We create our self-esteem ourselves! I discovered this recently for myself. Then I learned how to re-create my understanding of past events and drive out negative mental images. It changed my life!
You can change your own self-esteem and help your children create high self-esteem by understanding how to change the meaning you, and they, give to events that hurt.
I had trouble with my self-esteem as long as I can remember. Now I know that I wasn’t bad, stupid, incompetent, unworthy, or any of the other negative labels I had for myself. And neither were you.
When I was young, my mom would often say, “You could do better.” If I got a ‘B’ on my report card I was told, “You could do better.” Whatever the household chore – dusting, washing dishes, cleaning my room – her remark was almost always, “You could do better.” If she was in a bad mood, her response was, “Can’t you do anything right?” Or, “You’re good for nothing!” At least, that’s what I remember.
I was the one who decided what my mother’s comments meant to me. “I’m not good enough,” I told myself. “I can never be good enough. I’m stupid. I’m incompetent.”
No surprise I had low self-esteem. Years later, I discovered that I had given those comments their meanings! I thought about what others might think about my mother’s statements. Were the meanings I gave them the absolute TRUTH? Or would other people have given them different interpretations? The answer? Of course other people might have given them other meanings! “My mother had poor parenting skills.” “I was doing OK. My mother had unrealistic expectations.” “I did well for a child my age.” Or any number of alternate interpretations.
If the events themselves had held meaning, then there could not have been conflicting interpretations. However, the same event could have been construed in different ways as shown above.
None of these events have any intrinsic meaning about my abilities. I made those determinations for myself. I CREATED the meaning of events in my childhood by my own interpretation of them!
I created the meanings. The meanings created my beliefs about myself. The beliefs about myself created my self-esteem.
This is something we all do. We each create our sense of worth (or confidence) by the meanings (or by the significance) we give to events in our lives.
Improve Your Self-Esteem
You can improve your self-esteem and re-create your life by shifting, or eliminating, the meaning and beliefs you gave to experiences you’ve had, mostly as a child.
You’ve heard the parenting advice… to criticize the behavior, not the child. The BEHAVIOR might have been bad, not the person. It applies to your childhood too. You made mistakes, that does not mean you were bad or worthless.
Using my own experiences referred to above, I altered the meanings of my mother’s comments: It’s just a indication of her own negativity and lack of parenting skills. It’s not a reflection on me or my abilities.
But, that didn’t help as much as you might think at first. We all know that there is a big difference between intellectually knowing and accepting in the heart. To get these new meanings into my heart so they could stick, I mentally visualized a couple of example events and really put myself in the moment… seeing the room, hearing my mother’s complaints, and feeling the anger of my mother. considering these events with my new understandings in mind, my feelings changed from hurt and failure to compassion for her. My mother did the best she could, given her own mother was a horribly critical parent.
Now come up with your own NEW interpretations for negative events in your childhood. Choose any incidents where you felt hurt, disappointed, or crushed, even if you think your parents were in the right. In fact, those are the best incidents to use!
Get at least four positive meanings for each incident you discover. If you had recurring incidents like those I described above, you can treat them as one.
To discover other meanings for your own negative self-concepts, look at the four W’s: Who, When, What, and Where.
Who: Mom and dad were negative people, that’s why they were critical of me, so their criticism had nothing to do with me being good enough or not.
When: When I was young, I had couldn’t do things very well. I was just a normal child.
What: My behavior was not great, but that doesn’t mean that who I am as a person is not good enough.
Where: I had trouble at home. That doesn’t mean I have trouble anywhere else.
Here are some other examples for other types of situations to help you get started with re-defining your hurtful childhood episodes.
Your parents didn’t think you were too bright, but they were just wrong.
Your parents thought they were helping you get tough by ignoring you. It had nothing to do with the real you.
Your parents were alcoholics and incapable of relating to you as they should have. There was nothing wrong with you.
Your parents were over controlling, so you lacked power over many things as a child, but you had power over some things, especially away from home. Now, as an adult, you have power.
With each incident, re-live it and incorporate the alternate meanings you developed. Realize that there was nothing back then held the absolute truth about the real you. You were — and are — good, smart, competent, and worthy. If you truly re-live those past events, replacing the negative with positive meanings, you will feel good about yourself.
Teach your children to come up with helpful and encouraging meanings for the hurtful happenings in their lives and they can create good self-esteem while you re-create your own.
Natalie has gone from welfare and depression to wealth and happiness by changing her thoughts and is dedicated to helping others improve their lives by breaking down the barriers that they have inside themselves.
See her writings at http://www.thoughtful-self-improvement.com