Most people feel bad about themselves from time to time. Feelings of low self-esteem may be triggered by being treated poorly by someone else recently or in the past, or by a person's own judgments of him or herself. This is normal. However, low self-esteem is a constant companion for too many people, especially those who experience depression, anxiety, phobias, psychosis, delusional thinking, or who have an illness or a disability. If you are one of these people, you may go through life feeling bad about yourself needlessly. Low self-esteem keeps you from enjoying life, doing the things you want to do, and working toward personal goals.
You have a right to feel good about yourself. However, it can be very difficult to feel good about yourself when you are under the stress of having symptoms that are hard to manage, when you are dealing with a disability, when you are having a difficult time, or when others are treating you badly. At these times, it is easy to be drawn into a downward spiral of lower and lower self-esteem. For instance, you may begin feeling bad about yourself when someone insults you, you are under a lot of pressure at work, or you are having a difficult time getting along with someone in your family. Then you begin to give yourself negative self-talk, like "I'm no good." That may make you feel so bad about yourself that you do something to hurt yourself or someone else, such as getting drunk or yelling at your children. By using the ideas and activities in this booklet, you can avoid doing things that make you feel even worse and do those things that will make you feel better about yourself.
This document will give you ideas on things you can do to feel better about yourself - to raise your self-esteem. The ideas have come from people like yourself, people who realize they have low self-esteem and are working to improve it.
As you begin to use the methods in this booklet and other methods that you may think of to improve your self-esteem, you may notice that you have some feelings of resistance to positive feelings about yourself. This is normal. Don't let these feelings stop you from feeling good about yourself. They will diminish as you feel better and better about yourself. To help relieve these feelings, let your friends know what you are going through. Have a good cry if you can. Do things to relax, such as meditating or taking a nice warm bath.
As you read this booklet and work on the exercises, keep the following statement in mind:
"I am a very special, unique, and valuable person. I deserve to feel good about myself."
Sourced from Building Self-esteem: A Self-Help Guide, SAMHSA booklet SMA-3715
To achieve even the smallest of goals, and to get through life's daily duties and responsibilities, you have to have some self-confidence. The importance of developing a self-confident attitude allows you to wade through the push and pull of different voices and opinions telling you, "yes, no, maybe, do this, do that", etc. Relying on other people to guide you and following their opinions robs you of your individuality, makes you unsure of yourself and can lead to depression.
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Self-confidence is an attitude that you hold about yourself that allows you to move forward and achieve your goals. An article on self-confidence from the counseling center at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign defines self-confidence as having a positive attitude, but with realistic views. They note that a self-confident person has a general sense of control of her own life, and can do what she wishes, plans and expects. Self-confidence means that even if things don't go your way, you still believe that eventually, somehow, some way, they will.
The University of Illinois article notes that your parents may have instilled self-confidence in you by encouraging self-reliance and giving you love even when you made mistakes. If you did not have your parents' help, you can accomplish this yourself. Anthony Robbins states in his book, "Awaken the Giant Within," that developing his confidence comes from mastering his ability to feel certain that he really could achieve something. His rule is, "If I decide to be confident, then I'll feel that way toward anything, and my confidence will help me succeed."
Sitting quietly with your eyes closed and mentally visualizing yourself in great detail as a confident person is a great way to start being confident. In his book, "Unleash the Champion," Denny Dicke says that visualizing is the most effective tool for building confidence and belief. After repeatedly visualizing yourself being and acting confident, and achieving what you wish by confidently going after it, Dicke notes that when it does come time to move with confidence, you will act confidently because your mind sees this as familiar ground.
There are several strategies to overcoming those negative thoughts that keep you trapped in lack of confidence. The University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign article cites four tips. First, emphasize strengths by giving yourself credit. Second, take risks by looking at new experiences as a chance to learn, not win or lose. Third, use self-talk by stopping in the middle of a negative thought, and reframing it with a positive thought or words. Fourth self-evaluation allows you to gain a stronger sense of self, and stop giving away your personal power to others.
Becoming self-confident does not mean you are unrealistic about yourself and your situation. You understand that you are not Superman, but being confident means still moving forward toward your goal achievement and desires even when things don't seem to be going your way. Using positive self-talk such as that of 1992 Olympic gold medal winner in singles tennis, Jennifer Capriati who said to herself, "I can do this! I am the best!", can really help get you through times of doubt, and help you to maintain that feeling of self-confidence.
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