I came across something on a psychology website that suggested a good exercise for people dealing with self-esteem issues. It said to write daily in a journal listing one accomplishment for the day, one way you helped someone, and one experience you enjoyed.
This is a pretty good idea I’d say, since studies have shown that gratitude is a powerful anti-depressant, and practice has been shown to build a positive self-esteem “habit” of sorts. But I couldn’t help but think, “that exercise sounds kind of boring. Who would stick to it?” Also, it seemed a little more relevant to someone suffering from depression (e.g. listing experiences you enjoyed could evoke happiness, but not necessarily higher self-esteem. It’s a totally different feeling).
Nope nope nope nope. As someone who has experience self-esteem issues since I can remember being alive, I knew this kind of exercise wouldn’t quite cut it.
Self-esteem issues are nasty. They can overshadow who you are, ruin entire days of your life, give people the wrong impression of you, and discourage you from pursuing great opportunities.
And worst of all, we often feel like we have little to no control over how we feel about ourselves. E.g – I’m overweight, so how am I supposed to not feel bad about it? Or, I got fire recently, so how on earth would I feel like a competent worker?
The exercise listed on this site is certainly a good start – but for someone who has just suffered a huge blow to their self-esteem, or someone who has dealt with chronic low self-esteem their whole life, it’s going to take a lot more than this sort of exercise.
What do people with low self esteem need more than anything? (in my humble opinion 🙂
A reminder of their rights.
People with low self-esteem have a tendency to mercilessly berate themselves and let others walk all over them. If it gets severe enough, they may even lose touch with their desires and goals, or stop pursuing things they enjoy…they start to forget themselves.
So instead of writing down what you accomplished today, why not write down what you deserve EVERY day?
I have the right to…
- take a full day off from work
- not care about what people think
- wear whatever I want without explanation
- make my environment safe and comfortable
- go after what seems fun
- tell people what I actually think
etc, etc, etc, etc, etc.
At the end of this list, you won’t merely feel happier, you’ll feel powerful – and power is exactly what low self-esteemers lack and need more of (at least that’s how they feel).
Try to develop a regular habit of this, even if just in your head.
And what if you’re so out of touch with your rights, you’re not even sure what they are (or aren’t)? Start with this basic rule: Your rights include anything that: a) improves your life, and b) doesn’t cause unnecessary damage to others’ lives. So, yelling at people who annoy you? Mehhh. But directly telling someone that they are making you uncomfortable when they are? Definitely your right.
Even if you have a healthy level of self-esteem, this could be an uplifting exercise. And if you’re on the low side, this exercise can serve as a vital reminder to stop ignoring your rights at let the negative feelings fall to the wayside.
Go on and have yourself a (healthy) power trip.
P.S. – For a cool, outside-the-box take on self-esteem and how to cultivate a healthy self image, check out How to Lose Your Self Esteem, a TEDTalk by psychologist Matthew Whoolery.