Health, Wellness and Fitness Guide for All Ages
Published – October 2006
Self-help for Self-esteem
You have a sore wrist and you go to a doctor, who x-rays it, tells you it’s broken, and puts it in a cast. That’s the doctor’s job. The rest, however, is up to you. You are the one who has to do the healing (and the only one who can).
Low self-esteem isn’t always so easy to diagnose or to treat, and sometimes the healing can take a lifetime. Why Is that? What is it? Why does it happen in the first place?
Self-esteem begins to develop during our early years, when we are highly dependent upon others for our very survival. If a child’s basic needs are reliably met in a kind and loving way, the child learns to trust those who are providing the nurturing. It is only natural for the child to then believe whatever messages are sent by those around him; especially authority figures early on, and during the teen years, peers.
Sometimes the message is positive: You are pretty, you are smart, you are amazing, it is such a privilege for me to have you in my life.
Sometimes the message is negative: You are so funny looking, you are so stupid, you are more trouble than you’re worth. How did I get stuck with you anyway?
It is a sense of self-worth that enables a child to become a productive, creative adult, and comfortable with success. Self-talk then sounds something like, “Yes! I’ve done it! I’ve earned it! I deserve it!”
The self-talk of an adult is almost always an extension of what he or she heard repeatedly as a child.
The self-talk of an adult with low self esteem usually takes on one of two tones. One is, “I can’t do it. I don’t know how and I can’t learn and I won’t even try. What’s the use?”
The other is: “Well, I’ve done it. Even if others say it’s good, I know it isn’t really. I just got lucky. I may look successful but I’m only faking it. I know the truth, even if no one else does.”
It is possible to know one thing intellectually, but feel something entirely different. “I know graduating at the top of my class is an incredible accomplishment; but I didn’t really deserve it and now I’d better just take any job I can get that will let me make ends meet.”
Children live in a “feeling” state. The part of the mind that reasons things out to make sense of them doesn’t develop until later.
This explains why young children accept input from others without question, until they begin to acquire conflicting evidence — from teachers, for example, who may place emphasis on praising them for what they do well instead of denigrating them for being less than perfect.
The problem is that childhood feelings are deeply and permanently engrained in the subconscious mind, which interprets all information as factual, then influences our self-image and our attitude toward life.
Once we develop the ability to reason things out logically, new information (I am smart!) doesn’t replace old information (You’re so stupid!). It simply adds to it. Because feelings are much stronger than thoughts, when there is a conflict between the two, feelings almost always win out. Psychologically, it takes a LOT of new knowledge to overpower old beliefs.
Here are some steps that help a person with low self-esteem to meet the challenge of self-repair:
1. Identify the problem. Remember, even well meaning parents make mistakes. A child brings home a report card with five A’s and one B, and the parents say, “Oh, gee, if only you could have made straight A’s! That would have been a perfect report card!”
The intention may be to encourage the child to do better, but the result is that although the child did his or her best, it wasn’t good enough to earn approval. The resultant feeling is one of inadequacy.
2. Consider your options. Your parents made mistakes, as all parents do. It’s called “being human.” As an adult you have the choice to either repeat their mistakes — or to learn from them.
Certainly you can learn to be a better parent to your own children; however, if you have low self-esteem, you must also learn to be a better parent to yourself. You can say to yourself what you needed to hear as a child, but didn’t. That might be:
I know my best is good enough.
I can do whatever I put my mind to.
I deserve to be successful.
I want a healthy, loving relationship. I won’t settle for less.
No one knows better than you, what you needed to hear as a child, and what you need to hear now.
Do not make the mistake of thinking that if enough other people say enough nice things to you, that will do the trick. That’s like pouring water into a sieve.
Remember: no one else can do your healing for you.
3. Get to know your Default Button. We all have one. We automatically fall back on an old, familiar mindset, unless we decide otherwise.
People with high self-esteem will automatically default to a feeling of confidence; whereas someone with low self-esteem will default to a feeling of self-doubt, or even self-denigration.
Notice when this happens…. when your inner voice tells you “you can’t”, “you’re not good enough”, “you’re not worthy”, “don’t even try”.
Every time you hear this message, override the default. Choose a healthier message, which leads to a happier attitude, which leads to a better life.
4. Reassess the problem. Instead of thinking, “Oh, I can’t possibly make a good life for myself, because I have this self-esteem problem,” think, “Oh, this is just my silly self-esteem acting up. No way am I going to let THAT stop me!”
Name a problem. Any problem. Cancer. Paralysis. Blindness. Deafness. Depression. A.D.D. Physical/sexual/emotional abuse. Loss of a limb or limbs. Loss of a loved one.
Odds are there are countless highly accomplished people living fulfilling lives with that problem — because at some point they chose to view it as a challenge to succeed, rather than an excuse to fail.
Most importantly, bear in mind that some wounds require more attention than others. Some take longer than others to heal. Such is the case with low self-esteem.
Sometimes a person needs professional help. Because the subconscious mind is where your feelings are stored, and where you can rearrange information to promote your own healing, self-hypnosis is a very effective way to access your subconscious mind.
Just as all healing is self-healing, all hypnosis is self-hypnosis. No does it to you or for you; they can only help — and some are better prepared to help in a meaningful way than are others.
Any hypnotherapist who says they can heal or cure you is either poorly trained, ego driven, or at the very least, unprofessional. Choose wisely.
Other red flags to watch for? A practitioner whose address is not listed in the phone book, someone who works out of their home or in someone else’s office, a hypnotherapist who only works part time, a person who will “only take cash.”
Whatever path you follow to self-improvement, whether you were wounded accidentally or deliberately at some time in the past, now is the time to let the healing begin. For lasting effect, make the process a lifelong commitment.