How to boost self esteem
Human beings are complex and complicated. When people come to my consulting room one of the first things I have to do is create a map of their internal psychological world. When I create a psychological map I almost always find a problem with low self-esteem and therefore help to increase self-esteem is needed. This is especially true if a mood disorders such as depression accompanies anxiety and stress.
This video film outlines the three options/choices you have if you struggle with low self-esteem and it includes a startlingly simple question you can ask yourself that will basically tell you everything you need to know if you feel down or anxious.
I have had the video transcribed in case you want to also be able to read it. The transcript is below.
Let me see if I can make this issue more real so that it resonates with you. To determine if help with low self-esteem would be useful to you ask yourself this question… and this is a question I ask my clients repetitively. ‘What is the most negative belief you have about yourself’? Well sometimes people say, My feet are too big and I say, ‘no that’s not what it is.’
Commonly people say things like, I’m worthless, I’m disgusting, I’m no good, I’m unlovable, I’m a failure, I’m a fraud, I’m useless, I’m stupid. These are very negative beliefs to hold about yourself. And if you hold one of these beliefs it’s a very distressing thought to have. It’s a distressing piece of information to carry with you and it always causes a problem by decreasing your self-esteem.
If you recognize one of these negative beliefs as being applicable to you or if you ask yourself the question and you realize that you have a similar negative belief, then it’s difficult to live a fully satisfactory life. Once you have recognized your most negative belief you have basically given yourself three choices.
The first choice and the most commonly taken is to – ignore it. If you ignore your problems with low self- esteem you think it might go away. If you ignore it you can carry on as if it doesn’t exist. You can put it behind you and get on with your life. The trouble is that ignoring it won’t make it go away. It just puts it a little out of sight, so that you don’t have to look at it but it still always exerts its influence.
It’s like having another moon spinning around the earth exerting its gravitational force. Every now and then the extra moon and the current moon line up and we’re going to have massive gravitational forces disrupting life. You can ignore self-esteem issues, to a degree, for a period of time… maybe. And then it’s going to be distressing. It’s going to be upsetting. It’s going to cause things to go wrong. Ignoring it is a commonly adopted strategy but it’s not very useful.
The second most common choice when thinking about low self-esteem is to accept that your negative belief is true; accept that the most negative thing you believe about yourself is correct.
So, if I believed that my most negative belief is that I’m a failure, then I will accept as true that I am a failure. And commonly people who are depressed will sit in my consulting room and say, ‘I am a failure.’ ‘Like 100%?’ ‘Yes.’
That acceptance of the most negative belief that you have about yourself typically goes along with a substantial mood disorder and we can call it depression or anxiety depending on if it’s an anxiety provoking negative belief or a depressing one.
The first two options out of the three possible options are not very useful in the longer term and will definitely cause a problem at some point. The third choice is a bit more interesting, however. The third option when looking at low self esteem help is to ask yourself these questions:
‘Is my most negative belief about myself objectively accurate?’
‘Is my most negative belief about myself true?
‘Does my most negative belief about myself stand up to scrutiny?’
‘For instance: if my most negative belief is that I’m a failure I would habitually say, ‘I am a failure.’
‘If I was doing my own therapy at the same time I would say, ‘do you work?’ ‘yes I do work.’
‘Do you hold down a job and get a salary?’ ‘Yes.’
‘Can you drive?’ ‘Yes.’
‘Are you able to maintain a relationship?’ ‘Yes.’
‘Are you interested in things?’ ‘Yes.’
‘Have you achieved any academic successes?’ ‘Yes.’
‘So are you really a failure?’
The question is this. When people say, ‘I am a failure.’ They don’t mean I have failed in being able to make a cheese sandwich they say, ‘I am a failure.’ This is a global interpretation of their whole being.
Looking at my most negative belief objectively can I sustain the view that ‘I am a total failure?’ No, I can’t and when people say, ‘I am a failure,’ which is a common thing for people to say, it’s hard for them to sustain it because it doesn’t match the evidence.
The evidence is not actually that they’re a failure. The case is that they feel a failure. And challenging this distorted emotion is part of the third choice.
There is usually a disconnection between your feelings of low self-esteem and reality. And you’ll find that this is true if you inspect it a little bit. There’s a disconnection between what you feel and what is demonstrably true based on the evidence of the world in which you live.
So on the one hand we have, this is what I know to be true and on the other hand we have this is how I feel. These are not the same things.
How you feel is what’s causing the most negative belief that you have about yourself to have energy.
What you feel is not always well calibrated to the world you live in and that is why either ignoring it or accepting it is the wrong solution to this problem of low self-esteem. The first two choices simple mean that nothing will change. How you feel will not change unless you challenge it and change it.
CBT for low self esteem
So what we have to do if there is a problem with low self-esteem and we want to change this is to take the third choice:. Use CBT to Help Low Self Esteem.
As part of getting self-esteem help you will need to examine your most negative belief about yourself. You have to examine its structure, you have to become interested in your problems with self-esteem and then challenge it and change it. We have to take this feeling of, I am disgusting, I am not good enough, I’m worthless, I’m unlovable, I’m a fraud, I’m a failure, I’m stupid, and we have to challenge this feeling to make it account for itself and bring it in line with what we know to be true because we can demonstrate it to be true.
I might not feel very clever but I’m not globally stupid. This negative belief is over generalized and De-contextualised. I might not feel good enough but the evidence is that I’m good enough in many domains of my life. Applying this acid test of reality is part of the process of cognitive behavioral therapy. This is CBT therapy.
When we challenge the feeling and we make it change to be more in line with what we know to be true. Because what we know to be true is…well… true.
Our feelings are not a good guide to reality in a lot of circumstances and in particularly when we have very negative beliefs and feelings about ourselves. So the third option of using CBT therapy to get self-esteem help means challenging and changing the most negative beliefs that we have about ourselves.
If we don’t challenge and change them they will continue to exert a powerful influence over us and they will distort and eventually ruin the course of our lives. It’s inevitable that they will do that because if you believe something very negative about yourself it will affect the course of your life. Now, my proposition is this, It doesn’t have to do that!
There are three choices that you can take, choice one is you can ignore it, choice two, you can accept it and choice three – challenge it and change it by using CBT for low self-esteem.
Change your life with CBT
If you want to take option three there are many paths that will take you from where you are to where you want to get to, which I would anticipate is to feel good, to have a reasonable level of self-esteem and to be accurately calibrated to your skills and attributes and to the world around you. This gives you the best opportunity to achieve the best life that you can have.
If you want to engage with the third option which is boosting your self-esteem to move forward while adopting a proactive and constructive attitude to your mental health then please make an appointment to see Dr Purves and get started on changing your life.