Do our thoughts influence low self-esteem?

Have you had enough of your low self-esteem? How we talk to ourselves (internal dialogue) is far more important than most people might imagine, because many of our emotions and behaviours stem from this mental chit chat. In addition, if we keep on having the same thoughts over and over again we are literally wiring our brains to consistently keep those thoughts (and subsequent feelings) at the fore of our experiences.

Well, that’s fine if our thoughts and feelings are pleasant and serving us well, not so good if our thoughts are negative, fearful, restrictive and self-deprecating, what we think is what we believe, even if it is not true, that’s why we often need a little help to step out of low self-esteem.

It is often hard for people to know where to start when they decide to work on their self-esteem or their self-worth because the internal feeling is that it is true and the thoughts in the mind seem to equally confirm that you are not good enough!

The old fashioned way of changing low self-esteem was to look in the mirror and say affirmations and for most people this just does NOT work, because there is no point in saying “I am wonderful” if you don’t actually believe it – because the mind will just refute those affirmations and over-ride them with old ones and just reinforce the old patterns burned into the circuitry of the mind.

Careful how you think – if you don’t want low self-esteem

Watch this and tell me if you think she has low self-esteem? believes her affirmations?

You can just tell she is going to have a good day! No low self-esteem here! But how will school, friends, religion and life try to limit her beliefs? They only will if she believes them and not herself!

Seriously though, she believes it and it makes her feel good – that is how you do an affirmation, you do it with conviction and whilst doing it you generate the associated emotions that would go with the outcome you are looking for (even though you know it hasn’t happened yet). The reason you do this is because the brain can’t tell the difference between something that is real or an event that has been imagined – and the greater you associate an emotion to the thought the more your mind is going to accept it.

Most people with low self-esteem unknowingly talk to themselves in quite a negative manner with a lot of self berating and self critical judgements, not realising that they are actually wiring their brains to believe that is true and to look for evidence (from the world, life and relationships) to support those beliefs.

I showed that video to a cynical friend of mine and he said “I bet her parents are over-powering and she’ll soon learn that life isn’t all a bed of roses!” Perhaps her parents are quite positive (and as far as I am concerned that’s just fine) – and hopefully she will take a more confident and positive (glass half full) approach to the problems that life inevitably will throw at her – surely, that will be better than living life in a nervous and fearful manner because, either-way, life is still going to be a challenge?

Would you treat a dog like that?

In our therapy practice we often use metaphors that include animals – and one of our favourite lines is “Would you treat your dog like that?

Would you look at your dog and say……..

  • You are ugly?
  • You are a rubbish dog!
  • I hate you!
  • You are worthless!
  • No-one is ever going to love you!

No, we don’t do that, it just wouldn’t be nice. Yet, we feel it is OK to talk to ourselves in those ways, well, I am urging you to consider that you should treat yourself at least as well as your dog (if not better!) If we expand this a little further, you probably wouldn’t give your dog alcohol, cola, sugar, drugs, cigarettes, no exercise etc. – therefore, why would you do that to yourself? And if you are it may well be contributing to feelings of low self-esteem.

Rewiring your emotional brain for more confidence

So, if you want to do something useful with your thoughts that will rewire your brain and lead to new emotions, then, do the following:

  • Find a little time each morning and evening to consider how you would like to be and what you’d like to be doing.
  • Imaging doing those things and try to generate the emotions you would get if they were happening – even though you know it is not true yet, don’t let your mind propose hurdles, just imagine it was true and experience the good feelings.
  • Finally, imagine your life was actually already like that and feel what it would feel like.
  • Do this for a couple of weeks and low self-esteem abates.

You’ll soon see that it is possible the change the neurology of your brain via more confident and more specific dreams about what you want and how you want to be, give it a try, the brain is more programmable than you might imagine!

Of course, you are still going to have to take responsibility for your decision, actions and relationships! If you are interested in taking more control of anxious feelings or depressive thoughts, then you might like to gibe me a call on 01280 731155.

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