What do you really think about yourself? Have you ever thought how you would describe yourself to a stranger? Would you give a balanced view with your strengths and weaknesses, or would you only notice your failings or only want to mention your achievements? In the first case, you would be displaying a healthy self-esteem, while the last two examples are typical of someone with a less balanced self-esteem. So where are your beliefs about yourself coming from?
In general, we form our core opinion of ourselves during childhood through our relationship with our parents and other significant people in our lives. If you think about it, you’ll see that these beliefs came from what others said about you; what they told you or the way they behaved towards you. In addition, some situations may affect our self-esteem, such as being constantly criticised and feeling rejected. Your self-image is the result of all the messages you heard about yourself as a child and later in life, and they can lead to a healthy or unbalanced self-esteem. For example, you may believe things like: “I’m not very smart”, “Girls aren’t any good at maths”, or “I am too old to start over.” As a result, most of us have moments of self-doubt, when we do not feel good about ourselves and it is common to look outwardly for reassurance about our worth. In my practice I often see clients who worry about what others think about them: do they find them attractive, clever or funny? Of course, other people’s opinions may not be all that accurate or reliable. If you wish to improve the way you feel about yourself, there are some simple steps you can take.
l Spend more time with people who love and respect you, and less with those who criticise you.
l Make a list of activities that make you feel better about yourself and try to plan them into your day. Do you find going to the gym with a friend leaves you full of a zest for life? Then make it part of your weekly routine.
l Identify the activities that make you feel bad about yourself and decide whether you really need to be doing them.
l Often we can resolve our problems successfully by ourselves. However, working with a skilled counsellor can speed up the process.
n Anna Dallavalle is a counsellor working with individuals and couples and has a private practice in Morpeth. For information email firstname.lastname@example.org