There are so many concepts given different meanings depending upon whom you ask, and self-esteem is probably one with the most definitions. After all, I have heard people talk about their self-esteem in the context of their looks, while others discuss it as something relating to accomplishments. I’ve heard it linked to physical fitness, self-respect, pride, and so much more.
The simplest and most accurate definition of it, though, is really that self-esteem is you appreciating you, for whoever you are…including anything and everything that society or peers might describe as flaws or foibles. After all, everyone has their own sets of strengths and weaknesses. It is usually people who can move through life knowing and accepting these facts about themselves who end up with the healthiest self-esteem.
Many of us have known someone who is the “ideal”. They are often in a position of authority in their career, serving as a leader, doing an amazing job, and are the epitome of success. This person, whether a man or woman, is also a success in their personal life – whether they live on their own or have a large family. We might look at such people and wonder how they manage it.
The key is that they have healthy self-esteem. They are good in business because they acknowledge their abilities or accomplishments, while also admitting their weaknesses and working with others to keep things in balance. They apply this same behavior in their personal life, forbidding any faults or flaws to play an enormous role in their self-image.
How can you start to emulate these types of people? You have to build your self-esteem, or recognize ways in which you are limiting it right now. And to do so, you need to take a look at that person described above and realize one major thing – they are not perfect.
That’s right; that ideal is not perfect because there is no such thing. Our modern world has a way of making us believe that perfection is possible. From magazines with flawless celebrity bodies to the endless parade of cosmetic procedures promising to rewind the clock and make us look amazing/gorgeous/perfect/etc., we are bombarded with the idea that we just are not good enough the way we are.
So, let’s just toss the idea of perfection out of the window and begin on a foundation of reality.
Cognitive Behavior Therapy
“Have you read about CBT?” a colleague of mine asked when we were discussing ways of improving self-esteem.
I told her that I hadn’t, and she went on to explain that it is an approach to counseling that gives you tools for boosting self-esteem. “It starts with triggers,” she explained, “it is up to you to discover the things that really shrivel up self-esteem and then develop patterns that you can use during any of those moments or scenarios.”
It took me a millisecond to recognize that my self-esteem seems to fade whenever I argue with my spouse. My colleague noted that typical triggers are big projects at work, home or work crises, changes in life situations such as losing a job or a child leaving the nest, and challenges with partners, loved ones, or colleagues.
“It isn’t always a glimpse of a model in a magazine that saps self-esteem,” she said, “it doesn’t matter which triggers impact you, the steps you take are the same for every situation. You just look at your beliefs and thoughts about the situations, determine what is ‘self-talk’ and what is reality.”
I wasn’t sure about this, so I asked her, “So, I’m in the grocery store with ice cream and some junk food in my cart, and as I scan the magazines in the checkout line I think, ‘I will never have a body like that so I might as well eat whatever I want…this is what you mean?”
“Sure,” she replied, “By limiting your view of any situation you easily turn positives into negatives, jump to conclusions, use all or nothing thinking, and mistake your feelings for facts. And in all of this, you are probably putting yourself down or reducing self-esteem.”
I was ready for the answers and said so. Laughing, she answered, “You have to assess yourself in this way, and then create positive and constructive thoughts to replace those that are flawed. For instance, just use hopeful statements to get yourself through a challenging moment, or remember that there is no such thing as perfect.”
It is easy to allow habits to control our self-esteem, but if you just try to shift your perspective and question yourself a bit, you’ll soon see that you have so much to be proud of and that you should appreciate yourself for all that you are right now.