Self-esteem for a happier life
When you hear the words "low self-esteem", what springs to mind? Does it indicate that you don't like yourself or some aspect of yourself very much? Does it mean you think others don't like you? Perhaps you feel that you are less important than others in your life so you put your own needs last.
It can mean all of these things but it doesn't always show up in ways we instantly recognise. If any of the following statements ring true for you, it might mean you suffer from low self-esteem and you may want to start addressing this disempowering feeling if it is affecting your experience of life:
- I believe other people are judging me or laughing at me.
- I don't like to go out in case people think I am boring.
- I constantly compare myself negatively to others.
- I don't believe I deserve success/happiness.
- I allow myself to be mistreated by others, and I rarely stand up for myself.
- I often feel guilty for saying "no".
- I say "sorry" a lot, even when it is not necessary.
- I rarely, if ever, treat myself as I don't see the point.
- I talk myself out of pursuing my dreams or ambitions because I will fail.
- I don't like to go out as I feel ugly/fat/unattractive.
- I put up with bad relationships so I won't have to be alone.
- I sabotage relationships by my insecure, jealous or angry behaviour.
- I have hurt others by my attempts to control them.
- I'm addicted to sugar or alcohol.
- I feel desperate panic at the thought of my husband/wife/partner leaving me.
Not many of my clients come to me for low self-esteem specifically, but I would estimate that around 80% of them have it. I can spot this very quickly, usually within minutes. The above list is based on some of the things that my clients say they have felt. So, what do they usually come to see me about?
Most of my clients contact me because they feel chronically anxious, either in general or about some aspect of their life. This heightened level of anxiety has its roots in the "primitive" regions of your brain, the part that hasn't had an upgrade since we were all running around in cave-dwelling days.
Anxiety kept us alive back in those days; we would have been eaten alive if we'd shrugged off the amount of dangerous predators roaming around, or just repeated affirmations about how fabulous and strong we were!
Nowadays we simply don't need these heightened feelings of stress because the risks in modern life are not usually life-threatening but the primitive brain does not understand this. It will overestimate risk to preserve your life because it has no idea you aren't still living in a cave two million years ago! The other frustrating element to all of this is the idea that you will never cope. So, the primitive brain will underestimate your ability to cope just to be absolutely certain you will survive.
What does all of this have to do with low self-esteem and the ways it can show up in your life? Since the day you were born, you absorbed the world around you like a sponge. The primitive brain remembers everything that you have ever seen, heard, touched, smelled or tasted but most of your experiences will never be remembered unless they were significant.
However, our early lives were also shaped by what other people's opinions of us were - usually parents, other family members, teachers or peers. So, we believe what we are told, lacking the self-awareness and independent judgement of the more mature brain.
Be careful! You might get hurt! You will never get into grammar school, you are not clever enough! You are a bit too chubby to get into those trousers, let's look for a larger size! Don't eat sweets, you will never lose weight! These are some of the things I was told as a child by a very well-meaning family. Is it any wonder then that as I grew older, I lacked any belief in my ability to cope with the stresses of life or believe that I was good enough? My pathway through life was thereby constructed; there were no dizzy heights for me to climb, that was for sure - not until much later anyway!
What happens is that the primitive brain believes and absorbs all of this negativity and places limits on us to protect us from harm - not because it wants to sabotage our happiness. This happens at a subconscious level so we are not really aware of it happening. All we know is that we feel a sense of anxiety whenever we face a situation that we are not familiar with and we stay within our comfort zone.
If you refer back to the list above, you will see that these things are a result of fear, or a lack of self-belief, or both. That is because the clients that I have helped with these issues have repeatedly told themselves that they are not good enough and they cannot cope with life's challenges. The fear of being abandoned in particular can be one of the most terrifying, crippling conditions to live with, and it has the power to wreck relationships and cause mayhem in our personal lives.
We formulate these fears when we are young and powerless. But we cling to them on a subconscious level as we grow older, with more resources and options at our disposal for a happier life. The brain is complex, wonderful, perplexing and incredibly stubborn. It won't budge or change its views just because you tell yourself not to be silly, or there's no need to be afraid. You can tell yourself many things, and counteract any negative belief you hold about yourself and over time this may work for you if you remain conscious and committed to self-improvement.
For many, some deeper work is needed. Herein lies the magic of hypnotherapy - getting to the feelings behind the words.
If you have low self-esteem, I am sure you probably agree there is really nothing wrong with you but it doesn't seem to get rid of the overpowering feeling that rises from within. This is your subconscious mind, where the primitive brain "lives". Hypnotherapy can help you learn to change the way you feel about yourself at this much deeper level, helping you to truly believe that you can cope and that you are most certainly good enough.
There are some techniques that can be used to help you do this, to tap into the undercurrent of low self-worth in order to cut it off at its source. Did I tell you how powerful and amazing your brain is? It is also "plastic" - not the kind of stuff that's clogging up our oceans but a highly malleable network of neural pathways that can be changed when we actively change the way we think and act.
This is incredibly empowering, and I am living proof that it works because I struggled for a long time in my younger years. I then had hypnotherapy. It helped me to use the power of my own mind to transform in ways that I only ever dreamed of. If I can do this, so can you!