Techniques for Building Self Esteem

A while ago, Starfish asked for techniques for evicting negative voices when they showed up.    So, here goes my ideas!

Please remember that I am not a trained anything (counselor, psychiatrist, etc) and so these suggestions I make are only that, suggestions.  They are what has helped me in the past, and still help me today.  These suggestions are helping me now, as I rebuild my self-esteem.  I hope they will help others as well.

The first step really is to recognize what the voices are saying is a lie.  Yes, I know I covered this before, but it’s really the basis of evicting those voices.   Do research on the things ‘everybody knows’ (such as being fat causes any number of fatal diseases).  Find out the truth.   It is critical that you find out what the truth is.  Go to the CDC and find out that deaths from the so-called fat related illnesses dropped in the past year, while the reported instances of obesity increased.  Look up when the BMI was changed (1997) arbitrarily to make more people “overweight” and “obese” who hadn’t been previously.  Find out who funded the studies that ‘show’ that the “fatz r ZOMG going to kill us all!”  Take the 45 minutes it takes to find out who the ‘experts’ are on the ‘study’ that shows that fat people cause global warming and all the ills of the world.  Knowledge IS power.

Then use the truth every single time the negative voices come up.   Use the research you’ve done to shut down the voices.  It is a concious effort to recognize the voice and to counter it, especially at first.   Once you realize that you are going into the same thought patterns, use the research you’ve found, the truth, to break the hold the lie has on you.  Example:  You think about how you are going to die if you don’t lose weight due to high blood pressure/chance of stroke or heart attack.  You counter with the research that shows being overweight can increase the chances of surviving a heart attack or stroke. 

If your voices have to do more with the subjective side (ie, you are ugly, nobody would want to be around you, you are stupid because you are fat, etc), it’s a bit tougher.   Because everybody has different opinions of what is beautiful or pretty.   And no matter what the standardized IQ is, people are usually pretty subjective about what equals stupid and what doesn’t.  But there’s still way to shut down the negative voices.

If you are in a healthy relationship, you can use that to help.  If your significant other doesn’t have an issue with your looks, then you are not ‘ugly’.  Yes, I know, this is still using other people’s opinions to form your own, but it’s baby steps.  I found it impossible to suddenly believe I was not ugly on my own.  I had to first realize that my husband really DID see me as being beautiful. 

The thing that caused me to finally realize he saw me as beautiful was a conversation we had one day.  We were both dressing up for something (going out to dinner or whatever) and he told me how beautiful I looked.  I discounted his view and told him that he needed to get new glasses, as he obviously couldn’t see out of that prescription.  He became really quiet, and after a minute, he told me that every time I discounted his opinion of my beauty, I hurt him.  He asked me why strangers’ words had more sway with me than he did.  He demanded to know if I thought he was lying, and if so, what I thought he’d get out of lying.  After all, we were already married.  It wasn’t like he was trying to flatter me so we’d have sex.  I saw the hurt, and the anger.  And I realized he was right.  I apologized that night, and promised I would try never to do that again.

It was a tiny, baby step, but after that, every time he told me I was beautiful, I didn’t deny it.  I even said thank you (because that really is what one is supposed to say to a compliment, who knew), and let the thank you stand alone.  Yes, in my head, I was still denying it.  I was still thinking things like “if he thinks I’m beautiful now, what would he think if I lost 100 pounds”.  But I never said it anymore.

That leads me to another thing, I don’t know how other people’s brains work, but mine seems to give credence to things that are spoken.  So, if I hear “You are beautiful”, my brain ‘says’:  It’s been said, that must mean it’s valid.   It doesn’t matter who is saying it.  It could be my husband, a child, my grandmother, friends, or myself.  On the other hand, if I hear “You are ugly” my brain will believe that too.  And the way my brain works, if I say something negative about myself, my brain believes it even more because I said it.

By not saying it, I stopped verbally reinforcing the negative thoughts.

And the most important thing for me, is to always go back to the very first step:  I am okay just were I am.  Repeat that to yourself over and over until you understand it emotionally.  Because that really is the first building block to healthy self-esteem.

Also, this is something that may take time.  After all, believing the lies didn’t happen overnight.  Neither will believing the truth.  Just keep repeating “I am okay just the way I am.”  Because you are. 

And so am I.


4 Responses

  1. I’ve been single my whole life, so I’ve had to figure out that I’m beautiful and sexy in the face of every person I know and everything in the world telling me I’m not.

    How can I know something when everything in the world disagrees with me?

    I wrote a sign that says I love myself and put it on my mirror. I never read the sign, but looking in the mirror always makes me feel loved.

    I bought a silver claddagh ring and had a special night for myself before I put it on. I pulled out all of the stops and used my favorite soap while I was getting ready. I wore my favorite outfit. I cooked my favorite meal and set the table with candles. I treated myself the way I had always hoped a special date might treat me someday. It was a beautiful night. Every time I see that ring on my finger, I remember that love and care for myself.

    Every day, I reinforce my own belief that I am beautiful and sexy and worthy of love by treating myself as if I am. It takes practice, patience, kindness, and acceptance. I had to be aware of when I was beating myself down and apologize like I would to any friend I had said such things to. Now, I almost never need to because kindness is a habit.

    I expect it from other people. I treat myself with respect, so I get respect from other people. I call them on it if they don’t. I don’t interact with them if they refuse to apologize. They can disagree and get out of my way.

    I am no longer looking for someone to show me the beauty I can’t see in myself. I’m looking for someone who sees at least some of what I see and maybe a few things I’ve missed. I’m looking for someone who loves me and respects me the way I do.

    In the meantime, I’m not missing out on having love because I’ve discovered deep reserves of love for myself just because I treat myself the way I want to be treated by others.

  2. I find the most difficult messages to remove are the ones from loved ones. Namely parental units. Even though my mother died when I was 14 and I am no almost 50 I still cannot undo the damage done to me from her constant telling and harping that I was fat which equaled worthlessness in her world. Other relatives have also chimed in with similar responses and because it comes from someone who is supposed to love you unconditionally it’s a more difficult message to erase, anyone have any clues for those?

  3. Moxie: The messages we’ve recieved from our parents and family really are the hardest to remove. It is possible, though, but you aren’t going to like my result.

    I’ve found, in my own building of my self-esteem, that I have to actively find each and every message that came from my parents. Once I find them, I have to conciously identify the lie. For me, such messages ranged from “you are lazy” to “you are fat and ugly” to others that were much worse.

    It’s hard to identify the lie in both those messages, because, I AM fat (physically overweight). However, at the time my parents were telling me that, I wasn’t. I was underweight. So, I start from there. The lie was that I wasn’t overweight at that point. If I had been fat at the point they gave me those messages, the lie would have been that it was a bad thing to be fat. The lie would have been that I was worthless.

    Once finding what the lie is in the message, then, that’s where you build your rebuttal and tell yourself this over and over. I know this sounds New Agey, but it does work.

    Short messages to yourself seem to work best. “I am good.” “I am worthy of good things.” “I am pretty.” You don’t want negatives in your rebuttals. So “I am not ugly” won’t work.

    Then, tell yourself your rebuttal. Keep telling yourself that. If you can look in the mirror, tell yourself that while looking at yourself in the mirror. It feels *really* silly at first, but after a while you get used to it. And as you get used to it, it sinks down into your psyche.

    So far, I haven’t found that it overwrites the pre-existing messages. I’m still working on that. However, while the “I’m ugly” or “I’m lazy” still come up first, well, about three blocks down the road, I can say, “What the heck? That’s not me, that’s my mother talking. I know I’m not lazy. I’m not ugly. I’m fine just the way I am.”

    Yeah, it’s not instantaneous, but I’m getting there. It takes dedication to ferreting out the messages, finding the lie, and repeating the new messages over and over and over, until you believe them emotionally.

    twilightriver: That is so awesome that you were able to do that. Without my current husband’s love for me, I’m not sure I could ever have gotten to that point. I admire anybody who could get to where you are without using the stepping stones I had to use. 🙂

  4. Thanks welshwmn3 for your response and help with this issue. I’m kind of new at dealing with it but I’ve at least come to realize it’s a “real” issue that I’ve been dealing with for the past 44+ years. Even if the people who hurt me in my family in the past are dead the messages seem alive and well. I will try that, it kind of reminds me of Stuart Smalley in a way from SNL but I don’t know what else would be as effective. Thanks moxie3.

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