Know someone who thinks “I’m Not Good Enough”?
We tend to go through life evaluating ourselves and others according to a scale of worth. The idea of self-esteem is the amount of value that we consider we are worth.
These values vary from person to person. Whilst we might rate ourselves as being of little value, others might rate us much higher. If we get into the habit of thinking negatively about ourselves, then low self-esteem, or placing little value on ourselves, is the result.
Low self-esteem can be a result of negative life experiences, particularly when we’re young and most vulnerable. These experiences may include being criticised or judged negatively, such as from a parent or school bullies. As adults, abusive relationships and very stressful life events can also cause low self-esteem.
Low self-esteem can stay low, because of our own self-critical thoughts, which can be triggered by criticism, or perceived criticism (even if none is intended, we believe we are being criticised).
How Low Self Esteem affects us:
Negative, self-critical: I’m so stupid, I’m worthless, It’s my fault, I’m a failure, I’m not good enough, I’m incompetent.
Unhelpful Thinking Habits might include Mental Filter, Mind Reading, Self-Blame, Internal Critic, Compare & Despair, Shoulds and Musts, Black and White Thinking
try to please others
get defensive when we believe we’re being criticised
under-achieve or work harder to compensate and cover up our incompetence
shy and passive around others
avoid situations and people
neglect or abuse ourselves
Doing things differently
Communicate with others assertively
Set achievable and realistic goals. When you achieve them, congratulate
and treat yourself, and allow others to congratulate you
Accept compliments – say thank you, and smile
Act the person you want to be – play the role for long enough and you can become that person
Visualise positive change
Look after yourself – eat healthily, exercise, do more things you enjoy doing
Stand, walk and talk confidently
Change your image – hair, clothes, make-up
Take up a new hobby or interest
Learn a new skill
Reward yourself for achievements and successes – however small
Thank others – show your appreciation, and others will appreciate you
Do things for others – help someone out. It makes us feel better about ourselves
If you can do something well, let others notice – when they notice your work, their opinion of you will be raised, which in turn, raises your own self esteem
STOPP! Pause, take a breath
What am I reacting to? What have I been thinking about here?
Is this fact or opinion?
Is that “Internal Critic” operating again?
Am I looking at things through those gloomy specs (“Mental Filter”) again?
Am I getting things out of proportion?
How important is this really? How important will it be in 6 month’s time?
Am I expecting something from myself that is unrealistic?
What’s the worst (and best) that could happen? What’s most likely to happen?
Am I using that negative filter? Those gloomy specs? Is there another way of looking at it?
What would I think about someone else in this situation? What would I say to a friend?
Am I spending time ruminating about the past or worrying about the future? What could I do right now that would help me feel better?
Am I putting more pressure on myself, setting up expectations of myself that are almost impossible? What would be more realistic?
Am I jumping to conclusions about what this person meant? Am I mis-reading between the lines? Is it possible that they didn’t mean that?
What do I want or need from this person or situation? What do they want or need from me? Is there a compromise? How could I act in a way that was more effective or helpful?
Am I just focusing on the worst possible thing that could happen? What would be more realistic?
Am I focusing on the negative, putting myself down? What would be more realistic?
Is there another way of looking at this?
Am I doing that Compare & Despair thing: exaggerating the good
aspects of others, and putting myself down? Or am I exaggerating the negative and minimising the positives? How would someone else see it? What’s the bigger picture?
Things aren’t either totally white or totally black – there are shades of grey. Where is this on the spectrum?
This is just a reminder of the past. That was then, and this is now. Even though this memory makes me feel upset, it’s not actually happening again right now.
What would be the consequences of doing what I normally do?
Is there another way of dealing with this? What would be the most helpful and effective action to take? (for me, for the situation, for the other person)
Be compassionate with yourself – just as you might be with someone else
o What would a caring friend say to me in this situation?
o What is a kind and constructive way to think about how I
can improve this situation?
o Whoever said human beings are supposed to be perfect?
o Would a caring mother say this to her child if she wanted
the child to grow and develop?
o How will I learn if it’s not okay to make mistakes?
Acknowledge your strengths – start by writing out a list of
things you’re good at, or what others have or do say about you.
Notice the positives – carry a notepad around, and write down whenever you notice something good or helpful that you’ve said, or done, or what others have said about you
At the end of each day, ask yourself: What have I done or tried today that I’ve never done or tried before? What have I done to help other people today? Who has helped me? What have I enjoyed doing today?
© Carol Vivyan 2009, permission to use for therapy purposes