I try to think back to when I first noticed there was something wrong.
When I was young, I never quite felt like I belonged anywhere. I was an only child and spent much of my time distracting myself from my parent’s constant arguing. I felt comfortable, and perhaps safe, being alone. Although I made friends in school easily, I still felt rather disconnected and as if there was something different about my life, as opposed to theirs. I would later discover that this is common amongst children living in a tumultuous household with a poor family dynamic.
This caused feelings of low self-esteem. Low self-esteem is developed in early childhood, particularly, the first 5 years of life. It is shaped by our environment and the messages that are sent to us. Having an overly critical parent, for example, can be one of the most foundational causes. Additionally, it can often be caused from not being able to face challenges and overcome them.
One theme that stands out to me is my constant avoidance of failure. If I would try something new, and wasn’t immediately great at it, I would lose interest and give up. I didn’t have the necessary ambition and patience needed to progress at anything. Challenges were extremely off-putting to me and I would avoid them at all costs.
As I got older, I felt very negative about life, other people and myself. I had difficulty trusting people and would continue isolating myself to avoid social situations, due to the fear of being judged. I knew something was wrong, but I didn’t know how to change it. I just thought this is who I am.
Around the age of 27, I was introduced to mindfulness meditation. Mindfulness is the practice of purposely bringing one’s attention to the present-moment experience without evaluation. A daily mindfulness practice can help to rewire the brain in a way that helps you to see these from a more positive and realistic state of mind. Neuroscientists have also shown that practicing mindfulness affects brain areas related to perception, body awareness, pain tolerance, emotion regulation, introspection, complex thinking, and sense of self (Harvard Business Review 2015).
Through a daily Mindfulness practice, I learned that my negative Self-Image, feelings of hopelessness and lack of ambition, were simply due to my mind living in the past. The more I concentrated on my present moment experience – I started to realize that this moment is all that exists. Life can only be happening here and now.
Along with Mindfulness, here are a few other ways you can overcome low self-esteem. Everything should be practiced in conjunction with one another:
- Be extremely honest with yourself. In the spiritual community there is a practice known as Shadow Work – this involves unraveling the hidden and suppressed aspects of yourself otherwise known as the shadow. Write down the things you do not like about yourself, and why. It will be painful albeit, insightful. You will come to realize they are not your own opinions – but those of others.
- Practice Letting Go of the emotions that surround your insecurities. Whenever a feeling of inadequacy arises, allow it to be there without trying to fight it with your mind. You’ll notice that low self-esteem often manifests as a physical emotion.
The Letting Go Technique is a method that was introduced by David Hawkins in his book “Letting Go”. It involves noticing when a feeling arises and allowing yourself to thoroughly feel it. Many of our insecurities manifest as physical feelings in our body, such as fear and anxiety. This is how you heal from Low Self Esteem, by allowing your feelings to arise and making peace with them. You must feel in order to heal.
- Take smaller steps to overcome the things that scare you: Speaking up in groups, holding stronger eye contact, attempting a new skill or hobby. Pick one thing you want to become better at and start small. Once you start making progress, this will do wonders for you Self-Esteem. If you’re the type to avoid new challenges, be aware of this and understand everyone has started somewhere.
- Talk with someone, whether a therapist, Life Coach etc. Find someone you can discuss your struggles with. Be extremely open with this person about everything. It will painful and scary at first, but you’ll find it to be extremely relieving to talk about the things that you have been burying. Tell your whole story from the beginning. This will help you to reframe a lot of your insecurities and feelings of self-worth.