Self-esteem is one of those topics that people do not tend to openly discuss with others. But inside, under all those layers, lives the negative voice, egging you on to think negatively about yourself. As a counselor, I get first-hand experience in helping people with self-esteem and provide ways to help people combat those thoughts. Here are a few suggestions I would offer to those struggling with self-esteem.
1. It’s You, Not Them
We hear all the time, it’s not you, it’s them. Well, when it comes to self-esteem, let’s be honest for a moment. It is you. You are the one allowing those thoughts to ruminate in your brain. You allow them to fester and stir the pot. So what do you do when those negative thoughts coming in? I’ll tell you. You let them come in and allow them to leave. See, here’s the thing about thoughts, it is just that, thoughts. Thoughts are neutral. It is what you do with the thought that will make or break you. You choose, either allow the thought to fester or allow the thought to leave. Now this may sound easier said then done. And it is. Make it a new habit that you are not going to willingly allow thoughts to stay. Sure, in the beginning, it will be difficult. Practically every five seconds you are reminding yourself that it is just a thought. But it does get better. Research shows it and I’ve seen it get better first hand with my clients.
2. The snowball effect
Time and time again I listen to clients tell me about how they behave based on this one idea or thought they had. When you allow the thought to stay, your feelings somehow work their way into that thought. Say for example I have a thought that I am not pretty enough. Common self-esteem killer, right?! I’m probably not going to feel that great after allowing that thought to stick around. I might feel sad, depressed, angry, to name a few. Bad news is it doesn’t stop there. After allowing the thought to stay and then allowing yourself to have these feelings, your brain then tells your body to behave in reflection to all of this. So, I might be passive-aggressive or taking out my frustration on someone else. I might cancel a date or not leave the house for a social outing. And guess what! This whole cycle starts over again. The thought starts, “Well, I didn’t leave the house because I am not pretty enough. Now I have to stay in the house because those friends will never call me again to hang out.” You feel upset, anxious, depressed, sad, frustrated, etc. What do you do? You start to cry, you watch a tear-jerker movie that keeps you down in the dumps. You tell your friends that you can’t go to the next event. You don’t call back the guy who asked you out. It goes on and on. The snowball effect. You want to stop the snowball effect, go back and read #1!
3. It’s not a secret
Here’s the thing, having negative self-esteem is not a bad thing. It’s not a bad thing to talk about and it certainly is not a secret. I’ll tell you from personal and professional experience, holding it inside or sweeping it under the rug does not help anyone. So yes, talk about it openly. However, I will caution you about picking that right person to discuss things with. Don’t go to someone you trust and vent all your concerns if you know already they are not going to help you in the way you need. In other words, don’t go to someone who is unhealthy. That just makes it worse. Go to someone who you know will be a great listener and can provide you with real, direct advice. No matter if it is something you want to hear or not. Should you not have someone like that in your life, I have an idea.. go see a counselor. They at least are trained to help you. They’ve got all the tools and techniques that will help you see things outside the box. Been there, done that? Well, it probably was not a good fit. Don’t give up on counseling just because it didn’t work a few times. Spend your time finding the right fit!
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