I see many people in my consulting room who are suffering from the effects of low self esteem, in one way or another. Some have spent most of their lives struggling with the way they feel about themselves, others have been through difficult relationships or other life events that have knocked their confidence and damaged their self esteem. When self esteem is low it can affect everything about our lives, in particular our relationships, work and social life. People with low self esteem are also prone to having negative patterns in their close relationships and are more likely to pair with unsuitable partners.
It can be a difficult, and sometimes a long, road to improved self esteem, but it is so worthwhile. Building self esteem starts with learning to recognise and accept patterns of behaviour that are – or have become – unhelpful. Persistent negative thinking and negative beliefs can be tackled through counselling, as can the identification of destructive patterns. A therapist can provide positive support whilst going through the process of changing sometimes deeply ingrained patterns of belief and behaviour. The process can be emotional, but is often extremely liberating.
A recent client of mine achieved amazing and positive change, following the effects of an unhealthy long term relationship. She was able to find herself again, and build up the strength to cope with the ongoing repercussions of her former situation. Most of all she was able to be happy with herself and her life again. I was delighted for her and asked her what advice she would give to others who need to rebuild their self esteem. Her responses were so simple yet extremely insightful and helpful, so I asked for her permission to share them anonymously on my blog. She has agreed, so here is her advice:
- Do things that make you happy
- Do something for yourself every day
- Learn what your preferences are and express them
- Remember what you used to enjoy doing – do it again
- Pick up things again that you’ve previously abandoned
- Try everything
- Accept invitations to do new things
- Build new support networks in new places and by doing new things
- Broaden your horizons and step outside your comfort zone
I totally agree with my client that the above steps can lead those coping with poor self esteem towards improving the ways that they think and feel and maybe even find themselves again. I would add a few of my own suggestions, especially for those with very low self esteem:
- Learn to speak kindly to and about yourself, especially in your ‘self talk’
- Learn to be assertive and to stick up for your rights
- Look after your physical health: eat a balanced diet, exercise regularly and get enough sleep
- Learn to be comfortable with your own company – spend quality time alone, doing things you enjoy
- Find a therapist/counsellor that you feel happy with to work through your self esteem issues and tackle negative patterns
Improving one’s self esteem is a valuable gift that we can all learn to give ourselves, and that can lead to a happier, healthier life.