High self-esteem plays an important part of bullying prevention. It is also important for success in many other areas of life. While high self-esteem leads you to improve your life, low self-esteem causes many problems. The biggest problem with a low level of self-esteem is that it can set off a cycle of increasing negativity. Your inner voice judges you and tells you that your failures are typical. Because of this, you might try to avoid failure by never taking any risks. For this reason, low self-esteem will make it more difficult to meet people, interview for a job, take on an additional assignment at work, or do anything that involves stepping out of your comfort zone. It also limits your ability to hear constructive criticism and change your behavior. This cycle of negativity will often show itself in some or all of the following ways:
- – being quick to anger/blame
- – avoiding responsibility
- – having difficulty accepting criticism
- – becoming a perfectionist
- – making excuses for your shortcomings
- – having a tendency toward the use of alcohol and drugs
Although self-esteem develops when you are young, there is good news if you have a low level of self-esteem: It is possible to change! Because low self-esteem is learned, it can also be unlearned and replaced with more positive thoughts and feelings. The key to learning to improve your level of self-esteem is to listen to your critical inner voices, analyze the patterns you see, and then replace these critical voices with more positive voices.
Let’s look at the following steps to take in order to improve self-esteem:
- Become Aware of Your Negative Inner Thoughts
- Identify Your Core Beliefs About Yourself
- Change Your Core Beliefs About Yourself
- Visualize Positive Outcomes
- Change Your Behaviors
Become Aware of Your Negative Inner Thoughts
Becoming aware of your negative inner thoughts is the first step toward changing them. To become aware of your negative self-talk, start keeping a diary of your thoughts and behaviors. Just trying to remember your thoughts during a certain behavior usually won’t work. You must go through the work and practice of writing down your thoughts in order to be able to analyze your negative inner voice effectively. Start a diary and record your self-talk, especially when feeling depressed, guilty, angry or upset. This may not be easy at first, but it will be very helpful in making yourself aware of your negative thinking processes. Sometimes thoughts can be so tied up inside that it takes extra effort just to sort them out and clearly identify them.
Identify Your Core Beliefs About Yourself
It is important to realize that there is a difference between thoughts and feelings. Feelings can usually be thought of in single words such as angry, unmotivated or defeated. Thoughts are more complicated and cannot usually be explained in a simple word. It is these thoughts that form your core beliefs about yourself. These thoughts give rise to your feelings, including your level of self-esteem. Keep a diary for one week and use it to record situations in which you have low self-esteem. Carry this diary around with you so that you can record your thoughts and feelings as they occur.
Change Your Core Beliefs About Yourself
After you have recorded your self-talk for a week, you can then identify the core beliefs about yourself that pop up over and over throughout your diary. Look for keywords and themes that seem to relate to the same core belief. Once you have uncovered one or more core beliefs, focus on the one that has the most impact on your self-esteem. Once you have identified this core belief, you can then work on changing this belief.
To do this, write down the situation related to the core belief that bothered you the most. Then write a new way of reacting to the situation. This new way of reacting must be a more positive and reinforcing way of handling the situation. Picture yourself not as the critical spectator, but as the good coach. After you have written it down, visualize how you would do this. Write down the visualization as well as the expected result of your new positive behavior.
Visualize Positive Outcomes
Athletes understand the importance of visualizing in their minds what they want to have happen on the field or court. Just like an athlete, you need to picture in your mind what you want to have happen by visualizing it over and over. An athlete may imagine running a mile race ten seconds faster than he has ever done it before. You can visualize a good result for your next task or project as well. Doing this will make it easier to take the steps that will get you to the expected result.
Change Your Behaviors
Your inner critic has set patterns of behavior for you. You fall into the trap of thinking things like, “If someone told me when I was six that I didn’t use my head, then I must not be able to use my head in this adult situation.” This thought seems silly and self-defeating, doesn’t it? That’s because it is silly and self-defeating. Because most people don’t take the time and effort to listen to their inner voices, these old thoughts often continue to pop up in their minds. Changing these behavior patterns now into new, positive habits will help give you a solid foundation of self-esteem. This foundation will allow you to survive stressful situations without falling into destructive cycles of negativity.
We hope you enjoyed our post on changing low self-esteem. Stay tuned for the next post in this series where we’ll look at behavior patterns. If you would like to learn more about our Bullying Prevention Program, click the free trial link below.