“I am afraid to show you who I really am, because if I show you who I really am, you might not like it – and that’s all I got.” Sabrina Ward Harrison
There was a time when people would suggest that to boost your self-esteem you should look in the mirror and tell yourself repeatedly that you are special. It is now thought that this advice was unhelpful and could, indeed, be damaging by setting you up for disappointment when the ups and downs of the real world step in, causing feelings of disillusionment which could lead to a sense of low self-esteem and potentially unhealthy behaviour.
Within resiliency, self-esteem is based upon identifying your strengths, valuing your accomplishments, ensuring you believe in your capacity to bounce back and an understanding of how you overcome the stresses which inevitably occur in your life.
Everyone is different but there are several areas where we derive our self-esteem. These include –
Competence, Educational Ability, Honesty, Humour, Independence, Family Support, Flexibility, Physical Attractiveness, Positive Relationships, Previous Successes and Spirituality.
When considering the above list a highly resilient person will be able to identify a range of areas from which they gain their self-esteem. Conversely, if someone receives their self-esteem from only a couple of areas they are leaving themselves vulnerable to experiencing low self-esteem. Take the example of Susan who has a long-term boss who has always praised her work. When asked, Susan feels her self-esteem is built solely on previous workplace successes and feelings of competence relating to her job role. If Susan’s boss was to leave and her new boss did not hold the same opinions relating to Susan’s competency and therefore stopped praising her work, it would not be long before Susan’s self-esteem plummeted. So it is important to look at ourselves from many different angles and consider our strengths in a wide range of areas.
Sadly, we live in a culture where we are more likely to consider what is wrong with ourselves, our significant others, our home, our financial circumstances and the life we lead rather than what is right about each of these areas. So we need to re-train our thinking to find, apply and practice our strengths rather than obsessively trying to correct our weaknesses.
Here are some tips which may help to improve your self-esteem:
1. Make a list of your good qualities, re-read that list regularly and believe in it.
2. Be kind to yourself and make sure you take some time out for yourself; see our related article “Is self-care an indulgence or an essential part of becoming resilient”.
3. Try not to be negative, everyone has their problems and although your support network will listen to yours, going on about them can lead you to become isolated if they are your only topic of conversation.
4. Give praise where it’s due and mention your successes to others. No-one likes a show off but mentioning a success to a friend and patting yourself on the back will boost your morale.
5. As well as inwardly praising yourself for a job well done, give yourself a treat. It can be as simple as a cup of tea at a favourite café but ensure you celebrate your successes.
6. Stand up for yourself and do what you believe in rather than following others and doing what you feel others expect.
This is one of a series of articles on aspects of resilience. You can access them all from this post Resilience Skills: An A-Z of definitions of the terms used.
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