The subject of self esteem comes up fairly often in counseling sessions, but lately it has come up a lot more than usual.
It is one of the best topics to discuss… there are so many things that influence self esteem, and so many components to consider. And simply having a discussion about self esteem brings it to our awareness, which often leaves a person with a sense of improvement (or at least a little more positive view) than before.
It can be a daunting task to “improve low self esteem” and many people struggle with where to start. I thought it may be helpful to talk here about the most common topics that come up and how those relate to feeling more positive about one’s sense of self.
Be Yourself – This is one of those ideas that is extremely easy to say, and not always so easy to do. How many reasons do you think people can come up with to avoid revealing their true thoughts, feelings, emotions, opinions, personality, etc. etc.?? Yes, there are a LOT. But if you can be at peace with who you are and be able to share that uniqueness with others, it can be one of the most rewarding aspects of our experience here in this life. This idea always brings Brené Brown to mind, and her most recent book titled Daring Greatly. In her light-hearted yet direct style, she encourages each of us to take that risk to show our true selves and see how much more rich and beautiful the relationship in our lives can be.
In a recent YouTube exploration of this topic, I came across the music video for Sara Bareilles’ song, Brave. The lyrics in this song emphasize this exact same thing, and what a beautiful way to demonstrate it.
You might enjoy this Sara Bareilles too:
Live Your Values – Each of us has this unique set of values, of varying importance, that is a part of the person as an individual. One of the things that makes my work as a counselor so meaningful and important to me is the honor I feel when people allow me into their world, to share in their own unique individuality.
The values I’m talking about can vary a lot but the most common ones I talk with people about are honesty, self control, optimism, kindness, courage, integrity, and open-mindedness.
We run into problems though as human beings when we make choices that do NOT coincide with our values. None of us are perfect, right? But we try. And when we feel like we are falling short, our self esteem can take a hit, we feel shame or guilt, we fall into depression or anxiety, and more.
When I say “live your values,” what I’m getting at is if you are not happy with choices you’ve made, simply start now to make choices that you are happy with. One moment and one choice at a time, start to move closer to living your values, whatever those are. Each choice may feel small but each one brings you closer to showing with your actions who you really are.
Understand the Influences in Your Life – The most important areas of influence on self esteem come from family, friends, and society. When we are children, our family has the most influence. A child who is given unconditional love learns to love himself or herself unconditionally as well. As we mature, our friends begin to have more influence and peer pressure, bullying, social media, school performance, how we dress, and so much more begin to become a significant part of how we define the thing we all “me.”
And then there is society. I equate this to some extent with our media, and I could go on and on about the effect our media has on a person’s sense of self, body image, how we should act as a man or as a woman, and so much more. But that is probably a blog post all by itself! My point in this is that if we can understand the multiple influences on self esteem and how this relates to how I define “me,” we can overcome negative influences and strengthen the positive ones. We can decide what is true and what is not true for…”me.”
Acceptance – each of us has aspects of our self that we like and some we don’t like. If you can get to a place where you accept ALL of who you are, there is peace and well-being and a sense of self-worth.
I hope these ideas have given you some things to think about. I’d love to hear thoughts on how this relates to you, or thoughts you have that expand on self esteem.