THERE ARE TWO MAIN WAYS to improve your
self-esteem, depending on why you lack self-esteem in the first
place. One reason you might have low self-esteem is because you
lack integrity, or you don't have a good work ethic (slack on
the job), or you try to get away with things, or you are not
fair with others (don't return favors, etc.), or you're not very
nice to other people. In all these ways, your actions can make
you feel bad about yourself.
In this case, your bad feelings are appropriate.
You are feeling the natural consequences of your actions. What
needs to be changed is not your feelings, but your actions. Clean
up your integrity, treat people better, work harder and more
conscientiously on your job, have more reciprocity with others,
and so on. And if you do this, your self-esteem will improve.
You'll feel better about yourself. And in this case, your new
good feelings will be appropriate. They'll be a reflection of
your value and integrity.
Now what if you're already a good person,
treat others well, are honest and ethical, but you still lack
self-esteem? Then what?
If you are a good person but you think
poorly of yourself, then it is not your actions that need
to be changed, but your thoughts. You are thinking poorly.
You're thoughts are inaccurate and inappropriate.
And the best way to change your thoughts
is not to repeat positive statements to yourself. The
best way is to catch yourself thinking negative things about
yourself and then question those thoughts. This is an entirely
different process with entirely different results.
Question your thoughts for accuracy.
In other words, you're not trying
to be positive here. You're trying to be true. When you
say something like, "I'm such a screw-up," look at
that thought. Is it true? What would be a more accurate statement?
What would be more specific? What would be more TRUE?
A truer, more accurate statement would
be something like, "I made a mistake. I've made this mistake
a few times before."
Do you see how this more accurate statement
has a lot less sting? Do you see how it could reasonably make
you feel better about yourself (or at least less bad)?
Can you also see that you could repeat,
"I'm not a screw-up, I am a good person" a hundred
times a day and it would make no difference?
Let me clue you in to a little-known but
obvious fact about you: If you don't believe it, any thought
you're thinking will have no influence on your feelings. The
bad news is that this means saying positive statements to yourself
won't do you much good.
But it also means that once you look at
your negative thoughts about yourself and discover one that has
been making you feel bad and after looking at it, realize it's
not true, that thought stops influencing your feelings.
Immediately. Once you no longer believe that negative thought
about yourself, your feelings change.
Write down the negative things you say
to yourself about yourself and check those thoughts for inaccuracies.
Are you overgeneralizing? Are you selectively ignoring a positive
trait you possess? Are you assuming you know what someone else
is thinking? Here
is a list of possible mistakes you can make in your thinking.
Check your negative thoughts against this
list and see if you are committing thought-mistakes.
As soon as you realize one of your negative
thoughts is a mistake, your feelings will start to change. You'll
feel better about yourself. Your self-esteem will rise to where
it should be
an appropriate amount of self-esteem for a person who treats
others fairly and keeps your integrity.