Boosting self-esteem

COPING

February 04, 1992|By Barbara Turk, M.S.

You've got it: low self-esteem. And you'd like to get rid of it. It says somewhere you should practice feeling good about yourself. You think that's dumb and about as helpful as telling you to look up a word in the dictionary when you don't know how to spell it in the first place!

You're right, because if you knew how to feel good about yourself (which is having good self-esteem), you wouldn't have the problem in the first place.

So, how do you boost your self-esteem?

*First, identify your personal programming (everyone's different). Somewhere you absorbed negative messages about yourself -- "You're not good enough," "You're not attractive," etc.

*Then, assess the message. If there is truth to it (you really would be more attractive if you spruced up a bit, for instance), follow a disciplined program to make desired changes. If the message is off-base ("you're not good enough" . . . according to whom? You're just as valuable as anyone else, for example), then override the message, and:

*Stop (every time!) the negative things you say to yourself on the subject. Substitute, instead, positive messages (you're doing fine, keep it up!) as the number of negative messages go down, self-esteem will go up.

*Resist the temptation to give up on yourself because, while you can recognize what's keeping your self-esteem below ground level, unless you actively set about changing the pattern and stick to it, you won't get rid of the problem. Do you deserve to treat yourself that way?

Barbara Turk is a psychotherapist in private practice.

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