Do you struggle with self-worth or low self esteem? Do you have those moments when it feels like nothing you do seems to matter? Have you ever been caught up in those thoughts that tell you that you’re no good or you’re not good enough? I used to think this way, and those sorts of thoughts just kept going round and round in my head, until I actually start to believe them.
Maybe you notice it most at work, around your boss or your colleagues. At some point you used to enjoy being there but now you find yourself trying to not be noticed or hiding away so you can avoid other people? Do you worry too much about what others might be thinking about you? This might show up in your social life, or even in your relationship and around family. For some of us, this feeling of uncertainty about whether we are “doing it right” can show up in all areas of our lives, from health and finances, to careers or business, relationships, kids and with friends.
I used to find it hard to not compare myself to others and see in them the qualities that I wished I had. I would always seem to notice the things that other people were great at, and the things that I was not great at. I’d withdraw from people, from experiences, from putting myself out there in life. Deep down there was a part of me, a quiet voice that wanted me to believe that I had some strengths and things I could contribute. A voice that whispered to tell me that I was a good person and what I do actually does somehow matter. But over time, the more that I had been focusing on how much better than me everyone else was, the less I could identify with that little voice in me.
If you’ve ever felt that way too, just know that you can do something about it, even if you feel it would be easier to give up. At least, that’s what it used to feel like for me. I had started to feel hopeless. I was so close to giving up on myself, giving up on my relationship, my family, giving up on work and my social life because of my lack of self-worth. But I knew that if I did, then I would miss out on too much. I had to try something different. At some point I noticed that it wasn’t just the situation I was in that was affecting my self-esteem. I finally realised that out of everything and everyone, I was having the greatest negative effect on myself. I realised that my own thinking and what I was feeling about myself was just that, a feeling about myself. And that feeling was the biggest thing that was limiting me.
How to change a feeling
Have you ever noticed how flexible children are about how they feel about themselves? You see, as children we’re very flexible around our emotions. You may or may not remember what you were like back then, but have you ever spent some time around a child? Watching my son grow up I’ve been amazed at his ability to change how he feels. How in one moment he can be proud as punch and the next be completely miserable, as if his world had ended. Then, before you know it, he would turn around and be all smiles again. He never seems to get stuck in any particular emotion for long.
Do you want help with Sadness, Procrastination, Self-Sabotage, Confidence or Motivation?
As adults, a lot of people can experience emotion, be it low self-worth, feeling anxious, fear or any emotion, as something that just happens to them. And before they know it, it’s like their emotions are pushing them around, affecting their behaviours, what they will or won’t do and even their decisions. One can see how there’s a tendency for your emotions to lead your behaviours. So that whatever a person feels, it’s likely to be reflected in their behaviours. The interesting thing is, our behaviours can influence our emotions too, so by feeling and emotion or doing a behaviour that’s associated with a negative emotion, a person might end up feeling that negative emotion again or do that behaviour which makes them feel more of the same and the pattern repeats itself over and over again.
So when I decided it was time to break my pattern and start to like myself again, I focussed on the emotion first. It became clear to me that the solution to rebuilding my self-esteem and enjoying life again was depended on me learning how to manage my emotions. Of course I had some help and there was no magic pill, but by discovering what it is that influenced my emotions, I was able to start connecting again with that part of me that believed deep down that I am ok, I do matter. I discovered how to turn up the volume of that quiet voice.
Instead of asking questions like “Why am I so miserable?”, “How come I’m so hopeless?”, I started asking myself better questions, such as “What would I like to be feeling right now?” and “What’s the opposite of what I am feeling?”. By shifting my focus bit by bit towards how I wanted to be instead of how I was, a new picture of myself began to emerge. When I chose to ask questions of myself like “What can I find about me that I’m proud of?” or “What things do I like about myself?” or “What have I done well in the last year?”, I found that my brain would find answers for these questions just as it would for the unhelpful questions I used to ask.
This is more than just positive thinking though, it’s about learning to catch the thoughts that are not so helpful, and changing them into one’s that could be more useful. When I first started doing it, it wasn’t easy and took some effort, but it wasn’t as hard as I had previously thought and it got easier and easier the more I practised.
Receive and be grateful
Often, people who struggle to value themselves are really uncomfortable with receiving compliments. They find a way to play it down or deflect the credit to something or someone else. If someone compliments their dress, they might say “Oh this old thing”. If they hear some praise about their work, they might say “It could have been better”. Each time you do this, it chips away a little more at your own opinion of yourself. I used to do this quite often, until someone helped me to realise what I was doing. Once I became aware of this, I started to make a conscious effort to bite my tongue of it’s usual response, and instead I would simply say “Thankyou”. Just the small act of saying thank you, helped me to feel so much more grateful for all that I had in life, and the more grateful I felt, the easier it was for me to really receive all the compliments that flew my way. I learned to love saying thank you, and seeing the joy that brought to someone else’s face, when they could truly feel that I’d received the gift they were giving.
It took a while, but now I don’t even wait for compliments from others. I’m more like the famous boxer Muhammad Ali and I give myself compliments like “I am the greatest!” all the time, hehe 🙂 These days, it happens naturally and it’s not because I think I’m better than anyone else, or because I think I’m worse than anyone else. I just know that I’m OK and I have things of value that I can bring to the table. I’m still aware of the things that I could improve but that’s not my only focus anymore. It’s much more balanced. One thing I especially enjoy doing is taking the time to write down a list of all the things that I’ve done well or I’m proud of or grateful about myself. These days I make it part of my end of year routine, so that I can carry all those good vibes with me into the new year.
When I used to struggle with self-worth, I would withdraw from people so that eventually I had very little support and the people that I did still have around me, rather than support and lift me up, made it easier for me to stay just as I was. I needed to find some connections with positive people who I admired and whose company would inspire and lift me up to being the healthier version of myself. It’s not enough to focus just on your internal thoughts and feelings. It’s really important to make sure you have the support of good people who see within you that which you don’t always see in yourself.
Finding ways to redirect my emotions, to focus on what I do have to offer and sharing it with supportive, good people has been such a positive change for me and for the people I love. I’m so glad that I chose to do something about it. It’s not like every day goes exactly the way I want it to, or that I have the perfect life or I love every single thing about myself in every moment. These days it’s more about appreciating myself, my loved ones and enjoying life more often than not. So take a chance to be proud of who you are now and who you’re becoming, do life more like a child, and you’ll begin to notice, as I did, that in fact, you are more valuable to your relationships, your family, your work and yourself than you ever imagined.