Monday, June 18, 2012

How to improve your self-esteem...

So by now I’ve discussed what low self-esteem is and how mental illness and self-esteem issues feed off of each other.  But, what can we do to improve our self-esteem? Mental illness is not a life sentence to low self-esteem! We as individuals- both individuals with and without mental illness- can take measures to improve our self-esteem.  You owe it to yourself to take those steps! If you struggle with low self-esteem, do yourself a favor and begin that journey down the road towards improved self-esteem, you will thank yourself for it! Just so you know, this comes from personal experience.  I still have room for improvement but my self-esteem is markedly better than it had been and it feels truly AMAZING!

Self-esteem is how you view yourself.  To change your self-esteem from low to high you must change how you view yourself from negative to positive. Sounds simple put like that, huh?  Well, it takes a lot of hard work and self-awareness but it is possible (trust me!).

Take notice of when you are thinking negative thoughts about yourself.  Work really hard to change these negative thoughts into positive ones.  When you catch yourself thinking negatively about yourself, change the flow and direction of your thoughts into something positive.  There are different patterns of negative thinking, start to recognize which patterns you have fallen into.  

These are the 6 patterns of negative thinking:

  •  All-or-nothing thinking- Seeing things as either all good or all bad.  For example…”If I do not succeed at this task then I must be a total failure”. 
  •   Mental filtering- You distort your view of a person or a situation to only see the negatives. For example, believing that a mistake you made at work or at school will make everyone think that you’re not up for the job or smart enough for school. 
  •  Converting positives into negatives- Not accepting your achievements, not giving yourself enough credit for your achievements.  For example, “I only did well on that assignment because it was easy”. (I was the queen of this one- never gave myself credit for anything I had accomplished in life- this is one that I could still use a little work on) 
  • Jumping to negative conclusions- You jump to negative conclusions for no reason at all.  Like believing someone is mad at you because they did not respond to your text message within an hour or so. (this was another one of my biggies) 
  •  Mistaking feelings for facts- Confusing how you feel or your beliefs on something with what the facts are.  For example, “I feel like a failure so I must be a failure” or “I believe that I am ugly so I must be ugly”. 
  •  Self-put-downs- Undervaluing yourself, putting yourself down, using self-critical humor, etc. Example: “I don’t deserve anything better than this” or “I am stupid and will never amount to anything”, etc.
It may be a good idea for a week or two to record your negative thoughts as you notice them so that you can determine which patterns of negative thinking your thoughts fall into. If you already have it figured out then good for you… don't stop there!

So you’ve identified your negative thinking patterns and have made the vow to begin recognizing negative thinking. Now, how do you actually change that thinking? Start making an effort to incorporate the following into your daily life:

  • Make a concerted effort to be a “glass half full” individual as opposed to a “glass half empty” individual.  Be positive and be hopeful! 
  •  Forgive yourself for the mistakes you make.  Everyone makes mistakes; it doesn’t make you a failure or a bad person. Use mistakes as a learning opportunity.
  • Avoid thinking/using words that may lead to unreasonable demands or expectations being placed on yourself, like words such as “should” or “must”.
  • Think about the good things in your life, things that have gone well, accomplishments you’ve made, etc. Focus on the positive! If you need help identifying positive aspects of your life go to your friends, family, coworkers, classmates, etc. for some help- they are not nearly as hard on you as you are on yourself.
  • Use negative thoughts as cues to develop new, healthy patterns. Don’t react negatively to negative thoughts; instead change them to positive thoughts. 
  •  Encourage yourself. Give yourself credit.  Acknowledge when you meet goals. So on and so forth! 
  •  Take the time to sit down and write a list of positive things about yourself.  If you’re having trouble thinking of them ask other people in your life to help you.  Use that list to change your thoughts to positive when you are thinking negatively until you are able to change the direction of your thoughts without using the list.  If you need to carry it with you, then do it! Whatever works best for you! Eventually you want to be thinking positively about yourself so that you no longer need to make the effort to change your negative thoughts into positive thoughts!
Some more things to remember that will help you increase your self-esteem:

You are NOT perfect! I am NOT perfect! NOBODY is perfect! Do NOT aim for perfection! Aiming for perfection is only going to result in perceived failure which will bring your self-esteem down. Humans are not made to be perfect. Instead aim to make accomplishments and meet goals. If you are always aiming for perfection you will be holding yourself back and bringing your self-esteem down further.

You can’t change everything; you don’t have control over everything. Know what you can change and what you can’t change. You can work towards changing your weight; you can’t work towards changing your height.  Don’t get stuck on the things you can’t change.  If you are unhappy with something you can change, then what are you waiting for? Change it! If you are unhappy with something you can’t change then begin the process of learning to accept and love yourself, every part of you.  Don’t beat yourself up for something you can’t change! It is part of who you are- learn to love it!

Set goals! Make a plan! Stick to it! Accomplishing goals works wonders for the self-esteem.
Be proud of yourself! Be proud of your opinions! Be proud of your ideas! Force yourself to step outside your comfort zone and express your opinions and ideas. Never feel scared to let your voice be heard!

Do something to make a difference- volunteer, participate in a walkathon for a cause you believe in, any idea you can think of to give back.  For me, my blog fills that void for me!

EXERCISE! EXERCISE! EXERCISE! (I personally suggest early morning workouts- they are the best and keep you going all day, at least in my opinion they are the best, they are my new found love in life. I know not everyone has the desire to get up at 5 a.m. to workout but make sure you work out at some point at least a few days a week)

The major thing is really to become aware of your thoughts and feelings and take the steps needed to change them! Turn those negatives into positives- in due time you won’t have to put any effort into the positive thoughts because you will be viewing yourself in a positive light. 

They already believe in you, let them help you believe in yourself!

I always welcome e-mails; I have recently been through a good  bit in regards to my own personal self-esteem and relationship issues, please feel free to e-mail me if you have any personal or general questions for me.  I will answer anything asked to the best of my ability and completely honestly.  Of course, I am not an expert but I am speaking from personal experience and am always willing to share more details with my readers. I will always respond to any reader’s e-mails.

Next blog positing… “Psychosis”… Fun stuff, stay tuned!

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“Believe in your dreams and they may come true; believe in yourself and they will come true” –Unknown

Thanks for reading! Until Next time…

-Kissing Stigma Goodbye-

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