How to build self-esteem

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Amanda Bown reveals how to build your self-esteem.

Happy woman
Interestingly, the word 'esteem' derives from a Latin word meaning 'to estimate.' So, self-esteem is how you estimate, or regard yourself, so it's very important! Many women with low self-esteem find it hard to answer 'yes' to questions posed such as 'do I like myself?' Am I someone deserving of love?' and 'deep down, do I feel that I'm an OK person?' And women berate themselves when they've made a mistake or an error of judgement, which is somewhat futile. Read on to discover how to build up your self-esteem.

Having good self esteem is an attractive quality; it's built by knowing what behaviour (of you and of others) is acceptable, being clear about what we deserve, and building a personal boundary to tell other people what's acceptable for you. However, vicious circles can begin when you've reached a stage of awareness about your anxiety and worry; when situations start to interfere with your ability to actually deal with it.

Some people withdraw from their triggers/causes, or, re-fuel their cycle where anxiety impacts the situation badly; falling in to another cycle of situations going as badly as expected or predicted, then all (your) assumptions and expectations of worst-case scenarios are made ever stronger. This often leads to further anxiety and depression-and the vicious cycle is repeated when that person comes across another trigger or assumption about a situation or themselves.

Take action: Sit down with a notebook and pen, take your time, list your trigger situations - be as clear as you can. The key with this is to establish some new assumptions about yourself and your thought patterns. Don't pressure yourself to make it 'perfect' or even start to look at challenging some of your assumptions, rather, ask yourself to rate out of 10 how strongly you feel about the points below:

1 Is your trigger a place, person, particular task, or even all three? Are there any situations where you mange to muddle through? Are there situations that you can't think about facing?

2 Now ask yourself the following; what is it exactly I'm expecting? Why does this affect me so badly? Am I more conscious of racing thoughts of a disaster, or of any physical sensations? Am I always right in thinking that I must expect the worst?

Question thoughts and worries that race through your mind, take a step back and decide if they're accurate; establish new assumptions and ways to work on yourself to improve your expectations. Gain further insight in to your thought patterns and behaviour with our interactive self-esteem test, it'll help pin point where you're lacking in self-esteem, and help you do something about it.

Working girl: Many women with low self-esteem think they're not important, and that their views carry no weight, particularly when it comes to work, careers and their bosses. So, start to see yourself as someone who has thoughts, opinions, ideas and rights, and that they're just as valid as those of anyone else. Often, both receiving and giving criticism can be tricky for women with low self-esteem; deal with receiving criticism at work by listening to their point of view without interrupting. If parts are unclear, ask for clarification, if they're valid, agree with points made. If you made a mistake, say so, apologise and move-on. If the criticism is wrong or unfair, simply, look them in the eye, smile, and say 'I'm afraid that I don't agree with you' then explain your thoughts and opinions.

If you have to give criticism, choose your time wisely; don't wait until boiling-point, keep calm. Try to say something nice before any critical words, for example 'your work is usually of a good standard, but it's not quite right today, so I'm going to have to ask you to re-do that presentation, but I'm sure you'll do an amazing job this time.'

Tough love: Are you in a relationship with someone who treats you badly? Or, have you ever been in one? Where, deep down you knew it was 'wrong' but continued to accept it, hoping it would change for the better? These types of relationships erode a person's self-esteem slowly but surely. Many women spend time waiting, hoping for action to demonstrate respect, kindness and love, and some feel deep down they deserve less than they're hoping for. Now is the time to create a healthy personal boundary - it's a form of protection and shows you have some self esteem and self respect, both of which are crucial for healthy relationships.

By understanding our feelings, expectations and voicing them to our partners, we're actually taking responsibility for them. Once we take responsibility for how we feel and think, how we allow other people to treat us, the relationship changes, it takes the blame from the other person, as we're forced to take a long, hard look at ourselves, and ask 'why am I allowing myself to be treated like this?'

Remember, you're not responsible for the behaviour of other people; you're only responsible for how you respond and allow others to treat you. Begin by stating your feelings out loud, without using accusation and blame, just stating the simple fact that you're angry is voicing a personal boundary, such as 'I feel sad when you say that,' and 'I'm feeling annoyed that you didn't call me last night'. Try and avoid judgement on situations and people too, as this puts a limit on the situation, for example you may say, 'the guy's an idiot!' Turn this around by saying 'I find that guy's behaviour too much for me, so I will avoid him,' this sets you up with a healthy, respectful boundary.

Building it: Set up the boundary blocks for your life and how you want to be treated. If someone treats you in a way that's not conductive to your (newly acquired!) values and self respect, let them know, but remember that you're not responsible for their response. Simply state the behaviour that's causing you problems and give some space for the other person to change, state the consequences. Don't demand things, but state the effect their behaviour has on you, and what you're choosing to do about it.

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