The capacity for humans to judge and reject parts of themselves can be enormously painful. To avoid negative judgments and self-rejection, we erect barriers of self-defense in our mind. Our self-imposed barriers limit our ability to enjoy a fulfilling life – to be open with others, express our sexuality, be the center of attention, listen to criticism, accept failure, ask for help, accept challenges or change, solve relationship problems as well as personal problems.
The way you feel about yourself and perceive yourself can be positively changed. Your self- esteem is simply your awareness of yourself; to be able to form an identity and attach a value to it. Your self-esteem is the total acceptance of yourself and how you feel about yourself in relation to others. It is the absence of judgment toward yourself and others. Developing positive self-esteem is the foundation on which you build your whole life. I would like to share with you a few things I learned from an impressive book written by Matthew Mckay, PhD. and Patrick Fanning named Self Esteem: A proven program of cognitive techniques for assessing, improving, and maintaining your self-esteem.
How Your Critic attacks your self- esteem.
Your pathological critic is your negative inner voice that attacks and judges you. It becomes a habit to judge yourself; listening to the self-attacks of your critical inner voice seem natural, reasonable, and justified to you, and so you always believe them. You have no defense against the critic as he blames you for everything that goes wrong. Your critic compares you to others – to their achievements and abilities – always leaving you wanting. He sets impossible standards and beats you up for falling short. He keeps reminding you of your failures and calls you derogatory names like stupid, ugly, weak. Your critic reads your friends minds and convinces you they are not interested in what you have to say. Your critic is always exaggerating your mistakes and insists you are always messing up.
Why do your listen to your critic?
Every human being has certain basic needs to fulfill: To feel loved, safe, competent, accepted, and a sense of OK-ness. People who have high self-esteem possess a higher degree of self-confidence. They confront situations that are fearful to them rather than avoiding them, they solve life problems and talk through interpersonal conflict rather than waiting for them to pass, they find ways to make people respond to them positively. When low self-esteem robs you of your self-confidence, you become less able to cope with the challenges of life. You rely on your critic to help you cope with feelings of anxiety, helplessness, rejection, and inadequacy. Your critic makes you feel more safe and comfortable. Unfortunately, while your critic is making you more comfortable by stopping your pain and protecting you from your fears, he is also tearing down your self-worth.
What are the common causes for low self-esteem?
As you open up your thinking and become more aware of the reality of yourself, consider the following common factors in a negative self-image:
1) Self-defeating concepts, beliefs, and values you have accepted from your parents.
2) Put downs and negative experiences you have received throughout your adolescence.
3) Negative religious conditioning with emphasis on feelings of guilt and unworthiness.
4) Low self-esteem of parents, particularly the mother.
5) Belittling yourself by comparing yourself to others.
6) Parents lack of recognizing your uniqueness as an individual.
7) Physical appearances outside the norm.
8) Emphasis on materialism.
9) Being raised through a system of reward and punishment.
Start to improve by developing your awareness
The first step in disarming your critic is to become aware when you are in a low mood and your critic is at work. You must uncover his purpose. You must realize he is not reality. Why is he beating you up? From what fears are you trying to escape? What is he saying to you to protect you and make you feel better? Is he saying you can’t do it so you don’t have to face your fears or worry about failing? Is he mind reading to save you the hurt of rejection? Is he beating you up so you can atone for your guilt?
Once you have become aware of your critic and how he trades your self-esteem to protect you, you must learn how to talk back to him. You must learn how to reject your old negative programming. The way you feel about yourself and perceive yourself can be positively changed.