What is self-esteem ?

Self-esteem is based on these 3 pillars :

A – Self-love, which is linked to the Attachment Theory

What do you mean, it went from 0 to 3 years? At this level, the flaws of self-esteem are observed through the pre-eminence of three types of thoughts and feelings : (see Early Maladaptive Schemas) :

1 – Lack of affection. These people have the certainty that others will not give them their support, attention, affection, presence, understanding, listening or protection…

2 – Fear of abandonment. These people feel that those who are important will not continue to support or protect them, that they will abandon them for someone better.

3 – Distrust/abuse. The person expects others to :

– make her suffer

– abuse her

– humiliates her

– lies to her

– cheat on her

– take advantage of her

This type of disorder is related to 3 types of attachments described by Mary Ainsworth :

– Ambivalent/anxious insecure attachment

– Insecure attachment avoiding

– Secure attachment 

B – Self-perception or self-awarness

Do I really know myself? Do I have many false beliefs about myself, for example about my actual abilities?

Impostor syndrome is an example of a false belief about self-knowledge. Many talented people with uncertain or unstable self-esteem have Impostor syndrome.

C – Self-confidence = capacity for taking action

I take the risk of going outside my comfort zone. To do so, I will be kind to myself even if I fail. If I succeed, I will become aware of success. I will not trivialize it. People with low or unstable self-esteem exaggerate their failures and minimize their successes, which tends to inhibit them from taking action. If I succeed “it was easy”, if I fail “I’m a loser”…


Anatomy of self-esteem

Self-esteem is dynamic (it evolves over time). A good level of self-esteem is moderate, not high.

Indeed, one cannot love everything about oneself. It is better to know one’s strengths and weaknesses by observing oneself benevolently and accepting oneself as one is.

A good level of self-esteem is therefore a moderate and stable self-esteem, which does not flare up with successes and does not collapse with failures. The two extremes of a bad self-esteem are on the same continuum:

– High and unstable self-esteem

– Low self-esteem

What can be done to improve self-esteem ?

1 Get therapy to know yourself better

One of the pillars of self-esteem is self-awareness and self-acceptance. How to really know oneself without self-development and without therapy? Without self-development, no self-awareness is possible. Certain aspects of our stories are too painful and too repressed to discover them alone, without a therapist. It will be necessary to go through them again during therapy in order to reconcile with these difficult parts of ourselves. This is the heart of successful psychotherapy. This therapeutic work is necessary as long as these parts express themselves negatively by directing thoughts, emotions and behaviors too strongly. This can be observed, for example, through repetitive scenarios that lead to low self-esteem, lack of confidence, poor communication, in short, chronic dissatisfaction.

2 Make a distance with your negative thoughts

Use CBT and mindfulness-based therapy to become aware of your self-critical thoughts that maintain low self-esteem. Do CBT again to learn to criticize your negative thoughts (not to block them as it’s not possible), to distance them with more objective and realistic thoughts. These thoughts are drawn from your life experiences. Learn to look for successful experiences that can be related to your negative thoughts in order to counteract or balance them. It is known that a person with low or unstable self-esteem will tend to maximize their failures and shortcomings and minimize their successes and achievements. These same people tend to externalize success (it was easy) and internalize failure (I suck). All these thoughts can be the subject of regular psychotherapy.

3 Listen to your needs and how you feel in a given situation

Feelings are like an inner compass. Listening to them allows us to make choices that are right for us. We do not sacrifice ourselves and we do not carry the desire of others. The others are responsible for what they feel and what they desire. It is not our responsibility. The idea is to be in agreement with oneself, not to sacrifice oneself to be loved. Many people don’t know how to say no, for example, for fear of not being loved or being rejected. This doesn’t mean making a choice between oneself and others, but there should be a balance in relationships.

4 Accept yourself as you are

Be a good friend to yourself. Learn to accept yourself as you are in reality and not compare yourself to others. Do you compare your best friend with others? Do you constantly judge him or her? Do you dwell on his or her mistakes or shortcomings? Probably not, otherwise you wouldn’t have a best friend (unless for someone masochist!). So why do you do it with yourself? There is only one situation in which you can compare yourself, and that is with the one you were yesterday, as far as you have already progressed!

5 Accept failure and analyze its objective causes

Don’t dramatize failure, but repeat to yourself that it is a learning and that this is how you progress. We don’t identify ourselves with our behaviors, our failures or our mistakes (nor with our successes, for that matter…). Accept yourself as you are with your qualities and faults. Cultivate benevolence towards yourself by accepting that failures are on your way and that you will thus progress. Beware of the “you have to” or “I have to” that can lock you into a spiral of negative thoughts and feelings that can make you want to be who you will never be.

6 Take action

Work on your self-confidence by taking action, because it is in action that you will get to know yourself, that you will become aware that you are capable of doing things. Self-confidence has an impact on self-esteem and improves it when you act in accordance with yourself. If you act and fail, you start again until you are sure you have done your best. This is how people who have confidence in themselves progress, accepting their mistakes with benevolence and persevering if they feel it is necessary.

7 Assert yourself

Assertiveness is therapeutic in order to verify that one is competent to communicate and convey certain messages. A good level of assertiveness has a positive impact on self-confidence and ultimately on self-esteem.


Bibliography :

A professional document from our generous colleagues at TCC Montreal :

Young’s Schema Therapy

The 2 books you should read on this subject :

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