- Personal Health Information & Self-Help
How to Deal with Low Self-Esteem
Self-Esteem is so cliche!
The word "self-esteem" has been overused and repeated endlessly in campaigns specifically to help our youth with their education and success. If you are an adult, you may just breeze over the phrase and think, "I don't need to read about self-esteem. I get it, I have it, and if I don't, I'll just figure it out myself." If that is what you are thinking, I challenge you to keep reading. You may just discover something about yourself that you didn't know before!
How would you rate your self esteem?
Most of us fall on one extreme or the other- "My self-esteem is fine!" or "I suck at everything, including how to measure my own self-esteem." So first things first; how do you perceive your own sense of worth and self-confidence?
Before getting into the meat of this article, I would like you to rate your self-esteem.
Answer the following questions...
So now, we are going to take an assessment quiz. Answer the questions as honestly as you can. Obviously, the test is simplified from real life, so just choose the option that is closest to how you have reacted in the past.
1. How did you react the first time you were reprimanded on the job or at an important function where you had some responsibility?
0- I was upset for days, obsessing about what I could have done differently (whether by talking about it to lots of people or stewing alone). Other people noticed how depressed I was.
3- I was upset, but dealt with it by asking for advice about next time. Within a day, I was back to normal.
5- I didn't really care since the boss is a jerk and didn't see the whole picture.
2. After a party (where you didn't know many people), do you:
0- Analyze every word you spoke, your outfit, how well you fit in, or what people thought?
3- Think about the evening and try to remember what people you were excited to meet and who you weren't so fond of?
5- Don't bother to think about it at all because they were strangers and you probably won't see them again anyway. It doesn't matter what they think or how you came across, besides most of them were lame.
3. If you are in a situation where you do not know the answer, the next step, or what to do, do you:
0- Freak out internally and scramble to figure out how to get the answer so you don't look like an idiot.
3- Make a self-deprecating joke and ask for help.
5- Announce that you don't know and make a joke about how silly it is for anyone to know the answer anyway.
4. When you are shopping for clothes for a new job, wedding, or because you have gained weight and need a new size, do you:
0- Get in a horrible mood before, during, and after shopping. Nothing fits or feels right and you should just diet because you are way too overweight anyway.
3- Bring along a friend and make jokes about your expanding waistline, but continue to shop for clothes that you like and feel good on you.
5- Quickly run through a store and grab whatever you think looks good. No reason to obsess in the dressing room. You've got better things to do.
5. When you are complimented or commended for a job well done, how do you react?
0- Quickly point out all the things you do wrong, just in case they didn't see that it wasn't perfect.
3- Thank them and blush slightly. You aren't used to the attention, but you love it.
5- Well of course it was good...I did it.
6. When you are in a disagreement with someone important to you, do you:
0- Try anything and everything in your arsenal to make sure you both work it out because you can't stand conflict.
3- Try to stay on target even when the other person is getting distracted or emotional.
5- Just leave it alone! No sense in getting worked up.
7. When a new neighbor moves in next store, how do you react?
0- Make a giant batch of homemade muffins, a welcome to the neighborhood card, and invite them over for dinner. You quickly pick up your yard so they don't think you are white trash.
3- Say hello when you see them outside and offer a future dinner invitation.
5- Wave if you see them, but neighbors don't have to be buddies. If they want to be friends, let them make the first move. They probably are a pain in the ass anyway.
8. When you find yourself in a situation where you must try something you aren't good at (sport, hobby, etc.), how do you react?
0- Either stay out of it or drive everyone crazy with your apologies about how bad you are.
3- Try it if you absolutely have to. Joke frequently about how much you suck.
5- Nah, I'm not gonna bother. Everyone can't be good at everything, and besides, it looks boring.
Analyzing the results
No test anxiety now! If you score having low self-esteem, there is no point in berating yourself for having low self-esteem. Instead, you should commend yourself for having the courage to do introspective work. It takes strength and bravery to look inside ourselves for the answers to our problems. Okay, if you promise you won't charge into negative self-talk, go ahead and score yourself.
If you scored more zero's than anything else-
This means you struggle to feel confident in your strengths or your weaknesses. You often want to please other people, because you feel okay when others are okay with you. I would categorize you as having low self-esteem, thinking of yourself as less than others who you perceive are more talented, beautiful, or successful.
If you scored more three's than anything else-
You are doing decent with your self-esteem! You have a good mix of confidence and the ability to laugh at yourself. You aren't made of stone or paper, but are working on balance. Keep reading, we all can get encouraged in the area of self-esteem!
If you scored more five's than anything else-
I bet you are waiting to hear that you are arrogant. Actually, if you score mostly five's, then you might have a seriously bad case of low self-esteem! You put up a front of confidence and "who cares?" but really, you are terrified that if you care or show concern, that someone will say you aren't worth the effort, and you will be crushed. Your defense mechanism is hiding well your low self-esteem.
Now here is the hard part: You need to find someone else to read this quiz and answer it with what they think you would do in that situation. There are a couple of disclaimers first: The person you choose should be someone who knows you well, loves you deeply, and someone who you feel safe with. Find someone in your life that you think has decent self-esteem and confidence themselves and ask them to answer the questions trying to guess how you would react in the circumstances.
Why could this be helpful? Sometimes our own perspective isn't accurate. If you truly do have low self-esteem, you may not even be able to answer the questions accurately. You might assume you always react negatively when in fact you do not! Have the other person answer them and then see if they came up with the same answers for you.
So my self-esteem is in the toilet: Now what?
Target the areas that trip you up most. All of us have triggers that can send our negative self-talk reeling. Go ahead and circle the ones that you feel you personally struggle with.
The situation that causes it
You see a reflection of yourself in the store window
Someone makes a joke when you pronounce a word incorrectly
You hang out at a party and notice that nobody is saying hello to you
You feel depressed after hanging out with a friend who has a gorgeous house
You fall into a slump after looking at your monthly budget and berate yourself for not making enough money
Your kids get in trouble at school and you feel like a terrible parent
A boss or co-worker points out areas that need improvement
Identify your beliefs
A trigger is pushed when you have a belief about yourself that is negative. For example, if you have a bad day when you can't stay on your diet, you are believing something about yourself in that moment.
"I am not okay at the weight I am and if I can't stay on a diet, I am only getting more unlovable by the minute!"
At the root of every trigger is a lie. Your value and intrinsic worth is tied up in a standard that you believe. Many of these beliefs and lies are so ingrained in our psyche, we do not bother to question them. They start in childhood, with dysfunctional parents or cruel bullying or some other negative experience. To untangle these beliefs takes some time and introspection. You might say that you think all people are created equal, but when you lose your job and have no money, you begin to realize that your constant negative self-talk reveals that you think less of yourself because you aren't contributing to society financially.
Parenting is a great way to bring these lies to the surface. If your child does something wrong at school and you feel horribly guilty, your inability to separate from your child indicates that you believe something about how others influence your worth. If your kids grow up to be delinquents, are you now a worthless human being because you didn't raise them properly? How about them?
Know your limits
Though it sounds counter-intuitive, self-confidence and self-esteem can be built when you recognize your limitations as a frail and imperfect human being. We are all valuable because of our uniqueness, not because we do things right all the time.
It is my personal belief that a human being will never arrive at a place of peace and a sense of well-being and confidence, until they recognize their frail condition and reach out to someone higher and bigger than themselves (for me, that is God). When we become our own gods, we produce the opposite of self-confidence. Instead we create an arrogant attitude that hides our secret terror that are we are worth nothing.
Practical tips to build your self-confidence
So what can you do today to start treating yourself with the same love and care that you treat others?
- Take care of your physical needs. Dress yourself in a way that feels comfortable to you. Disregard society's rules about what you should wear. Eat meals that are healthful and are made with consideration to what you need and want. Get a good amount of sleep each night paying special care to treat yourself well as nighttime approaches.
- Keep a journal of all the things you have done each day. Rather than focusing on what you missed, remind yourself of all the things you accomplish each day. Make sure you include all tasks- even if it having a chat with the cashier at the grocery store.
- Avoid negative people as much as possible. When you spend time with others who are constantly gossiping, complaining, or criticizing, you will inevitably be affected by that atmosphere. Find those who are happy, helpful, and compassionate. Spend lots of time with children and animals as well.
- Practice speaking up. People who hate conflict find this task terrifying, but when you begin to speak up, you realize that your world doesn't collapse, even if another person is upset with you.
- Practice daily deep breathing and meditation. For me personally, this includes prayer to God, helping me to remember what He thinks of me.
- Do things you love. Don't wait for retirement or the time to appear. Just as you would make time for your child to explore a new hobby, find that time for yourself as well.
- Laugh every day. Whether it means perusing online at some funny cards, watching a sitcom, or playing a game with friends, find a way to belly laugh every day.
- Act like you like yourself. Even if it isn't true to start with, behaviors eventually influence our beliefs. If you pretend you like yourself by complimenting your hard work and treating yourself well, eventually those behaviors will start to influence how you feel about yourself.
- Find a counselor. Many people with serious self-esteem issues need a therapist to help them sort through their feelings.
- Try art therapy! My dear friend Carly Sullens is an art therapist and has offered me some great tools and tips to expressing myself through art. You often come to find hidden feelings and ideas behind your art that can give you clues to why you feel so down on yourself. Processing those emotions is crucial to moving beyond them.
Now that you have read the article, how would you rate your self esteem?
The truth about arrogance
Arrogance is thought to be an illness of too much self-esteem. The reality is that arrogance is often the sign of no self-esteem. People who think of themselves more highly than they ought, usually carry tremendous fear and self-hatred. The arrogance or narcissism becomes a well-developed defense mechanism to keep people from knowing the real person inside.
Narcissism is one of the most difficult disorders to treat, so do not feel that you can help someone who is narcissistic by getting them in touch with their sensitive side. The best thing to do when you come in contact with someone who is extremely arrogant or narcissistic? Get away.
And by the way, if you have read to this point in the article, narcissism isn't your problem! Most narcissists will not even feel the need to check on their own self-esteem by consulting someone else because that in itself shows weakness or incomplete intelligence!
I hope this article has shed some light on your own self-esteem, its importance, and why we should all strive to understand and love ourselves more.
About the author
Julie DeNeen is a freelance writer and mother of three children living in Connecticut. She has a special interest in music, adoption, and technology, and has her bachelor's degree in clinical and community psychology. She also runs a forum for people who need mentoring during difficult reunions after adoption.
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