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Self-Esteem

Don't let low self-worth pull you down

17346478_xlLillian, 39, a mother of two teenage daughters, was feeling very frustrated and low about herself a lot of the time when she turned to counselling. She regularly puts herself down and is extremely critical about herself. Quite often she says that she is a bad mother, an ugly housewife (in fact the contrary is true!), and that she can’t do anything right. She strongly believes that she is inferior to other people, including her husband, solely because she has no other qualification than her A- levels. In fact she considers herself ‘useless and a failure’, because she thinks she cannot do anything else but being a homemaker. She easily neglects all the excellent things she has been doing all the while at home and for the family. Worse yet, she is neither able to accept sincere praise from her family members nor from her few friends. “You look so pretty in this blouse” her daughters recently said. She did not accept the compliment and countered it this way: “No, lah! It is an old blouse which I bought two years ago and it was very cheap.” It goes without saying that a simple “thank you” from her side would have been the right answer!

Recently when her husband got sick, she blamed herself for not having prevented this from happening to him, ignoring the fact that these things are objectively uncontrollable. She recently passed her driver’s licence test but believes that pure luck played a major role in her accomplishment and not her own newly acquired driving skills. When family and friends congratulated her for this success, she didn’t take credit for it and brushed it off: “Pure luck. Normally I wouldn’t pass such a test!”

What causes her low self-esteem?

Lillian definitely lacks a healthy sense of self. In other words, she has low self-esteem. Some of us might even recognise ourselves in Lillian. She generally focuses on what she feels are her weaknesses and mistakes that she has made and not on her strengths. Lillian’s parents hardly praised her if she did well as a child, for example, on her exams, but would shout abusive words at her if she did something in a manner unacceptable to them. As an adult, Lillian has been mirroring her parents’ negative behaviour, thus hardly acknowledging things she does well and criticising herself and others mercilessly for not performing 100% all the time.

What exactly is self-esteem?

Self-esteem is how we think and feel about ourselves. Our level of self -esteem can have a powerful positive or negative influence on our emotional and mental health. Whether our self- esteem is healthy or low depends on how we think and feel about ourselves. Lillian’s negative thoughts about herself has led to constant self-doubts, anxiety, anger, shame and  guilt and, thus, low self-esteem, which easily can result in mental health issues, such as depression, social phobia or eating disorders.

On the other hand, individuals with healthy self-esteem have self-respect, a sense of self-worth, and a feeling of good intrinsic values about themselves. Self-esteem is not about bragging to others about how good we are; it is about how much we realistically appreciate, like, and love ourselves. With a healthy self-esteem, we are aware that it is only human to have limitations and make mistakes. The more accepting individuals are of themselves, the more likely they are to accept others. Conversely, the lower our opinion of ourselves, the less accepting we are of other people. Last but not least, people with healthy self-esteem have confidence and believe in themselves. Their inner voices let them believe in President Obama’s slogan ‘Yes we can!’ and help them confidently apply these three words in their daily lives.

What’s the importance of healthy self-esteem?

Healthy self-esteem gives us the courage to try new things at home and at work. It helps us to make our own healthy choices and decisions and, therefore, will be less likely to follow others if they are doing something immoral or dangerous. If we have positive self-esteem, we know we are intelligent enough to manage stress and are capable of meeting life’s challenges. Ultimately, healthy self-esteem is a feeling that we have the right to be happy. When we are happy we value our emotions, our belief, our physiological and psychological health, our creativity and our relationships.

In fact, no one is happy all the time, and having healthy self-esteem does not mean we will always feel 100% confident and “high” at work or in our relationships. However, it is always helpful to remind ourselves what is right – and that, in any case, things can be improved “because we are worth it! (Remember this famous TV ad slogan?) And yes we can!”

Therefore, it is important to remember that positive self-esteem combined with good emotional health is strong predictors of happiness.

How do we improve self-esteem and seek support?

Low self-esteem is not a recognised mental health problem, but it can have negative effects on our mental and emotional health. It is alright to have ‘highs and lows’ in our feelings, but having unhealthy low self-esteem most of the time is not good, because it lowers our resilience, also known as our inner strength, and increases our life stresses. However, even healthy self-esteem can be challenged by sudden serious life problems, such as losing a loved one, living through a divorce, having serious financial troubles, being jobless, having children with medical ailments, struggling with serious illnesses, and many other issues that might cause us to question our inner value.

Seeking therapy with a cognitive behavioural counsellor or psychologist can help put such events in perspective. It can support our strengths to increase resilience, improve our social support, and foster our overall happiness.

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Dr Wolff von Auer, SAC registered Counselor and Certified Hypnotherapist, Author, Ex-Senior Banker, is a well-known passionate and acknowledged keynote speaker-cum-trainer. He is well-known for his Mental Wellbeing Workshops & Talks. He also is a Service Provider to the Health Promotion Board (HPB). For more information, www.CHH.com.sg.
Posted by ezyhealth on Jan 8 2014. Filed under Mental Health. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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