Samantha often finds herself pressured to succumb to the sexual advances of men in fear that she will be rejected if she does not. As a result, she has earned a reputation of promiscuity with which she is extremely frustrated and hurt by.
Alice is convinced that her marriage has no hope. However, aside from her husband and children she feels that she has no purpose in life. Her children do not respect her and her husband often tells her that without him she has nothing.
Jerry has lived in the shadow of his older brother for his entire life. At the age of 18, he is applying for colleges and sees the entire process as an opportunity to win the attention of his parents. He isn’t sure if he would even like to attend college yet and is terrified of failing or being rejected.
DEFINITIONS & KEY THOUGHTS
Self-esteem is a person’s inner sense of worth that enables them to have the resilience and resistance to personal attacks or criticism. Generally, each person has a concept of his or her self-worth (which may be either accurate or inaccurate), and self-esteem is how that person feels about or evaluates that concept.
Having good self-esteem does not necessary entail extreme pride or having an inflated view of one’s importance, but rather an honest and accurate evaluation of oneself. Having low self-esteem, on the other hand, may entail feelings of self-hate, refusal to get close to others, feelings that one is unworthy or undeserving, feelings of incompetence, refusal to trust others, and inability to accept oneself as a unique and special human being.
A person’s self-esteem can be jeopardized when they allow others to assess them or to determine his or her significance and value. Many times, low self-esteem stems from prolonged periods of negative feedback from others. Such feedback can be deeply wounding and painful.
The society that we live in is one that is constantly assessing our value. Whether it be through performance evaluations at work, grades in schools, or evaluations for loans, assessment of one’s value has become a major part of life. Unfortunately, often times such imposition of value is presented as a means to an end. For example if one doesn’t make a certain grade then they won’t pass a class. This type of value imposition is the most detrimental.
There are several things that one must do along the journey to having better self-esteem. They must correct any incorrect beliefs that they may have about their own worth or significance and get over any distortions that they may have regarding their strengths and weaknesses. They should also work on being able to make an honest and accurate assessment of their gifts, potentials, significance, strengths, and weaknesses. They must heal from deep relationship wounds.
When helping an individual with low self-esteem it is important to help them to develop a realistic assessment of their own unique abilities, skills, and character traits; telling them untruths will not be helpful. Last, give them hope and encourage them to see that along the journey to having better self-esteem there may be bumps, but that they should remain patient and not give up. Keep in mind these action steps along your journey to better self-esteem:
- Recognize your value. This does not mean having an inflated ego, but rather a simple understanding of your significance. Think about your talents, abilities, character traits, physical traits, and accomplishments that set you apart from everybody else. Think about your negative qualities and how you can make them positive. Identify the positive people in your life who make you feel good about being you and spend more time with them.
- Stop harmful thought patterns. Identify the thought patterns and any other factors that have stood in the way of you realizing your own true worth. Instead, think back on all of the good things that you have done in your life no matter how small or large they may be. Consider how they may have had a positive influence on the people around you.
- Begin new thought patterns. Counter negative thoughts with honest assessments of your value.
- Be patient. It has taken years of negative thoughts to get you to the place that you are at with your self-esteem. Healing won’t happen overnight; it will require replacing all of your bad habits with good ones and may take awhile until you automatically begin to respond to negative thinking in a proactive way. Don’t get discouraged. Write any of your significant breakthroughs in a journal that you can go to whenever you need reassurance of your progress.