Self-esteem in the 21st century- how are you coping?

Poor self-esteem is a major issue in today's society. There are so many pressures to be perfect in the work place, at home and in social settings. It is important for us to feel we are accepted and loved within ourselves and our environment. Much of the time we find ourselves behaving in inappropriate ways to please others in order to gain their approval. This directly relates to our sense of self and hence self esteem. Feelings of inadequacy may cause dysfunctional and destructive thinking and/or behaviour to justify a better sense of self (due to the concept that you are not good enough). Due to this, the sub-conscience suffers, as you are not being your true person and a vicious cycle starts in order to compensate the feelings of poor self worth.

The way you see yourself is mostly accumulated through social contacts, experiences within relationships, and especially in this day and age how the media dictates how we should be. When things go wrong (which they often do) you may begin to blame yourself. We all want to "get things right" or be "perfect" which is impossible. Nobody is perfect (although television would disagree). If this need for perfection becomes habitual, an unhealthy sense of self can develop which directly reflects on the way you perceive yourself and thus your self-esteem will suffer.

Some clues to poor self esteem are:

  • Continual self criticism
  • Striving for perfection when things are already good enough.
  • Constantly worrying about what others think.
  • Feelings of guilt and worthlessness.
  • Apologising for things you are not responsible for.
  • Compromising your own beliefs and values for others.

    Examples of more serious complications from low self-esteem are eating disorders, social isolation, depression and self-hatred. These or other similar symptoms require professional help.
    For the less threatening symptoms of low self-esteem there are simple techniques to combat your inner critic.

    One of the least time consuming and easy ways to feel better about who you are is to practice positive affirmations.
    For example
    "I am a worthy and productive person and I deserve all good things that enter my life".
    "We are all perfect in our imperfect human way"
    "I can achieve my goals/ dreams"
    "Today I have done things to the best of my ability"

    And for the most difficult but the most important one:
    "I love and accept myself for who I am."

    Affirmations can be done anywhere (e.g. in the car, walking, before falling asleep, or sitting at home).
    In work and social situations if you are feeling insecure about your environment take a moment to say them in your head. They bring confidence and in turn improve your self-esteem.

    Another technique you can use is to write down how you feel about yourself in point form. From the way you feel about yourself, to how you feel others think of you. Leave the list for a few hours or a day, it gives you some time to look at it from a different perspective. Read it again and examine what is realistic and which is the self-critic in you (most of the time you will find that these thoughts are unnecessary and unrealistic). It often helps to show your list to a close caring friend or relative. This can help give you a "reality check."

    This technique may also help to identify the stresses and insecurities that help feed your poor self-esteem. You may find it is the people in your life who have been criticising you or expecting too much from you, this in turn can cause you to feel insecure about who you are. It is then up to you to take control, and conclude whether it is you criticising yourself, or is it others in your life doing the criticising? You can then decide rationally whether they are realistic criticisms.

    Other helpful ways to improve you self esteem is to find activities that make you feel good about yourself. Write a list of things you enjoy doing, even if you are not "perfect" at doing them. Enjoying who you are when you are doing something that feels good e.g. Poetry, singing, drawing, (anything!) can make a huge difference about how you feel about yourself because you are doing it for you.

    Remember we are only human! No one is perfect, and we are all special and talented in our own unique way. Everyone feels insecure and afraid from time to time and that is O.K. as long as it doesn't destroy your sense of who you are. Finding the beauty within yourself (and we are all beautiful) will make a major impact in strengthening your self-esteem and confidence to be the best person you can be.


    - Louise Ganey

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