Most days of the week I speak with clients at my counselling practice, and a common theme is a ‘low self-esteem.’ Have you had the experience of thoughts about not being ‘good-enough’ coming into the mind and undermining your confidence? This blog is based on a new e-book I have written, ‘Self-belief: how to believe in you,’ which is all about dealing with those self-doubts and developing your self-belief. You can find it under the shop tab!
In relation to self-belief, it is important to be aware of some definitions:
• Self-esteem refers to how you see and judge yourself, often in comparison to others. It describes your opinion of yourself and sense of self-worth.
• Self-esteem affects how you function generally and how you relate to other people. It includes self-confidence or how confident you feel about your abilities (Howell, 2011, p 80).
• Underlying beliefs about yourself, when constructive, are referred to as self-belief, and these drive your thinking about yourself and how confident you feel.
• A more recent term is self-compassion, which means that you are kind and understanding towards yourself when faced by your personal failings, instead of criticising and judging yourself harshly (Neff, 2003, p86).
From the moment we are born, there are a range of influences on our self-belief, and these include:
1. Your early life experiences – have we received affirmations from others or criticism?
2. The society in which we live – and the messages it gives us about ourselves.
3. Being human – we naturally tend to compare to others.
4. Ongoing life experiences – both positive and negative.
5. Our personality and thinking style – such as being a perfectionist, or more optimistic or pessimistic in our thinking.
Low self-belief can affect our health and wellbeing in many ways, such as contributing to stress, anxiety and low mood. These in turn may affect our sleep and eating habits, or ability to exercise, and thus our general health. It can also affect our relationships and social functioning. So positive self-belief is protective for our physical and mental health!
We can improve our self-belief in many ways, including:
1. Changing our thinking and underlying beliefs about ourselves, through recognising our worth is not actually about what we achieve, quitting overly self-critical thoughts and using affirmations.
2. Changing the stories we hold about ourselves, such as ‘I’m a good mother’ or ‘I am not good-enough.’ Remember that no single story can completely cover all aspects of our life, and if we have some negative stories dominating our lives (such as ‘I’m not worthy’), we can learn to re-story our lives by focussing on our strengths and successes, even small ones.
3. Focussing on your values and acceptance. Start by considering what is important to you in life, that is, what you truly value? For example, under the heading of work, having a satisfying job might be important to you, and under leisure, you might value playing sport or catching up with friends. We need to then accept what is out of our control, and take action focussing on our values to create a rich and meaningful life (Harris, 2009, p 2).
4. Practicing mindfulness, which involves paying attention to experience in the present moment, as opposed to being caught up in thoughts or feelings. So if we are having a cup of coffee in the sunshine, we pay attention to the taste and smell of the coffee and the warmth of the sun, rather than getting caught up with worries or thoughts. In the same way, we can be mindful of our thoughts and feelings, noticing them, rather than getting caught up with them. Through mindfulness we can learn that thoughts and feelings come and go, that we can experience more calm and peacefulness. In this way mindfulness can assist us in developing self-acceptance and self-compassion (Harris, 2010).
5. Focussing on positive emotions and accomplishment. There is a growing interest in the field of positive psychology, which encourages us to focus on our strengths and to use them more. If you know and use your abilities, you will find that you will be happier and more confident, and confidence in one area tends to spread into other areas! Focussing on positive emotions such as enjoyment and gratitude helps us to feel good too. Equally, enhancing relationships, finding meaning in life through our passions and a sense of purpose, and having a sense of accomplishment, can enhance our confidence and wellbeing.
6. Developing self-compassion. This means you are kind and understanding towards yourself when faced by your personal failings, instead of criticising and judging yourself harshly (Intuition book p130). In other words, apply the Golden Rule to yourself and treat yourself as you do others, with kindness and understanding!
7. Trusting yourself and using your intuition. Intuition is knowing without knowing how we know! We have rational or logical knowing, and gut-feeling or intuition. We all have it, and it can help us to feel more confident about ourselves and our decision-making. We can enhance our intuitive skills through awareness and practice. In my book, ‘Intuition Unlock the power,’ I take the reader through seven steps to heighten their intuition, including making space for intuition in our lives and practicing meditation and mindfulness. Importantly, at the centre of these steps is trusting your heart-felt knowledge (Howell, 2013).
You can learn more in my new e-book, which includes practical exercises. I hope you enjoy it and find it useful! Remember that you are the expert on yourself, that you have strengths, knowledge and intuition, so BELIEVE IN YOU!
Suggested books & websites:
Howell, C., Murphy, M. (2011). Release Your Worries A guide to letting go of stress and anxiety’. Exisle, NSW.
Howell, C. (2013). Intuition Unlock the power. Exisle, NSW.
Harris, R. (2009). ACT Made Simple: An easy-to-read primer on Acceptance and Commitment Therapy. New Harbinger Publications, Oakland, USA.
Harris, R. (2010). Mindfulness. Online, retrieved 30 September, 2012: www.actmindfully.com.au/mindfulness
Howell, C. (2013). Intuiton Unlock the power. Exisle, NSW.
Howell, C. and Murphy, M. (2011). Release Your Worries A guide to letting go of stress and anxiety. Exisle, NSW.
Neff, K. ‘Self-compassion: An alternative conceptualisation of a healthy attitude toward oneself’. Self and Identity, 2003; vol. 2.