Self esteem – the feel good about yourself trap
When we mix up practical problems with emotional issues, we make life a misery for ourselves. You may worry about being a success at work. That’s the practical problem that can be problem-solved but as humans, we tend to place an emotional interpretation onto practical problems. We compare ourselves to colleagues who seem more successful than us (an error in thinking known as “compare and despair”, we mind – read and assume we know what others are thinking (example – my boss must think I am useless..and we become self critical (I am a failure because I am not more successful).
By doing this we multipy the impact of the practical problems we face. See how we can be our own worst enemies?
Many of my clients try to convince me that the practical problem is the cause of their emotional problems. In fact – it is the other way around!
Your practical problems in life (not doing well at work, steuggling to find a partner to love etc) are your preferences, as in – you would prefer to have partner or prefer to be more successful at work. The emotional problems emerge from your MUSTS. When you learn to tackle your emotional responses and MUSTS, your practical problems often improve.
We all get caught in the “feel good about yourself” trap – when work is going well or when members of the opposite sex seem interested, we feel great about ourselves. We are essentially living a life that is ‘outside-in”, we get validation from external sources. This isn’t a good thing as your self esteem relies upon the actions of others,events beyond your control. Why give your power and ability to feel good about yourself away like that??
Feeling unworthy doesn’t automatically make you unworthy in reality. There is a BIG difference.
If you want to generally feel happier, it’s important to give up self-rating. This is when you label yourself as successful or as a failure depending on what you do/achieve. Your performance is only a small part of you – it isn’t the ‘entire you’ so it’s unreasonable to label yourself as successful or as a failure depending on whether you are achieving or not.
From self rating to self acceptance
Many of my clients run into trouble because they live according to MUSTS. I must have someone to love me, I must be beautiful, I must earn a lot of money etc. We all know that life hands us set backs so you can only feel good about yourself as long as life is going according to plan – can you see the problem? Feeling good about yourself cannot last if you think this way. Ultimately there will be disappointment along the way and then you will have the double whammy of feeling your are unworthy.
A better way to regard yourself is that you are a loveable, worthy person irrespective of what you are achieving or doing. It’s dangerous to make the link between achievement and self worth. Perfectionism is becoming a growing problem and I am seeing more perfectionists than ever and their bottom line is – It’s not good enough therefore I am not good enough. Perfectionists have a load of MUSTS and SHOULDS in their lives and spend all their time chasing their tails, trying to prove to themselves that they are not the failures they truly believe they are. Perfectionism is a coping strategy to avoid failure.
A new way of thinking about yourself and life
A = (Activating event) My partner criticises me when the house isn’t spotless
B = (irrational Belief) I MUST keep the house spotlessly clean and tidy or I’m not a good husband/wife
C = (emotional Consequence) Hurt and depressed
D = (Disputing). Where is the evidence that I MUST keep the house spotless or else I am useless/no good, where’s the ‘rule book’?
E = (Effective new thinking) Although I strongly prefer to keep the house spotless, I can find NO REASON why I MUST. Being an imperfect human being is noraml and I can’t always be perfect.If my partner really thinks I am no good because the house isn’t spotless that says more about them than me. I’m still me, no matter what they think of me. Their thoughts of me don’t instantly affect my worthiness and value. I can fully accept myself and enjoy life even if the house isn’t spotless. Here’s a GOLDEN opportunity to reject the fault thinking/association and accept myself unconditionally in spite of my flawed behaviour and in spite of criticism from others.
F = (new Feeling) Concern and mild disappointment rather than hurt or depression.
We are raised to self rate but it’s a bad idea. We are pressured more than ever to be wealthy, beautiful, thin and successful and to feel inadequate if we aren’t these things. These false beliefs are a source of anxiety and depression to millions. Replace MUST with “I’d prefer” and SHOULD with COULD.
Self rating is a double-edged sword. You can only feel good about yourself as long as life is working for you and invariably life swings in roundabouts – up and down. You can choose to see yourself as worthy irrespective of judgements from others. You can choose to get off the ‘hamster wheel’ and be worthy regardless.