Improving your self-esteem through counseling
Self-esteem affects all areas of our lives. What we think about ourselves impacts how we think, how we interact with others, our habits, our way of resolving problems, and even what we work towards. There are numerous terms surrounding this concept because it is so important, but whether you call it self-esteem, self-image, self-respect, self-worth, or anything else doesn’t matter. What matters is learning to value and respect who you are and what you have to offer the world.
How do I know if I have a negative self-image?
If you are someone who struggles with this, then you know how detrimental it can be. Low self-esteem negatively impacts your thoughts, your mood, and your actions countless times each and every day. You may have specific areas of negative self-image like your appearance, your intelligence, your relationships, or you may feel inadequate in all areas. Most people will find that there negative perceptions fit into one or two categories such as interactions with others, ability to contribute or give back, or perceptions of others outside of interactions. These are some common signs of a low self-image:
- You use self-deprecating humor
- You sabotage your success at work or in relationships
- You have self-destructive habits that you’ve been unable to quit
- You down play successes
- You feel you need to brag to get recognition
- You feel bad about yourself most of the time
- You have frequent mood swings
- You constantly compare yourself to others
- You worry about what others think of you
- You spend more time than necessary double and triple checking yourself
- You feel that you are never good enough
- You use alcohol to feel good about yourself in social situations
- Your habits around food and alcohol fluctuate based on mood
- You second guess your decisions
- You make decisions based on what others want
- You feel guilty when you do something for yourself
- You say yes when you want to say no
When you are coping with a low self-esteem you will notice that you feel major swings based on external factors. Your mood will fluctuate based on the feedback you get from others. When things are going well in your life, and people are giving you positive reinforcement, you may feel really good, but inevitably when things start to go badly, or someone criticizes you, it’s devastating. You may think of yourself as a high achiever or a perfectionist, but no matter how hard you push yourself or how many successes you have, you still feel like you are not good enough. All of these scenarios are symptoms of a low self-esteem or negative self-image.
What does a healthy self-image look like?
The opposite of a low self-esteem is self-acceptance and self-compassion. That’s what we all want, right? However, identifying a healthy view of ourselves is sometimes harder than noticing the negative. Very few people know what to look for, or even what they are working towards when they decide to improve their own self-esteem. The goal is to feel good about yourself in all areas, to be comfortable with who you are, and be able to maintain that despite external fluctuations. Here are some common signs and feelings associated with a healthy perception of ourselves:
- You feel confident around others
- You value your weaknesses as much as your strengths
- You have compassion for yourself when you make a mistake
- You know who you are and what you want
- You are able to maintain boundaries
- You work to improve yourself without expecting perfection
- You hold yourself to your own standards
- Other people’s opinions of you don’t impact your own perceptions
- You make healthy choices
- You surround yourself with positive people
- You set positive goals and work towards them
- You celebrate your achievements
- You are kind to yourself and others
When you have a healthy self-esteem, you will automatically choose what is best for you. Your mood will be mostly stable with fluctuations based on internal factors rather than external. You won’t feel the need to brag or receive validation, but will enjoy celebrating and sharing your happy moments. Other people’s opinions of you will not have a significant impact on how you feel about yourself. You will use your positive and negative experiences as opportunities to learn. Most of all, you will just feel good about yourself the majority of the time.
How do I build my self-esteem?
Improving your self-esteem will take effort and time, but it's worth it. There are several components that need to be addressed when working towards a healthy self-image. We will work together on each of these areas and focus on the specific treatments that are best suited to you. Some of the key components include:
- Determining specific areas of negative self-image
- Identifying and processing the cause
- Identifying and eliminating any linked unhealthy coping mechanisms
- Replacing negative thoughts with positive
- Replacing negative habits and patterns with positive
- Learn healthy decision making and problem solving strategies
- Build a lifestyle that supports the real you
- Maintain consistent positive reinforcement
Each of these components can be addressed in different ways, and we will work together to find what fits your personality and goals. Treatment for building your healthy self-esteem involves a combination of therapy and self-esteem exercises which you will complete individually. Part of having a healthy self-image is knowing that you are unique and valuable because of all of the facets that make you who you are. So, it’s important to recognize that your road to a healthy perception of yourself needs to be equally unique. Whatever the approach, you are too valuable to keep telling yourself that you are not good enough.