Self esteem and confidence are two different things although they are often used interchangeably. Our self confidence refers to how we feel about our abilities, while self esteem is actually more about how we feel about ourselves; whether we feel worth while and whether we like ourselves.
Many clients that I work with will report that while they appear confident on the outside; they’re confident when meeting people and they do their job well, inside, they don’t feel they are good enough and struggle to accept their worth.
But why do some of us suffer with low self esteem?
For many, the cause is traceable to childhood. It’s interesting to discover during a hypnotherapy session what the root causes of people’s insecurities often are. Some clients I’ve worked with were criticised a lot as children and never felt they could measure up to their parent’s standards.
Others had a mother who lacked the interest needed for them to be secure within themselves and feel worthwhile. Others experienced bullying at school. I grew up as a southerner in a northern town, the tallest girl in the school (read: gangly!) and with ‘hippy’ parents; I never felt like I fitted in. Hardly the worst childhood, but it still took me years to accept my worth and to learn that, actually, ‘I’m ok’.
For others, more recent events in adult life, perhaps involving abuse or a very stressful period at work can have a lasting impact on how you feel about yourself.
We don’t have to have gone through a big trauma to have had experiences affect our self esteem, sometimes a simple cruel comment can have had a lasting impact on us, especially when we are younger and our minds are more susceptible.
We often feel we need the acceptance and approval of others in order to feel good about ourselves. Are we liked by other people? Do they think we’re weird, boring or stupid?
But how could we control the thoughts and feelings of another person? If we do this, we will never reach a place of fulfilment, because we can’t control other peoples perceptions.
Further to this, the perceptions of other people are more about them, as they view the world through the lens of their own experiences, upbringing, feelings and thoughts.
On top of all of this, we are constantly reminded by the media and advertising that we are deficient in some way and need to buy things/become more beautiful/wear the right shoes/look younger in order to be good enough. I try to remind myself and others;
To be beautiful means to be yourself. You don’t need to be accepted by others. You need to accept yourself
―Thích Nhất Hạnh
Another issue around self esteem is that we have a tendency to hang it on our achievements, our successes (or failures) and what we have in terms of material possessions. In his book ‘Feeling Good’, Dr David Burns asked a patient to draw a time line of her life on graph paper, with successes, failures, times of prosperity and less prosperous times. He then asked her to draw a line straight across it and label it ‘worth’. No matter what was going on externally in her life, her worth remained a constant. He showed her that her worth was intrinsic to her and it did not lower when she lost her job, or when she failed an exam, or when her boyfriend broke up with her.
Get into the habit of noticing your good qualities. List the things you’ve learned in your life, the insights you’ve gained, the difficulties you’ve overcome and bounced back from. How have you helped others? How have you shown compassion and kindness to other people? By reminding yourself of these things, you can start to build up your sense of worth and value. These are your intrinsic values.
Remind yourself every day that you are already good enough. The fact that we as human beings are even here is a mathematical miracle (if you need reminding of this, check out this video ‘Miracle of Life‘, I’ll admit it, this made me cry!). Start appreciating yourself more today and recognising how great you are, because you are.
It’s all too easy to look back at ourselves and criticise ourselves harshly. It’s important to bare in mind that everyone is just doing their best with the experiences and resources they have. If another person were to have had your life and experiences, they would have made the same choices and felt exactly as you do. You have always done your best what what you had, because if you had known differently, you would have done differently. Try to accept yourself and your past in this way and remind yourself that your best is all you can do.
I’d love to hear from you – what do you do to feel better about yourself? If you have low self esteem, what do you think is at the root of it? Let me know if the comments below.
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* pictures supplied by 123RF