Personal Effectiveness and Responsibility
The beliefs we hold about ourselves can appear to be real and incontrovertible but in actual fact are only our personal opinions and are therefore subject to more change than we think. Most of our beliefs are based on the many progressive experiences we have had in life, and how we have chosen to interpret them in relation to who we are. If these collective experiences have been broadly positive, a person’s beliefs about him or herself are likely to be positive and self-esteem relatively high. But, if they have been broadly negative then self-esteem may be relatively low.
Whatever our past experiences we have more capacity to influence our self-beliefs than we realize and we can therefore take a number of steps to help to raise our overall levels of self-esteem. Ten of these are described below:
- Put your own needs first, at least some of the time. Always allow some time every day to meet your own needs for food, sleep, rest, recreation, social pursuits and anything else that re-charges the batteries (rather than expending them completely in thinking mostly or even wholly about others).
- Identify you own personal triggers to potentially low self-esteem. We often personalize stressful events (e.g., criticism) by taking it too personally or reading much more into the situation than it warrants. Each situation instead, should be seen as an opportunity to learn about ourselves, and moderate our reactions in more positive ways accordingly.
- Practice relaxation and stress management techniques and methods. Individuals can begin to moderate oversensitivity or overreactions by using a range of simple stress management techniques. These techniques are directed at keeping reactions calmer and less prone to highly emotional reactions (such as soothing self-talk for example). This allows us to interrupt the impulsive or semi-automatic immediate reactions we sometimes experience and replace it with a more considered response.
- Openly acknowledge emotional reactions. One way to keep calm and self-soothe is for an individual to talk to him or herself (either in his/her head or in some cases out loud). Such thoughts may be things like: “Here I go again” (and then describe the reaction, feeling, thought etc.). The result of doing this is to slow the impulse and give ourselves a choice about how we want to respond.
- Develop new coping skills. By learning to use new skills, we give ourselves more tools for coping with stress and events that may negatively impact our feelings of self-worth. We can learn about different learning styles, different influencing styles, conflict-handling strategies, alternative communication methods and many other very useful skills.
- Acknowledge your feelings more often. The modern workplace often likes to suppress or even eliminate emotional reactions and feelings from decisions. However, our feelings are an important part of our personal decision-making process and are necessary to acknowledge and sometimes share with others in order for us to remain healthy and balanced.
- Be less “black and white”. Although it is tempting to decide on events firmly (yes, no, good, bad, right, wrong etc.) we can learn to see situations more flexibly. By remaining more open-minded and delaying the temptation to conclude one way or another we give ourselves options and we open ourselves to new possibilities about how to deal with our dilemmas.
- Stand back at times. Healthy self-esteem is partly maintained by having a very clear set of boundaries. These boundaries should allow us to stand back from some situations, not get involved or even say “no” to people when it is appropriate to do so (such as when it imposes too much stress on us).
- Develop a greater level of personal assertiveness. This can be done by making more “I” statements and by expressing our thoughts, feelings, and desires in a direct and straight-forward manner.
- Be more open. Develop the ability to take each day and situation as it comes in an open way, listening more carefully and responding in calm ways every time. In this way, we’ll develop better understanding and empathy with others and start to raise our feelings of self-worth.