How to Feel Better About Yourself

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

 

love yourself

One of the most important decisions you will ever make in life is how you feel about yourself. Of course, we don’t usually think of this as a decision. It’s a given, just the way it is. And yet, I want to suggest it is a decision and one with far reaching consequences. How you feel about yourself is a filter through which you interpret all of your life experiences. The purpose of this article is to help you better understand this notion of self-esteem and one very important thing you can do to feel better about yourself.

High vs. Low Self-Esteem

People with high self-esteem believe they have worth and deserve to be happy. They also believe they are capable of succeeding and handling life’s challenges. In short, they believe in themselves.

Conversely, people with low self-esteem feel bad about themselves and are unsure that they deserve to be happy or that they possess the competence to succeed or handle life’s challenges.

Unfortunately, low self-esteem is epidemic. People everywhere suffer from the perception of not being good enough. In fact, Irvin Yalom, a renowned psychiatrist, theorist, researcher, and speaker, asks his public audiences to anonymously write down their biggest secret. The most common response, by far, is a deep conviction of inadequacy. “I’m not enough.” Or, “If people really knew me, they wouldn’t like me.”

Consequences of Self-Doubt

I want to suggest that two consequences follow from self-doubt.

First, we look to others as the source of our self-esteem. Since we judge ourselves as unworthy or less capable, we learn to depend on the judgments, opinions, and approval from others to decide our own worth.

And second, we erroneously conclude that feeling good about ourselves is not a right but something we must be earn or prove through performance (doing) or personal possessions or attributes (having).

The problem with depending on others or our achievements as the source of our self-esteem is that we have given away our personal power. We have become vulnerable to other people as well as how well things are going day-to-day.

The Primary Source of How You Feel About Yourself

Here’s an observation. High self-esteem people are not innately more talented, beautiful or brighter. They don’t drive bigger cars or play more golf. Rather, they have internalized a very personal decision to accept and affirm themselves for who they are. Their self-regard is unconditional. It doesn’t depend on pleasing others or on how well they perform. It isn’t “earned” through their actions and achievements but rather is expressed through them.

For some, this decision was made quite naturally and unconsciously as children. Perhaps they received messages about their worth or they may have put a positive spin on difficult events. Either way, feeling good about themselves became the essence of their identity.

For many others, the decision was made as an adult. These folks may have experienced hard things as children and concluded they weren’t okay. And yet as adults, they’ve realized that they don’t need to rely on those old decisions. They can challenge negative messages about themselves and re-decide in favor of feeling good about themselves.

You Can Re-Decide

Although you’re not locked into earlier decisions, re-deciding requires that you be aware, take responsibility for how you feel about yourself and that you then act from a conscious decision. This means that you accept that you’re imperfect. You, like all of us, have so many weaknesses and make so many mistakes. But it doesn’t matter. You don’t need to be perfect to make this decision. It is a decision, a stand, a statement.

Another way of saying this is that feeling better about yourself on a consistent basis is only possible if you are willing to experience yourself as the source of your own self-esteem. It is a gift that you bequest upon yourself.

Whenever we allow others to decide our worth, life is a roller coaster ride over which we have little control. Taking that responsibility back gives you the power and freedom to be in charge of your life. Ultimately, no one else can decide for you whether or not you have worth.

The Influence of Parents

So I’d like you to consider whose judgments about you have allowed to be more important than your own. Certainly, as young children, we internalize the messages we hear from our parents. They give us two (unrequested) gifts. One is a snapshot of ourselves and the other is an evaluation of that snapshot. It doesn’t matter how healthy or imperfect they were, we internalize their view.

So, what were the messages you heard from your parents about your worth, capabilities, and so on? Are you living to prove them right? Are you seeking to convince them they are wrong? Do you argue with them about how they’re wrong? Are you still trying to get them to change their perceptions before you can feel differently about yourself?

It is incredible how so many people grow into adulthood still believing or holding onto the messages of their parents. They may even see their parents as imperfect people, yet are locked into a “dance” with them in which they cannot grow beyond the messages they heard (or interpreted) from them so many years ago.

It’s Not Just Parents

But it’s not just parents. We often give power to other “significant” people in our lives. We let them think for us, in a sense. Their perceptions matter more than our own. Often, unconsciously, we give voice to their evaluations and judgments, in the back of our minds. Sometimes those voices are supportive. But often they are critical.

I did that with the founder of a clinic where I received some of my training as a graduate student. This person was considered by many be one of the top four or five family therapists in the country. I was in awe. And so I began to carry my perception of his voice in the back of my head. I could not do therapy without being keenly aware of his commentary. It came to be that his opinions(or my perceptions of his opinions) became more important than my own. It caused me to continually question and second guess my own instincts, at least until the day I gained the courage to meet him face-to-face and take my power back. (That is another story.)

What About You?

So, I want to ask you whose voice, opinions, judgments you’ve allowed to become more important than your own? To whom have you given your power, responsibility for what to think and how you feel about yourself? A parent? Spouse? Peer? Sibling? Boss? Co-worker? You feel good when they approve and bad when you perceive their disapproval. You second guess or mistrust your own instincts or capabilities.

It’s a hard way to live.

Are you willing to “take back” responsibility from those individuals for how you feel about yourself? You certainly don’t need to be a perfect human being to do so. You only need to be willing to be the source of how you feel about yourself. To have your own back. To take a stand that what you think, how you feel, who you are, is enough and not dependent on others.

Exercise

So here is an exercise to help you feel better about yourself.

  1. Identify one person who you’ve allowed to be responsible for how you feel about yourself. (You feel great when they approve of you and hurt or defensive when they disapprove.)
  2. Write down a few examples of when and how you have let this person be responsible for how you feel about yourself.
  3. What has it cost you? (Take your time on this step. List everything you can think of. This step gives you the fuel to make a change.)
  4. Write a statement, as though speaking to this person, informing them of your decision to “take-back” responsibility for your own self-worth. Do so in a way that doesn’t blame them but owns your own responsibility.
  5. Identify new choices you may make as you own your responsibility for your self-esteem.

Be firm, clear and strong in your resolve! You need to feel your new decision. It has to be a gut thing and not just a head thing, and you’ll notice a significant shift in your experience of life.

And leave a comment. Let me know about your experience or thoughts about taking back responsibility to feel better about yourself.

 


About Roger K. Allen
Roger K. Allen, Ph.D. is an expert in personal transformation and family development. His tools and methods have helped tens of thousands of people live happier and more effective lives. To learn more, visit www.rogerkallen.com>.

2 responses to “How to Feel Better About Yourself”

  1. Amelita Fales says:

    Thank you for this topic. I am working on letting go of my negative feelings about myself.

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