OREGON STATE UNIVERSITY

SEVEN STEPS TO SELF-ESTEEM

Self-esteem is based on the thoughts and feelings you have about yourself.  These can be positive, negative, or accepting.  High self-esteem is reflected by positive thoughts such as "I'm smart, attractive, and interesting."  These thoughts can help you feel effective, capable, and lovable.  Low self-esteem is reflected by negative thoughts such as "I'm ugly, stupid, and boring."  These thoughts can make you feel worthless, unlovable, and incompetent.  People with high self-esteem accept and like themselves.

BY VICTOR PARACHIN

 Julio Iglesias was a professional soccer player in Spain when an automobile accident ended his sports career and left him paralyzed from the waist down.  For nearly two years, he could not move his legs.

While in the hospital a compassionate nurse gave him a guitar to help him pass the time recuperating.  Before that Iglesias had no musical aspirations.  Nevertheless, he managed to regain the ability to walk and has gone on to become one of the most popular entertainers in the world.

How is it that someone can experience a devastating loss, conquer it and emerge triumphant?

According to psychologists, a major factor has to do with self-esteem, that combination of self-confidence and self-respect which empowers a person to keep moving forward and upward.

Psychologists also say that anyone may increase and strengthen self-esteem .  Here are seven ways to build your self-esteem .

1 Make the most of yourself.

Too many people put themselves down and dwell on their negatives.  The first step in building stronger self-esteem is to stop kicking yourself and harness the potential within.

Ruth is a 29 year old director of public relations with a large company.  She has been promoted more rapidly than other men and women who were older and more experienced.  Her secret:  “Rather than berate myself for my inadequacies, I have always tried to maximize my strengths and minimize my weakness.”

2 Take Risks.

There is nothing quite like accepting a new challenge and conquering it.  A good approach is to tackle a project you have been hesitant about doing:  Go back to school and earn the college degree you’ve always wanted, take up singing lessons, go on that overseas trip.

Susan Schenkel, author of Giving Away Success, explains:  “Taking action helps to restore a perception of control and to lessen the sense of helplessness.  The feelings of success generated by even a seemingly trivial accomplishment can inspire optimism and a desire to carry on.”

3 Be Optimistic.

Actress Lucille Ball said:  “One of the things I learned the hard way was that it doesn’t pay to get discouraged.  Keeping busy and making optimism a way of life can restore faith in yourself.”

In her book, Negaholics, psychologist Cherie Carter Scott offers this advice:  “Think positive.  When you find yourself on the brink of a negatack – ready to berate yourself for an error you’ve made – murmur a ‘pet phrase’ that has a positive message for you.  Some examples are:  ‘I learn from making mistakes’ or ‘I have the power to choose.’”

4 Turn negatives into positives.

There is wisdom in this Eastern saying:  “When life throws a dagger at you there are only two ways to catch it:  by the blade or by the handle.”

Life brings setbacks to everybody.  The key is to transform pain into gain and hurt into healing.  A good example is actor Dana Elcar who co-stars in the television serious, MacGyver.  Glaucoma is robbing him of his sight.  He turned this tragedy into a triumph by having his producers write his plight into a stirring TV plot.  Elcar increased awareness of glaucoma and thereby helped the 2.5 million Americans affected by it.

5 Avoid being judgmental.

Barb, 31, told a counselor, “Every time I get close to someone they begin to back off and drop out of my life.”  When the counselor asked Barb to repeat some of the conversations she had with potential friends, Barb was shocked to realize that most of her comments were put-downs, complaints, accusations and judgments.

The therapist helped her see that such a judgmental attitude came from low self-esteem, which she tried to overcome by criticizing others.  By viewing others more positively Barb found herself able to make and keep friends.

6 Seek enriching  relationships.

  Developing strong self-esteem means connecting with women and men who affirm our gifts and talents.  Alexandra Stoddard, a well-known interior designer and the author of nine book, says an important part of her success lay in her ability to surround herself with people who were good role models.  She says:  “Think about people you admire, study how they do things and see whether you can adopt some of their habits.”

7 Forgive yourself. 

Everyone experiences failure.  But berating yourself solves nothing.  When Billy Joel was in his early 20s his musical career was at a stand-still.  He says, “My girl had run out,  I’d had this succession of lousy jobs. . . so I popped a bunch of pills.  It didn’t work, so I tried again by swallowing furniture polish.”

Fortunately, Joel recovered and sought professional help to deal with his feelings.  An important aspect of Joel’s success was his ability to forgive himself.  “I’ve learned that you have got to forgive yourself at times and grow from failure instead of letting it destroy you.”

Using these steps to strengthen self-esteem will empower you to be a happier and more loving person, increase your chance for success and lead to greater fulfillment in life.

You deserve It!

 

 

OSU Counseling and Psychological Services