Self-Esteem - How Does One Acquire and Maintain It?
It is no secret that low self-esteem is a pervasive problem in society and much of it stemming from negative childhood experiences, i.e. verbal/physical/sexual abuse. I, for one, am no stranger to the common pitfalls low self-esteem can have on an individual, struggling to find their place in the world. It is a disease even the seemingly most accomplished individuals have.
In the book titled: "Breaking The Chain of Low Self-Esteem" by Marilyn Sorensen, Ph.D., the writer illustrates how LSE (Low Self Esteem) is easily misdiagnosed by therapists as Depression. Of course, LSE, is a contributing cause of depression - yet according to Marilyn, a separate illness altogether. It is like prescribing medication as a band-aid to cover a root symptom of depression masked as LSE.
I am, in no way, saying the use of anti-depressants isn't helpful in achieving equilibrium and mental stability as a tool for combating the effects of depression as part of therapy treatment. However, Marilyn's book explores roots from our past so we can fully understand where our negative thought patterns originated and why our subconscious mind continues to harbor those same negative thought patterns to be true.
You know words can be very damaging as they can be healing. I recall being retained from recess one morning while in the 1st grade (I was already held back in kindergarten because at the time mom put me in school, I was barely 5 years old and not yet mature for the experience. I am a natural born late bloomer and was held back, again, in the 1st grade!), my first grade instructor sitting on top of my little desk, yelling at me "Why can't you get this?" over some math concept I struggled with.
Needless to say - rather than feeling encouraged, my brain froze from being open in receiving the understanding needed to solve the math equation. Furthermore, did little to help my self-esteem for any class participation/activities fearing each time an effort was made, suffer the embarrassment of being wrong, etc. That seemed to be a continuing trend throughout my early years on this earth and certainly not the best of memories.
I had to have tutoring yet my instructors offered it for the wrong subjects. Following one tutoring session after school, my mentor asked if there were other subjects I needed help with. Excited I said, "As a matter of fact, yeah! I could use a lot of help in math." So secretly, obtained tutoring for that subject and as a result brought my grade average to a passing C rather than D or below.
That day was a turning point for me because my mentor exercised full patience - never rushed understanding, always encouraging belief in me that I had the initiative to accomplish anything I wanted in life.
I have since chosen to make peace with my 1st grade teacher in my mind by trying to understand her impatience. She always wanted children and, for whatever reason, couldn't have any. Perhaps this served as a lingering source of frustration for her and I happened to be the natural target rather than it being directed at me personally. Who knows?
The old saying "what goes around comes around" - meaning - whatever the source of our discouragements were in our youth, 9 chances out of 10, those individuals suffered similar put-downs in their own lives.
Our parents for example. They grew up in a very different world than we did - there wasn't the endless source of help offered for those needing to retrain their minds toward the positive. If one suffered from some major childhood trauma - you shut up and put up, basically. Either that, or you were considered nuts without the ability to handle your insecurities.
Naturally, those frustrations surface in child-rearing. It is like an automatic response to things based on the only truths they were taught to believe! After much time goes by - the challenge to retrain our thinking becomes harder. It becomes a learned process.
During my years of being in and out of therapy, wasn't until last year, a mentor I worked with suggested Marilyn Sorensen's book on LSE (Low Self-Esteem). I had a problem of constantly talking down to myself using the natural phrases like: "I can't do anything right," or "The only thing I seem to do well is fail," or "featherbrain"! Okay - well I acknowledge the featherbrain part of it but with loving humor. LOL.
Marilyn truly details real-life stories of those suffering from LSE, even delving into the backgrounds of her patients in fully understanding where their thought process is and how they see themselves and the world around them. Reading the stories illustrated, saw a close reflection of myself. It was as eye-opening as it was empowering to finally be given a tool in understanding myself better so that I could heal.
Acquiring self-esteem is a challenge on its own but once we have it, how do we go about maintaining it?
Well - it isn't always sitting back waiting for the "good vibrations" words of encouragement to come because many times, you will be alone on the sidelines. You need to become your own best advocate/cheerleader rather than waiting on someone to lift us up, important to find creative ways in self-encouragement.
A book I read 6 years ago had an interesting suggestion (it's a shame I don't remember the book - it may have been "Write It Down, Make It Happen" by Henriette Anne Klauser) - said to create a - yes, "good vibrations" box. This box is what you put all the compliments/words of encouragement you've ever received, including inspirational quotes that really speak to you on a day when you're feeling down; dig that box up and review the treasure waiting inside.
It has been a tremendous help for me! Every time I cry tears of joy, reminding myself how loved and valued I am on top of the renewed faith that, through God, I can accomplish anything I put my mind to.
Every one of us faces life-altering changes, some good, some not so good where it becomes essential for us to develop resiliency in how we handle the challenges that befall us. There were times I experienced a lot of loneliness and what got me through those times was my writing - which has an amazing way of keeping me in tune with my emotions and reality, a groundbreaking way for me to process whatever it is I'm going through. It's called beating the page with your emotions. LOL. It is natural to cry a pity party at times.
Step 1: Write it down, get it out of your system and move on.
Step 2: Look into your little treasure box and remind yourself of your worth, remembering that, above all else, God holds each and every one of us in the highest esteem! Yes - faults, blemishes and all. He sees it and lovingly guides us out from the dark cave of low self-esteem into a finer piece of work. (No pun intended - LOL) He, better than anyone, knows why we behave the way we do, heart bruises, emotional and physical scars that like to keep the walls of protection up.
Step 3: Look outside yourself by doing something nice for someone. Something as simple as a smile, a compliment, a card to say hello - haven't heard from you in awhile - how are you doing... etc. By looking outside of yourself for ways to serve and bless others, the return on that investment is a deep sense of personal fulfillment as God's little miracle helper.
What goes around eventually comes back around - sometimes not for awhile because some miracle God has waiting for us takes time in preparation in order for us to be ready to receive it. HE is preparing a "special sauce."
Upon reflection last night, I realized ongoing growth is much like the receding tides. One big wave hits the shore before receding back into the ocean again and next time the wave comes, stretches a little farther.
That is a similar process of the transformation we go through. Think of yourself as a wave stretching farther, challenging yourself a little more each time; and seashells - I can't recall the last time I picked one up, holding it close to my ear, with the echoes of my heart crashing inside of it.
You are special. You are precious and YOU are a gift!
Copyright © 2011 Sarah Hongerloot
Sarah is a Legal Administrative Assistant for the Law firm of Shook, Hardy & Bacon, L.L.P., Creator, Writer and Editor of a monthly publication titled "This Month's Special...," Aviation Enthusiast and Volunteer.
For questions, comments or permission to re-print this article: Email Us