“Remember, you have been criticizing yourself for years and it hasn’t worked. Try approving of yourself and see what happens.” — Louise L. Hay
Low self-esteem arises when we’re most vulnerable. Verbal cues are learned at a tender age and last well into a person’s adult life.
During these formative years, the child’s mind is impressionable. If subjected to emotional abuse, they’re likely to assume this role as their main identity.
Life is challenging and being exposed to criticism makes it unbearable, especially when one is in a state of anguish.
We’re unaware of what’s lurking beneath the surface of another person until it’s too late. We’re only exposed to their façade, so it makes sense we treat everyone with humility and respect.
According to Freud, The Iceberg Personality Principle states that 90% of a person’s constitution lies beneath the surface. Therefore, what takes place behind the scenes of others is beyond our awareness.
“Self-esteem is a concept developed by American psychologists to measure self-worthiness. Thus, we can conceive worthiness as the temperature and self-esteem as the thermometer,” states author Mario Martinez in, The MindBody Code: How to Change the Beliefs that Limit Your Health, Longevity, and Success.
The following principles should strengthen your self-esteem. We must embody them at a deeper level, past the conscious mind for it to be of any use.
As you carry them out, your wholeness will emerge beneath the rubble of a fragmented past. This is the essence of who you are and your low self-worth is merely a story you adopted against your better judgement.
You are not defined by your thoughts, your beliefs or values. These are qualities you possess and are changeable with time.
Self-acceptance means to embrace who you are, replete with your flaws and insecurities. There are two sides to your nature, so you cannot be imperfect. To draw attention to your inadequacies awards them energy and plays down other significant aspects of your character. Think of it akin to pain in the body. When you have a headache, your awareness is directed to the pain in your head. You are less aware of other body areas because of the intense pressure that commands your attention.
Similarly, to focus on your imperfections is to draw awareness to those areas while downplaying other enduring qualities. Despite low self-esteem, there’s equal balance in your ability to empathise with others. Harmony is upheld through other traits, but when we focus on the lesser ones, we weaken others.
- Reinforce Your Self-Belief
Self-belief is a muscle that requires constant reinforcement. Those with an empowered self-worth attribute it to a strong self-belief. They’re aware of destructive thought patterns and on the occasion negative self-talk emerges, they avoid engaging with them.
Look for evidence in the past where you’ve excelled. Develop an inner dialogue of kindness and empathy. You’ve heard the expression, become your best friend. Treat yourself as you would a family member or a loved one. Current research in self-compassion shows we’re more likely to be happy and fulfilled if we nurture ourselves, instead of treating ourselves unkindly.
“You can learn to trust that there is a sane, wise, and nurturant resource within you. In fact, the more you know what you really want, the less desperately you need it. This happens because your self-esteem, confidence, and clarity grow,” affirms psychotherapist David Richo in, The Five Things We Cannot Change: And the Happiness We Find by Embracing Them.
“The worst loneliness is to not be comfortable with yourself.” — Mark Twain
- Focus On The Present
Move your attention out of the past and refuse to focus on prior failures and mistakes. When you’re stuck in the past, you bring unhappy memories into the present moment. Come back to your present experience by staying engaged in your current surroundings. The past is a figment of your imagination because there’s no evidence to suggest it exists now.
If I asked you to show me your memories, you would be hard-pressed to do so. Instruct your mind to stay present when it stumbles into the past. Take regular walks in nature and observe your surroundings. Note the colour of the trees, the grass or something that grabs your attention. It might be momentary, yet it engages you in a present state of awareness.
- Undertake Self-Improvement
Self-improvement helps you reframe failure by seeing it through the eyes of opportunity. You realise there are no mistakes, only ways to evolve. Together with mindfulness, self-improvement is a means for you to mature into a greater version of yourself. We’re constantly evolving, so who you were a year ago is not the same person you are today.
Your thoughts, attitudes and beliefs change, so you need to renew your commitment to self-development every day. Consider it taking care of your mind as you would your body. It requires work and discipline to become a person of character, so don’t take short-cuts or assume it’s not important. I assure you, if you don’t invest in yourself, you’ll see the consequences when life falls apart.
- Develop Mindfulness
Be aware of your predominant thoughts by noting their themes and cycles. For example, are they self-sabotaging, negative or neutral? Reframe such thoughts as they arise and refuse to accept them as real. Thoughts are meaningless conversations that take place in the mind. You needn’t pay attention to the incessant chatter because the cycle of thoughts come and go.
To identify with thought forms is futile because your mind is an ever-changing oasis. Focus on the silent gaps in between your thoughts through meditation. As you become acquainted with this practice, you synchronise your thoughts with your breathing. This allows the mind and body to harmonise with one another, creating a peaceful physical state.
- Create Empowering Beliefs
Examine any outdated beliefs and be willing to write a new script to enhance your self-esteem. Beliefs are formed long ago and may no longer be relevant, so revise them often.
Empowered individuals constantly review their beliefs and challenge their thoughts. They refuse to be drawn in to the inner dialogue taking place in their mind since they recognise it’s a battle they seldom win.
The process of enhancing self-esteem can be a slow, yet fulfilling journey. It may take years to become a person of strong character, so don’t be dissuaded by that. An aeroplane can go no faster to arrive at its destination. Wishing for more self-esteem without doing the work, will not draw you closer to the person you wish to become.
Be kind and gentle with yourself as you increase your self-esteem. Observe and make incremental changes when things don’t go as planned. This is a learning and discovery process as it is about self-development.
Author Guy Winch states in Emotional First Aid: Practical Strategies for Treating Failure, Rejection, Guilt, and Other Everyday Psychological Injuries, “Failure has an even greater impact on our self-esteem. Many of us respond to failures by drawing damaging conclusions about our character and abilities that seem incredibly compelling to us at the time even when they have no merit whatsoever.”
Instead of judging yourself, pay attention to what is taking place in your life. Avoid labelling thoughts since this has a negative effect on self-esteem.
View yourself through the eyes of equanimity and self-compassion, instead of criticism and guilt.
Afterall, you’re learning to develop a new inner dialogue that may have taken years to build, so be gentle with the process. The changes are subtle at first, but more concrete over time.
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