Michelle Farris, LMFT View Entire Blog

Self Esteem Is An Inside Job!

Sometimes, we base our self esteem on where we live, our partner, or financial and career accomplishments. Unfortunately, these are external things that can change without warning. When that happens, our sense of self can be rocked by self-doubt. Basing self esteem on outside things doesn't sustain us over the long haul. It's a quick fix, not a solution.

What is self esteem?

The ability to accept and love yourself as you are - mistakes and all.
The ability to feel the love others have for you and not reject it.
The ability to take care of yourself physically, emotionally, and spiritually without delay.
Childhood Messages:

Here are some initial questions to get you started.

As kids, what were the messages you learned around self esteem?
Was it considered to be conceited or self centered?
Were accomplishments celebrated regularly?
Did adults set the example by talking about their successes without acting better than everyone else?
Was it okay to stand out and be special?
Most of us didn't grow up in families where self esteem was discussed much or considered an important part of development. Today, it is a vital part of healthy parenting. Young children need constant reassurance and positive feedback regarding behavior in order to learn right from wrong and develop a healthy sense of self. As they become teenagers, they still need our praise for who they are becoming and their unique gifts.

If we as adults lack self esteem, this becomes a challenge for us. We may not know how to model healthy self esteem for our kids especially if we didn't learn it growing up.
If we had negative or critical messages in childhood it probably influenced the way we saw ourselves. We may have felt different than others or thought we didn't measure up. These thoughts followed us into adulthood and caused problems in our relationships, work, and ability to enjoy life. They were hard to shake because they become a habit.

What do we do?

How we think determines our mood so start paying attention to your thoughts. This can be unlearned with practice.

In 12 step programs, writing a personal inventory of strengths and weaknesses help us understand ourselves in a new light. By examining what works and what doesn't we can become accountable to change the things we can. This builds self esteem because when we have the courage to confront something, self esteem goes up a bit. We feel proud that we took action.

Writing exercise.

In Alcoholics Anonymous, there is a great exercise that targets resentment but also addresses behavior and self esteem. Here are the steps.

Write something or someone you resent. Tell the story.
Write how this resentment affects you.
Write out what you contributed to it, your reactions, thoughts and emotions.
Have you ever had this feeling before? If so, find the pattern.
Getting it out on paper helps get to the root of the issue. Keep writing until you see your part. If you write about childhood abuse, the "your part" will be blank. There is no personal responsibility in abuse suffered. Usually, the relief comes from realizing your part in the situation which creates empathy for others.

Tips for Improving Self Esteem

Write the above exercise on issues affecting self esteem.
Acknowledge your individual talents and gifts.
Do what you love! It makes you happy.
Write a letter of forgiveness to yourself. Making mistakes is how we learn!
Join a support group such as Al-Anon or one that focuses on self esteem.
Seek your own therapy if you need additional help.
I hope this helps! Feel free to call, text or email me for a free phone consultation if you need more support.