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The Positive Approach - Lesson 13

Creating Self-Esteem

By Peter Shepherd

Listen to the Lesson:

How would you describe yourself? The following is a list of adjectives - virtues, vices, strengths and weaknesses - that may or may not apply to you. Very many other qualities could be added to the list.

artistic lighthearted responsible
sarcastic proud useless
incapable depressed beautiful
kind responsive extrovert
shy aggressive timid
overbearing manipulative loving
boring sensitive emotional
sloppy stupid enthusiastic
modest embarrassed introverted
interesting withdrawn thoughtful
worried afraid creative
self-righteous ashamed confident
ugly lazy supportive
unique tolerant flexible
clever angry passive
demanding happy considerate
active lovable intelligent
inarticulate intolerant tactful
perceptive uncertain mistrusting
worthless unattractive talented

There are plenty more attributes. You could look at yourself in terms of how others see you, appearance, personal manner, performance at work, home life, relationships, social position, mental functioning, self-awareness and sexuality.

We are all of these some of the time of course. However, now make a list of all the qualities - from the above list or other things that come to mind - that you think you are almost never: "I am almost never..."

Now all those things that you believe you are almost always: "I am almost always..."

Which of these statements do you consider the most important, i.e. your underlying personal self-beliefs? How do you see yourself? Are your core beliefs appreciative or critical; are you high or low in self-esteem?

Look at all the critical statements you listed and imagine you were saying these things about someone else. Would you be so hard and judgmental with someone else? How would you feel if someone else described you this way?

If you recognize and are happy to be the person you have described, then fine. But ask yourself if this means keeping some area of yourself quiet, out of sight and so out of mind. If you suspect this to be true, try to look into what area that might be.

Disarming the inner critic
Take each negative statement one at a time and check it for rationality against the following list:

  • Has a general rule been made from one isolated example?
  • Does it pay excessive attention to only small parts of your experience?
  • Is it an exaggerated description instead of an accurate one?
  • Is your critic thinking in terms of black and white? E.g. does it insist that everything you do has to be brilliant or else it regards it as rubbish?
  • Does your critic expect you to take responsibility for events that are actually outside your control?
  • Does your critic assume the whole world revolves around you and your interests?
  • Have you been mind-reading?
  • Do you know for sure that other people don't like you, are unforgiving of you, or don't care about you?
  • Does your critic assume that you have no responsibility or are a helpless victim?
  • Is your inner critic being inappropriately emotional?

For each negative statement, see if you can contradict it with a more rational statement. E.g. "I may sometimes misunderstand, but that doesn't mean I'm stupid."

For each weakness or negative trait find an exception or a corresponding strength.

Think about people who are your friends or who you like in spite of their unfortunate habits or undesirable traits. Try adopting the same attitude to your own traits - make friends with yourself.

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Next Lesson: 14. Changing Your Mind About Yourself
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