers, helps with communication, (you may even become less defensive!), and usually leads to more thoughtfulness. This way of thinking and acting will help you to keep a positive perspective on reality, which, in turn, will help you to feel even better about yourself, as you courageously navigate through the often rough waters of life.
2) Openly Express Your Wants and Needs – Practice Assertiveness!
Are you out of touch with what you really want and need for yourself? Do you always go without? Do others take advantage of you? Do you routinely feel unsatisfied or “less than”, like you just don’t count or measure up? Well, if we don’t or can’t express our personal preferences openly, then our self-esteem plummets, and we feel lousy about ourselves. When that happens, others may freely use and abuse us, leaving you hurt, abandoned, or mad as hell. So we have to speak up (respectfully, of course), and let others know what’s important to us – that we have rights just because we’re human. That means you have a basic right to be respected!
3) Stop Blaming Others & Playing the Victim – Adopt Self-Responsibility!
How many times have you heard these sorry statements? “Look what they did to me!” “It’s all their fault!” “This is why I’m such mess!” It’s the classic “blame game”, in full, self-defeating bloom. We all do it at times; we blame others for our problems which has the ultimate effect of blowing away our confidence, our valuable self-esteem. If you’re in the habit of playing the blame game, knock it off already and always take responsibility for your thoughts, feelings, words, and ultimately, your actions.
4) Keep Your Self-Talk Positive!
Have you ever heard of “the committee”; those judging voices in your head that cause you to fear, despair, doubt, and even self-loathe? When we listen too much to those voices, (how they got there is another story), we start to lose our sense of self, and eventually, our self-esteem. Remember, self-esteem is all about self-empowerment, confidence, and the personal ownership of inner strength. So, how do we get those negative messages, those endlessly looping tapes, out of our psyches, once and for all? Well, first, we have to acknowledge that they’re in there and that we’re conscious of these self-destructive messages. Next, we have to interrupt the negativity by replacing and overriding all this self-critical “stuff” with more positive thoughts. That’s where the techniques of positive affirmations and thought-stopping comes in. (There’s lots of books about these behavioral techniques to help you.) So try positivity; you may just like it! Better yet, you can embrace it! Or even live it!
5) Find Meaning in Your Life!
When people have a sense of purpose, a clear focus and direction in their lives, an almost magical potential opens up like the glorious parting of the Red Sea; things start to happen – and usually for the better. For some, building a business, a house, a family, scaling a mountain, or starting a romance, is enough to get things really moving in their lives. For others, just being a living, breathing human being, gives them the feeling that anything is possible. So, what’s your passion? What gets you out of bed in the morning? Where has the search for meaning taken you in your life up until now? Are you satisfied with your efforts? Is there more to be done? Truth be told, you have the potential to create, to mold your life into anything you want – if you find that inspiration, that “something” that gives ultimate significance to your life. If you’ve already found your meaningful “meaning”, that’s great. If not, keep searching – the rewards are amazing!
6) Lighten Up!
Remember that old fast food jingle, “You deserve a break today, at McDonalds”? (Give it up for genetically modified food! Catchy tune, though.) It’s really an affirmation; a positive message to yourself. Now you can joyfully embrace your inner and outer beauty without all those stifling negative self-judgments. Just because an abusing parent called you an ugly, worthless so-and-so doesn’t mean you have to believe it! So you weigh more than the models in those hip jeans commercials! So what? Those corporations want you to believe that you are lacking – that you’re not good enough or even deserve happiness on your own terms! Bulletin: You’re not a kid anymore; you’re a free-thinking adult. You can set your own standards for beauty and enjoyment regardless of what anybody thinks or says. True self-esteem, true self-acceptance, is about honoring your uniqueness and reveling in it! I like to say, there’s nobody exactly like you, and there never will be anyone exactly like you. You have your own personal path in life, so celebrate, and allow yourself to laugh and have fun. Lighten up, because if you do, your self-esteem will shoot up like fireworks in July!
Wow! That’s good stuff, you say. But it’s also easier said than done, right? True. Then again, Rome and high self-esteem weren’t built in a day – it’s a process. So how do you really learn to do all the good things listed above? Well, you can take a risk, even when you’re frightened, and gradually begin to take the necessary steps to increased self-worth. (Remember Susan Jeffers groundbreaking book, “Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway”?) Or, you can also ask for support and assistance, always a good thing for feelings of self-worth, (contrary to popular belief). You may need professional help or therapeutic groups to really elevate your self-esteem. However you make it happen, make it happen!
So unabashedly take those steps; take those next appropriate actions to increase your self-esteem. You’re not only capable of doing so, but you deserve it, and you’ll love yourself for it! And love is what fuels great self-esteem, not to mention great relationships!