Techniques to improve self-esteem
People with poor self-esteem often fail to give themselves enough time and space. So find 10 minutes every day to be alone and to just sit and do nothing.
Some people find it helpful to close their eyes and imagine a country scene or the sight and sound of waves gently lapping against the shore.
During this 10 minutes, allow yourself to feel peaceful and happy. Enjoy this time. It is yours – and yours alone.
Accentuate the positive
Often we make ourselves unhappy because we go over and over mistakes we have made. But we can improve our self-esteem if we re-think the things we believe we have done wrong or badly.
For example, one of my clients has to give presentations at work. He used to be very critical of his performance and would lose sleep afterwards over the tiniest of errors.
But now, he writes an account of each presentation shortly after he’s given it and only writes about the things that went well.
He doesn’t need to write about the bad things – they will stick in his memory and he will try hard not to repeat them – but he will forget the good things unless he writes them down.
So when you have a horrible day, or something goes wrong in your relationship or at work, write an account of what went right with that episode, not what went wrong.
The results will surprise you – and improve how you see yourself.
List 50 things you like about yourself
If you’re seriously lacking in self-esteem, you probably find it hard to think positively about you.
So, try this exercise: write a list of 50 things that you like and admire about yourself. This could take weeks, but persevere!
- You can write down your characteristics.
- You can include things about your looks.
- You can even write about the things you do. For example, you may buy a copy of the Big Issue on a day when you’re short of money, or you may help an elderly woman in the supermarket when you’re rushing to get your own shopping done.
When you have reached your 50 good things, write them down again on small pieces of card that you can carry with you at all times.
You can probably squeeze in 5 points on each card, so that you’ll have 10 cards when you’re finished.
Then, twice a day, shuffle the cards – so that you can view your good points in a fresh order – and then read them.
If you do this every day, you will start to accept your own goodness and worth.
And if you have a difficult task ahead – like a new date, or a job interview – always read your cards one extra time just before your challenge. This will help you to be more relaxed and optimistic.
Getting and giving criticism
One of the areas that people with low self-esteem have greatest difficulty with is criticism – giving as well as receiving it. Both can be extraordinarily difficult.
How to deal with criticism
Often when we’re criticised, we’re so hurt that we start excusing ourselves and rebutting what’s being said without really listening to it.
This doesn’t help us. So here are some hints and tips about dealing with criticism.
- Listen to criticism without interrupting.
- Next, if there are aspects to the criticism that are valid, begin by agreeing with those points.
- If parts are unclear, ask for clarification.
- If you realise you were wrong, say so and apologise.
- If criticism is wrong or unfair, smile and say: ‘I’m afraid I don’t agree with you’.
How to give criticism
People with poor-self esteem find it just as hard to dish out criticism as they do to receive it. In fact, many such individuals avoid promotion because they can’t face the prospect of being in authority and having to criticise others.
So how can you learn to criticise when you have to?
- Keep calm.
- Make your criticism at an appropriate time. Don’t wait until you’re so fed up that you’re furious. If you do, – you’re bound to make a mess of it.
- Take deep breaths, then try a technique called the ‘criticism sandwich’. This means you say something nice, then insert the criticism, then end with another positive comment.
- An example would be: ‘Your work is usually great, but it’s not quite right today. So, I’ll have to ask you to re-do that report. But I bet this time you’ll do it brilliantly.
Say ‘I’ not ‘you’
You might notice that people, who are fair when they criticise, tend to use the word ‘I’ rather than the word ‘you.’ This is because the word ‘I’ shows you’re in control and that you’ve thought about what you’re saying.
You might say: ‘I don’t think you are behaving well today.’ Or: ‘I fear that I haven’t made that clear enough because I don’t think I’m carrying you with me on this point.’ Or: ‘I think this work isn’t up to the standard I normally get from you.’
All too frequently we don’t say anything initially, which is when we should address the problem. Instead, we bottle it up until we explode. Then we use the words ‘you’, ‘you’re’ and ‘your’ all the time.
We say: ‘You’re incompetent’, ‘you’ve stupid’, ‘your work isn’t up to scratch.’ Or even: ‘You make me sick!’ These phrases sound angry and accusatory. They also indicate that we’re not in control. And after uttering them, we generally feel worse about ourselves, and our self-esteem can plummet.
A final note…
Having poor self-esteem can really make our lives and our work and our relationships so much more difficult than they need to be.
So, if you have low self-esteem, I hope that this article will help you to improve it.
Because once you have more positive regard for yourself, you’ll find that everything in your existence will run much more smoothly than it does at the moment.