How to Improve Your Self-Esteem

How to Improve Your Self Esteem

A lack of self-esteem can seriously reduce your pleasure in life. People with low self-esteem tend to avoid demanding, well-paid careers out of a fear of failure. They also tend to avoid relationships, assuming that no-one could possibly like them enough to spend their lives with them. Even when they do find themselves in a good and loving relationship they often undermine their partnership through their jealousy and neediness. But many less obvious problems also frequently have their roots in low self-esteem: domestic violence, alcoholism, drug abuse, even poor academic achievement.

But what is self-esteem? It is certainly not a sense of superiority. People who appear arrogant or who seem to think themselves superior to others, people who bully and boast, are very often reacting to their own poor self-esteem by acting the part of someone with lots of confidence. Symptoms of low self-esteem include an absurdly contemptuous attitude towards others, a need to prove yourself, a reluctance to expose yourself to failure and a refusal to accept responsibility when you do fail.

People with healthy self-esteem tend to possess two beliefs about themselves. First, they feel a deep, inner sense of worthiness. They have a sense of entitlement to their existence and presence in the world. People without self-esteem often lack this. They feel unworthy of any happiness or pleasure that comes their way and frequently sabotage it when it does. The second belief that people with good self-esteem tend to possess is a belief in their own competence. People with healthy self-esteem feel able to cope with the basic challenges of life. They believe, deep down, that they are coping and will always be able to cope with such things as relationships, children, financial problems, difficulties at work, bereavement and so on. Those with strong self-esteem do not fear life.

The obvious question is how are you to achieve such feelings of worthiness and competence? Any attempt to build self-esteem must be grounded in reality. It is no good telling yourself you are physically beautiful or a brilliant poet if you are not. Self-esteem that is grounded in self-delusion merely leads to unnatural, artificial and inflated egotism.

The first step is to look honestly at how you feel about yourself and to uncover any deep feelings of inferiority. If you feel inferior about the way you look, or your level of intelligence, or how popular you are, you must face these feelings honestly and then try to rationalize them. You must accept that no-one is perfect and that everyone has a superior. Everyone is disliked by someone (even if only for being too perfect!) and everyone fails at some point. There has never been an individual who was the best at everything and liked by everyone. The key to self-esteem is individualism. Recognize that you are an individual and concentrate upon fulfilling what is best in your own nature rather than comparing yourself with, and competing with, others.

At the heart of poor self-esteem are negative thought patterns. All negative beliefs about yourself are your opinions and your interpretations. Opinions and interpretations are not facts. They are based upon a limited amount of experience. It is crucial to cultivate a detached awareness of these patterns of thought and to observe your mind torturing itself with the same old extremist thoughts: "no-one ever likes me", or "I fail at everything". Replace these extreme thoughts with realistic ones. Perhaps some people dislike you sometimes. Perhaps that is because you are sometimes moody or irritable. Perhaps you sometimes fail at some things, but so does everyone.

Self-esteem is often confused with egotism. But arrogance and low self-esteem are both based upon extreme and unrealistic views of yourself and your life. You are an individual. Recognize and celebrate this and take pride in being unique. But root this pride in moderation and realism.

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