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Building self-esteem

Louise Willis (Headshot).jpgHave you ever thought about your self-esteem? Asks MS-UK counsellor Louise Willis

There are a wide spectrum of feelings, thoughts and beliefs that we can have about ourselves and how we fit in to the world around us. To find out more about where you might fit in, you can ask yourself the following questions.

  • Do I feel happy with who I am?
  • Do I feel worthy of love and respect?
  • Can I take criticism and not feel rejected or put down?

If you have answered ‘no’ to any of the above questions, you may have low self-esteem.

Low self-esteem often comes from events in life that have left us feeling bad about ourselves. The reactions we can have can be long lasting and often go unchallenged as they can feel like they are a part of us, when in fact they were a reaction to an issue that may have happened long ago.

The good news is that there are lots of self-help strategies which can help us to shift these negative and unhelpful beliefs and begin to build self-esteem.

  • Pay attention to your internal narrative. If you are constantly berating yourself it is going to be almost impossible to feel good about yourself
  • As well as using positive language, make sure to treat yourself with love and care. You deserve to get it from yourself just as much as anyone else
  • Avoid using the words ‘should’ and ‘must’. These words are often based on our perceived expectations of others and not often based in truth or our own values
  • Those with low self-esteem can have trouble in saying ‘no’, which can lead to all sorts of issues. Practise asserting yourself in a kind and loving way with others and keep those boundaries strong
  • Don’t compare yourself to others. Nothing positive will come out of it and, above all, we are all unique. You are perfect as you are.
  • Visualisation can be a powerful tool. Imagining in clear and vivid imagery what you would like your life to look like is a technique used by sports coaches to get the best out of their athletes.
  • Challenge any distortions of reality. If you find yourself saying things like ‘this always happens’ or ‘I can’t’ – challenge these assumptions. We usually find it ‘sometimes’ happens and we ‘can’, it is just difficult.
  • As English poet Alexander Pope so eloquently put it, ‘to err is human; to forgive, divine.’ This is something we can do to ourselves. We all make mistakes and carrying guilt for them can seriously affect our sense of self.
  • Holding our head up and projecting confidence – even if we don’t feel it, can do wonders for our self-esteem. ‘Faking it til you make it’ pushes us out of our comfort zone and gets us used to who we want to be.
  • Random acts of kindness – such as helping an elderly neighbour or collecting for a good cause – all of these things not only help others but can give us a sense of purpose and self-worth.
  • Setting small achievable goals and completing them can have a huge impact on how we feel about ourselves. Taking small chunks of a larger goal can make it so much easier to reach.