Why improving self-esteem is hard

Posted by John Harrison on May 18, 2016 in Personal Growth 730 words.

improve Self esteem

This article is part of the series mental barriers and behaviors that are getting in the way of positive change. 

Most of us have some area of ourselves that we don’t feel very good about. People might tell us “you’re fine!” or “don’t worry about it!”. But it’s not that easy. Some of us don’t feel good about ourselves at all. It’s hard for some people to think they’re good at anything. A failure at work. A failure in relationships. A failure at being a parent. Their self-confidence is low and so is their esteem.

Whatever “hump” you have a hard time getting over you probably do what most of us do. You buy into a lie. The lie is that by trying harder, you’ll be able to make the improvements to self that will give you the self-acceptance you are seeking.

So by trying harder at what you are “weak” in, you’ll see the results showing you that you have improved.

You decide to try harder. Work harder. What do you see? Or the better question is what are you used to seeing? Or where are you used to looking when seeking proof of improvement?


A hidden element of self-improvement

There’s a key element we may or may not have learned. Others might accept our efforts as “good enough” or “ok”. So when this happens we’re getting the added feedback from people supporting us that we’re actually getting better. Our actions are getting approval. But are we getting the approval we are ultimately seeking?

What about self-acceptance?

We only learn self-acceptance when we’re taught it and it’s modeled for us. Yet we take for granted that we should know how to do this. However, in many cases, we were never taught how to accept ourselves.

What if we don’t get that lesson in self-acceptance from a parent, for example? What if our parents are good at pointing out where we’re deficient and helping us try harder, but they’re horrible at letting us know we’re “ok”? If self-acceptance isn’t taught along with trying harder, what happens? Where do kids learn self-acceptance if their parents don’t do their own self-accepting?


We’re looking in the wrong place

No, I don’t believe that everyone should get a trophy for participating and trying.  I’ll just get that out of the way.

Of course adding more emphasis and attention on improving an aspect of self is necessary. Call it trying harder. Call it whatever you want. But none of that makes a difference as long as we’re continuing to view ourselves in the same way. Flawed. Deficient. Weak. Substandard. Never good enough.

But if all you’ve known is to look for and see deficiency, how can you possibly see success? What you are looking for might be staring you in the face and you might still not notice it. Not if you’re used to only seeing the downside.

Want to find failure? You’ll find it.  

Want to find injustice? It’s there.

Want to see the negative? It’s going to be there too.

Why is this?  Because all parts are included in the whole. The whole contains everything. The good, the bad. The positive and the negative. The whole you. Your partner’s whole self. Your children’s whole self. Because we are flawed in our whole. But in our whole self we contain the positive, the successes.

We are imperfect. We’re also enough. We’re both.  

Learn to believe this.


Learn to see the other parts of your reality

Instead of “trying harder”. Try something different. See if you can notice where change and difference exists. See if you can identify the other side of things that is always present because where there is negative, there is also positive.

Do you think of yourself as:

A bad parent? Bad spouse? Bad employee? Lazy? Incompetent? Failing?

Imagine how much different you’d view your efforts if you:

  • Questioned your reality that you are completely failing
  • Identified where you are otherwise by noticing small successes
  • Considered that your current reality contains the whole to include shortcomings and positives
  • Stopped depending on others to give you permission to succeed
  • Stopped looking for others to lend you credibility
  • Stopped comparing your inside self to other people’s outside presentation 

Doing the “same old” will get you the “same old” results. Work “more mindful”, not harder. Give yourself permission to see a greater, more complete, reality and get over that hump.

About the Author

John Harrison

John Harrison is a licensed health counselor and coach. He works with individuals and couples to help them get unstuck. He helps empower them in getting what they want out of life and assists struggling souls done tolerating their old ways of navigating their world.


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