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  • Building Self Esteem by Rekha

    Self esteem is the combination of self confidence and self respect. It is a conviction about one’s competency to face challenges of life and handle stressful situations. People with high self esteem show confidence in them and are rational problem solvers versus worry warts. They demonstrate the ability to  confront the things they are afraid of, are willing to take risks and also indulge in self nurturing activities.

    Self image – who you think you are, is determined by how others have treated you, and the conclusions you drew from comparing yourself to others. We evaluate ourselves and begin to validate it throughout our lives.

    The inner voice is developed by the feedback we get from others about ourselves from childhood. As we grow, the inner voice takes over and we begin to maintain a consistent image of ourselves. Our critical voice could be our parents, an authority figure or our own voice. This critical voice tends to undermine our self esteem.  Additionally, it seems to be closely connected with our thought process. The problem with critical voice is that it is always believed. It can be telegraphic which means one word can trigger a series of images, and it can link events and actions together.

    We listen to our inner voice because it is rewarding and it actually tries to protect us from the fear of failure and fear of rejection by others.  However, this does not help in the long run.  To build up self esteem, it is important to transform the inner voice versus just trying to eliminate it.

    Thought stopping technique is one of the most effective techniques to transform our inner voice. It is done by visualizing a red STOP sign and shouting the word STOP or Cancel and quickly replacing negative thoughts with positive coping statements.

    Another way to transform the inner voice is to turn the worry over to a Higher Power. It is also useful to put the worry in a shoe box and place it on the top shelf  of the closet of your mind. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy also recommends that  scheduling a worry time also helps  in programming the mind for  positive thinking. The mind tends to associate the scheduled worry time with problems and one can be positive the rest of the time.

    Self defeating thoughts are triggered by cognitive distortions such as overgeneralization, mislabeling, filtering, absolute thinking, self blame, over estimation, magnification and many more. When these distortions color our perceptions, it is useful to use affirmations as a mood induction technique. For example, “I feel good about myself”, “All things are working towards my well being”, “I feel confident”, “I feel happy” and so on.

    Using Visualization can also be a very powerful mood induction technique. It is important to first set long term and short term goals. Then check if you have a burning desire to achieve this goal. Is it attainable or are you willing to accept this positive change in your life? Visualization is a method of using imagery to modify your behavior and internal physiological state. It is used by athletes to achieve peak performance in their sports. For effective visualization, you need to relax, take a deep breath and use your five senses to recreate the imagery in detail. Practicing visualization repeatedly will increase your ability to see things vividly. You will be able to achieve your goals with more ease and facility with the aid of visualization technique.

    “The Power of imagination exceeds that of the conscious will.”   Emile Cou.

    It is also crucial to reward yourself more often, avoid people who are bad for you, have a good network of friends and relatives, take more risks, take care of yourself by engaging in physical exercise, eating nutritious food, being health conscious. Volunteer work, helping your community and having a meaning and purpose in life are also helpful instruments in building self esteem. Having a good balance in life is important to build self esteem. It has been seen that people who are assertive and who take care of their needs tend to have higher self esteem than people who are passive, codependent and passive aggressive.   Maslow has defined five levels of needs and people with high self esteem tend to fulfill their needs at all levels. Gandhi and many other national leaders were able to become self actualized.  It is helpful to treat yourself like a flower garden and sow the seeds of love to foster better self esteem.

    Self esteem affects our lives, deepens our ability to make a contribution to the world. Self esteem comes from within and is not measured by material things such as your possessions, status, assets and prosperity.  It helps us remain stable in adverse circumstances.

    By Rekha Shrivastava, M.S, CRC, CASAC – T

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