by Sandra Church,
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all know someone who thinks they are always right, always good
looking, always wonderful! And we also all know someone who says
things like, "I'm not very smart. I'm ugly, stupid, dull,
nobody would want to know me." You'd think that the first
person would have good self esteem and the second person low self
esteem. It's possible that both of these people have low self
esteem but each hides it in a different way.
the people I have described would be very self centred. By that
I mean, they focus on the world as if they were the centre of
it. EVERYTHING that happens to them, good or bad, happens because
THEY deserve it. One would take the credit for everything while
the other would say that things happen to them. Neither of these
types of people would be very happy with themselves.
is self esteem? Simply stated, it's how we view our worth, not
how others view us. We learn our self esteem first within our
family settings, at a very early age. How children are received
and treated begins the process of determining self esteem. A wanted,
loved, nurtured child begins early to like themselves and feel
like a worthwhile person. Many things can affect that early nurturing
process - a mother may be unable to nurture a child (e.g. illness,
absence, alcoholism, drug addiction) which in turn affects the
self esteem of the child. As the family circle widens, new people
add to (or subtract from) the growth process and self esteem.
Grandparents, siblings, then school teachers, fellow students
- everyone contributes to the building of high or low self esteem.
Negative put downs or shaming affects our faith in ourselves.
Seniors often tell stories of how hard a teacher was during their
school years, often shaming a child before a whole school. We
ALL have difficulty getting over that sort of shaming behaviour
as we grow up, and it stays with us a long time.
adults have come to me for counselling saying "I don't have
good self esteem. I feel like a loser. My husband (wife, parents,
teachers) all put me down, and tell me I'm too fat, ugly, stupid
too do anything." This may well be true, but the results
don't have to be permanent. Even though it is in our youth that
we begin to form our self image, it is a process that continues
and therefore can be open to positive changes as an adult. If
there is no one in your life to be positive and tell you "You're
a good person!" then YOU have to tell YOURSELF "I AM
a good person!"
number one is "Stay away from people who affect you negatively!"
If you can't avoid them, then speak to them about it, saying that
you do not want to be put down or spoken to in that manner. This
is not easy, but very necessary.
number two is "Don't be the one who puts YOU down!"
We are all guilty of negative self talk saying things like, "I'll
never be able to...... I can't.........etc." It's bad enough
that others do it but why do we choose to do it to ourselves too?
Unfortunately, we have been trained to do this and often just
accept what others have told us. Some of what we heard was just
plain wrong, or negative. As an adult, we are in charge of our
own mental health, and part of that is to stop generating put
downs from within. We have to change negative thinking to positive
thinking. Part of that is to catch ourselves saying negatives,
and change them into positives. Help yourself by not accepting
and giving power to negative thoughts about yourself and build
your own positive self esteem. You will find that when YOU do
this, others will have to follow.
Church is a certified counsellor in private practice in Amherst,
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