Sometimes when an enquiry comes in to Birmingham Counselling Services, it has taken all the enquirer’s emotional strength to get in touch, because of their low self-esteem. They can hardly believe that anyone can care about them enough to want to give them any help.
Self-esteem, how you feel about yourself and how you value your contribution to life, is a significant aspect of your personality. We rarely admire someone who is full of self-importance and an exaggerated idea of their own significance and influence; far more of us are at the opposite end of the spectrum, underestimating our skills and talents, doubting our ability to make good relationships, feeling generally inadequate and unsuccessful. These negative feelings can undermine every aspect of our lives, with our families and friends, at work, in our studies – the recurring doubt that we are good enough can seriously impede our progress through life.
Do you sometimes feel nervous or awkward around other individuals, whether family members, friends, colleagues or even strangers on the street? Do you find yourself thinking that you are in some way inferior to others physically, mentally, in terms of sensitivity, sporting or artistic ability? Do you believe yourself to be the least significant member of your family, group of friends, or workplace? And have you ever asked anyone else how they see you in these contexts? If you were to ask, you might well be surprised at their positive responses. They are unlikely to view you through the same negative lense you are using to focus on yourself.
Are you unusually concerned about your physique and physical appearance, constantly wishing you looked different and trying whatever you can to alter how you are? We can build up our muscles, tone our bodies, lose or put on weight, dye our hair, but normally we cannot change our height, our bone structure, the colour of our skin. A casual comment overheard by a child or young person can embed itself in their mind and take on far more importance than it warrants, becoming the root of serious problems such as eating disorders. The idea of beauty is a variable, not a fixed standard, changing from time to time, from country to country, from community to community. Even the people we consider beautiful within our culture have doubts and feelings of inadequacy about their appearance. The people society currently deems perfect have constant worries about how to maintain their looks and about what will happen to them if (when) the current ideal image changes. Supermodels will talk about all their faults and flaws, which are completely invisible to the rest of us. If we cannot see their “faults” how great is the chance that most other people might have difficulty spotting ours? We are all different, which is something to celebrate. Try to imagine how the world would be if we all looked the same. Think about celebrating your body for what it can do, rather than punishing it for not coming up to some unrealistic standard.
Do you talk yourself down, concentrating on your weaknesses and failures rather than your strengths and successes? What is the point of that? “So that someone else doesn’t have to do it,” you might reply. And why would they do it at all? Other people will have a much more positive view of you than the one you are presenting, unless your negativity convinces them that they have overlooked something big and negative in you. You don’t have to go about creating opportunities for other people to lower their opinions of you.
Remember this if you are going for an interview or hoping for a promotion at work. You will need to indentify and present your strong points, in relation to the job you are hoping to get. It doesn’t come easily to most of us to sing our own praises. You might like to try observing yourself from a distance: look at a reflection or a photograph of yourself and pretend it’s someone else. Write down that person’s positive qualities and strengths, and take them in. If you really cannot do this for yourself then ask someone you trust to do it for you. Family members and good friends can help you, if you give them the chance and are prepared to believe them.
Do you recognize yourself in any of the examples above? These are contexts where low self-esteem can seriously undermine our progress in the world. If you do recognize yourself in any of these situations you need to start taking care of yourself in a more positive way. Why not begin by acquiring a notebook and writing down a positive statement about yourself each morning, before you start your day? It doesn’t have to be something big – “I saved the world yesterday”; “I have the most beautiful voice I have ever heard” – you won’t believe that. But “I helped my elderly neighbour with her shopping yesterday”; “My eyes are a lovely blue”; even “Next door’s cat is always pleased to see my when I get home” – something positive and true each day – will soon mount up and surprise you when you look back at what you have written after a week or a month. Try it, and begin to accept that there are things about you that you might be proud of. It won’t be the whole solution to a problem of low self-esteem but it will be a start.
If you feel that you need help and support in building up your confidence and self esteem, you could get in touch with us at Birmingham Counselling Services – 0121 314 9903; www.BirminghamCounsellingServicesco.uk One of our qualified and experienced counsellors will be able to work with you in an encouraging and positive way, to help you to learn to believe in yourself.