Self-Esteem Online Guide
Feeling Good: The Bush Support Services Online Guide to Self-Esteem
The fabric of who you are at any given moment is reflected in how good or how bad you feel about yourself, whether you have high or low self-esteem.
This view of yourself will impact on absolutely every aspect of your life from family, work, relationships, how you spend your spare time, even your physical health.
So the ideal is to feel good about yourself and to have high self-esteem. People with high self-esteem are confident and secure individuals who accept that they are not perfect. They have an air of respect for themselves and others. They are the glass half-full people, rather than the glass half-empty.
The good news is that self-esteem is a moveable feast. There are many factors, such as upbringing and life experiences, that help determine our level of self-esteem. The information we get about ourselves from other people is also very important. But self-esteem is not something that is fixed. It can change from day to day and it is also something that we can decide to change.
One way of understanding self-esteem is to think about it as being “all in the mind”. Taking control of your self-esteem is about becoming aware of what factors that are making you feel negative about yourself and doing something about it.
This course was developed by CRANAplus Bush Support Services because it is clear that the isolation factor can sometimes impact on how remote area health workers feel about themselves. Callers to the Bush Support Services line have told us that isolation can mean that the feedback they get about their work is sometimes absent or not balanced. In addition, for so many remote area health workers, their sense of self is intrinsically linked to work and when what’s on your mind workwise is negative, it can have a devastating impact on your overall sense of self worth. So this course is designed to give you some practical strategies to help you establish and maintain a positive sense of who you are, even out bush!
The course is divided into modules. Each module has a number of tasks and a journal exercise. It is recommended that you print each module off and create a special journal just for working on the suggested tasks. Think about doing one module a week. The course is just for you. You will not be required to submit anything.
Module One - Understanding Self-esteem
Research has shown some interesting facts about individuals with high self-esteem. It seems that these individuals tend to have positive relationships, are more inclined to take risks, tend to be able to pursue their goals and dreams and have good decision-making strategies. What this tells us is that our level of self-esteem (what is in and on our mind) affects our attitudes and beliefs about ourselves and others, and also influences the way we act.
When things go wrong: that is one of the key areas when how we feel about ourselves really shows itself. People with poor self-esteem are more likely to say really negative things to themselves such as “I am hopeless” or “I always make mistakes”. Those with more positive self regard are more likely to say “I did my best” or “I will learn from this mistake”.
Module Two - Ways of improving Your self-esteem
At times, it is easy to see high and low self-esteem in other people. In our workplace, our co-workers with good self-esteem will be the person who notices when we do something right; their criticisms will be constructive; they are flexible when others make a mistake; they are interested and encouraging and stand up for themselves when they need to. The perfect remote area health worker! On the other hand, the co-worker with poor self-esteem is always on the lookout for others making a mistake; they tend to be cynical and negative; they do not give praise when it’s due and have a tendency to bully.
By observing people around us, we can think about where others are in terms of self-esteem. Self-esteem is contagious! And the people described above influence others around them in positive or negative ways. So the very first way of improving your own self-esteem is to become aware of the influence of others and make a decision only to be influenced by positive people. Remember not everything is about you: if someone treats you badly it is not saying anything about you, but about them. Don’t take it on.
What makes up our reality (and therefore how we feel about ourselves) at any given moment is reflected in what we are thinking, feeling and/or doing. All these aspects of our psyche interact with each. Change one and you will (eventually) change the others.
Our thoughts, attitudes and beliefs - in other words the “chatter” or running commentary in our heads about what is going on around us - become “truth” if we don’t challenge them. For example, if the chatter says to you “I’m so hopeless” every time you forget to put your timesheet in, you will eventually start believing that you are hopeless and, of course, your self-esteem will be compromised.
A simple yet effective strategy to deal with the chatter that may be affecting your self-esteem comes from the mindfulness literature. Don’t fight the thought. Don’t say to yourself “I’m hopeless for thinking that I’m hopeless”!! Let the thought float in, acknowledge it and let it float out again. The trick is to stand back and observe the thought. Then replace the thought with something more positive, like “Everyone makes mistakes” or “ I did all these other things correctly”.
In the previous section we looked at thoughts, attitudes and beliefs and how they can affect our level of self-esteem. The “chatter” works the same way with feelings. At any moment of the day you could be experiencing a different feeling or emotion. The way you are feeling depends on a whole lot of things: past history, current life circumstances and importantly what you are telling yourself about these things. Feelings have a past, a present and a future the same way thoughts do.
It is important to remember here the circular pattern that exists between our thoughts, feelings and emotions and remember that each affects the other. What we do at any given time will also impact on our self-esteem. The doing of self-esteem is important and often is the easiest place to start when you are trying to change some aspect of your life.
Below is a list of things that a person with good self-esteem might do:
- Be grateful for good things by expressing thanks
- Do something good for someone
- Donate to charity or giving time to a community cause
- Accept criticism well by not becoming defensive
- Stand up for themself
- Take a risk
It is possible to do all these things while you are working on your self-esteem. How you behave will affect the way people respond to you and this will impact on how you feel about yourself.
Module Three: Thinking more positively about yourself!
In the previous modules we looked at what self-esteem is and what sort of things might be standing in your way of having a positive view of yourself. Hopefully by completing the tasks in these modules your awareness of the sorts of patterns that may have contributed to feeling not so good about yourself has increased. The key is to look for “patterns” or habits that have become entrenched. The important thing here is that by doing this course you have started to break the cycle!
So once the cycle has started to be broken you need to allow yourself to imagine the way you want to feel about yourself. Remember your mind is the key. The only thing that you can control is the way you are thinking about things. Staying present, not fighting the negative but focussing on the present and the positive can become your new cycle of thinking. There are a number of ways that you can get “into training” for a new positive view of yourself:
- Create and use some positive mantras. These need to reflect what you want such as, “I like myself” or “I am a good person”. Use these mantras intentionally and many times a day.
- Treat yourself. If you truly believe you are a worthwhile person you will do nice things for yourself. You will have that haircut or massage, do your nails, have an extra long shower.
- Eat well and exercise.
- Be grateful for what you have. Everyday list the things that you have to be grateful for every morning as soon as you wake up and then again at night before you go to sleep.
Module Four: Keeping It Going
With any change, practice makes perfect and this is true of feeling good about yourself as well! Challenging yourself about your thoughts, attitudes and beliefs is a daily task and that’s why writing a journal is so important.
Another way of continuing to feel good about yourself is to practice good communication skills. Being a clear and fair communicator allows you to be validated and for you to validate other people. It’s all about understanding others and being understood. There are some clues about how to communicate with other people that we have, in a round about way, looked at in this course. Good eye contact is so important. Listening well and allowing the other person to finish what they are saying is also important. Show interest in other people and smile. Remember: sometimes it is important not to say what’s on your mind, but to be aware of what your true thoughts and feelings are.
Stay connected with happy and life-giving people. Spending too much time with people who don’t value themselves can have a negative impact on how we feel about ourselves. So stay away, as much as possible, from toxic people. Remember poor self-esteem is infectious!
Another way of staying positive is to make sure that you have something to look forward to. Plan a goal, such as a holiday, and work out the steps you need to take to achieve that goal.
Where to get more information
It is important that you make a decision to seek more help if you feel you need it. There are a number of options that you might like to consider:
- The Cranaplus Bush Support Services’ psychologists are always happy to talk to you, 24 hours per day seven days per week. You can also speak to the same psychologist on request if you are keen to work through a self-esteem package with some support.
- Referral to a psychologist either through a government organisation such as Community Health, through a GP or privately (check out Yellow Pages). Psychologists are now nationally registered so make sure that the one you contact is registered. They can provide support of many kinds including counselling and therapy.