The last time you read us we talked about the notion of self-esteem, what it really is, and why it is important. We finished our on-line conversation with some considerations about how useless it’s the verb “should” in your life and how when you think constantly on the thing you “should” be, do or achieve, you are deteriorating your self-perception. In consequence, you are losing confidence in the process, so you do not feel able to do some other stuff, falling in the vicious circle: failure – loss of confidence – failure again. In the next article, we will try to help you to think out of the box to show you new thinking to free you from the mental chains you have put on yourself.
When I think of all the things that I “should” be, do or achieve, this causes a devaluation of my competencies and takes me away from who I really am. These are the perfect ingredients for self-esteem for failure. If you have felt identified in what we just said, take note of this.
Probably everyone has gone through a similar process, but you, and only you, should know to what extent this is affecting you, to what extent you are putting your happiness, and that of the people around you, at stake.
You should know that despite your efforts and sacrifices, you will not be able to reach your IDEAL SELF because it will get bigger, fatter, and uglier, and it will be that guy who stares into your eyes and will tell you every day: “you are useless ”. It is up to you to continue feeding it with your attitude or to put it once and for all aside. If you don’t, this monster will judge you and reproach you for everything that you are not, so we invite you to stop the world once every day, calm down, meditate on what you are learning and begin an exercise of acceptance.
Are you really accountable for what happens in your life?
Let’s do the following exercise together. Look at the table below:
There are two columns, in one it says, “internal ascription”, in the other “external ascription”.
The concept of ascription refers to the fact of cataloging the responsibility of an event as our own or that, instead, it has occurred due to something external to ourselves. That is, whether or not we have part of the responsibility for what happened.
Internal ascription means that an event is attributed to us, therefore, to our efforts or decisions, then we can say that we are responsible for what happened. Whether it was good or bad, success or failure.
On the contrary, external ascription means that we attribute what happened to something that is beyond our possibilities, beyond our reach. Remember that it is just a belief, it does not have to be true. It is what we think about who or what is responsible for the events that happen to us.
All of us catalog our life experiences in one way or another, but until we make use of self-knowledge, we do not realize what we give more weight to, internal or external ascription.
Well, we want you to put in each column some important successes in your life, and also, some failures. Successes can be academic degrees, making someone happy, having earned money, learning a language, traveling to a beautiful country or city, or simply having met someone wonderful.
On the other hand, failures could be not having got a job, not having traveled to that country, failing a course at school or, for example, having hurt someone you love. In short, those things that we believe are a failure.
It is enough to write 5 or 6 experiences, you don’t need more. Once finished, we want you to look at what you wrote in each column. If you see more good things or successes in external ascriptions, you consider that many of the successes are not due to your efforts. The same happens with experiences that you consider failures.
We are absolutely sure that some of your successes are placed in the external ascription column, but that it may not be the right place for that experience. We ask you to think and evaluate if you are 100% sure that you had nothing to do with that successful experience. Possibly you consider that much of what happened was due to luck, someone else, the moment, etc. … any reason to think that it was not because of your efforts, your abilities, your skills, or your courage.
Think about what you have written in the columns and, if you want, share it with someone you trust and who was there when that experience occurred in order to receive feedback from another person. People who have efficiency problems also have self-esteem problems, possibly due to having a distorted “internal conversation”, focused on the external ascription of their successes and an internal ascription of their failures.
Pathological criticism and the lies we tell ourselves
We have all criticized ourselves at times, recognizing this behavior brings us closer to change and improve, it is part of the path to self-knowledge. It is not a big deal. However, to help you process these types of thoughts, we suggest that you do the following exercise:
- Identify those thoughts by writing them down in a table with two columns, the critical thoughts that cause us tension, and other alternative thoughts that calm us and help us feel good.
- We know, you will not believe in alternative thoughts. Alternative thoughts don’t have to always be true, but who said critical thoughts were?
- We are doing an exercise in self-knowledge, write an alternative and positive thought, write what comes to your mind, you can always cross them out. Trust yourself.
Pay attention to the fact that pathological criticism prevents you from reaching your goals, consumes the energy you have, lashes you, enslaves you, and takes you away from that vision that you must have of yourself for successful self-esteem.
Do you call yourself things like ugly, stupid, selfish, or failure?
Let me tell you that that echo, those words, and those thoughts, is not you. One day you learned them, possibly they represent your mother, or your father, or some insensitive teacher. It is a complicated matter, but once you understand it you may feel hatred or anger for them. They are not to blame, and neither are you!
Pathological criticism emphasizes and underlines the aspects that you do not have and ignores those that you do have. Staying attached to our biased beliefs of what we can do turns into a thick fog that prevents us from seeing our true skills.
One thing that this type of criticism ignores is that there are psychological and personal development methods and techniques that help you change, achieve your objectives and goals, make your dreams come true, and therefore, be happy. It makes you forget who you really are. It is too much noise in your head, many years with the same phrases that you repeat over and over again. Chains that enslave you.
Have you ever considered that maybe it’s time to look for a change?
Characteristics of pathological criticism:
- It is false because it is exaggerated
- It confuses and stuns you because it is a lie
- It is pushy and repetitive but completely useless. It never helps you
- It is irrational, although sometimes it is hard to believe it.
- It is normally toxic
- It causes us discomfort, anxiety, tension
- It takes us away from our goals
- It makes us unhappy and we also make others unhappy
Surely this section will strongly attract your attention, just as questions such as: “How much self-esteem do I show to have?”, “Is it low or high?”. But self-esteem is not a number, although tests assign quantities to these categories of our behavior in order to “measure” how close you are to improving.
If you recognize two or more of these symptoms, ask for help
Our body is wise, so when we express nervousness, anxiety, or fear, something is happening, although something bad does not have to be happening. Remember that self-esteem is cognitive in nature, therefore it depends entirely on our beliefs, on our way of thinking. Next, you will see different typical disorders of people with low self-esteem. You still feel identified with some of the symptoms, but that does not mean that you have any disorder.
First of all, we will tell you something that may surprise you: anxiety is not a disease. Anxiety is an excessive and subjective reaction of fear to a situation or stimulus that in principle is neutral for any other person and that we feel we are unable to cope with. Everyone has suffered anxiety at some time, it is a normal reaction if, for example, your job is at stake, your partner is going to leave you, or a suspicious person is watching you on a dark street.
The problem arises when it occurs repeatedly throughout our lives and in situations where absolutely nothing is happening to you, for example, when you take a leisurely walk through a park with your partner, when you get in the car to go to work, or when it’s time to eat. An anxiety reaction appears when an irrational fear invades us (which does not correspond to reality) and we feel that we are not able to face it so that we become paralyzed or flee from what is generating fear in us.
An example of this situation is the following scenario: Susan is a 45-year-old woman who, after her divorce, feels fear and anxiety when she goes out on the street. Sometimes she is paralyzed and terrified, unable to recover on her own.
Anxiety is a disabling disorder that deteriorates the quality of life of people who suffer from it. People with low self-esteem feel that the situation they experience overcomes them, they are not able to face daily challenges, for this reason, they constantly experience fear and nervousness, and some people, to compensate for their fears, become demanding, exert themselves excessively and they make the mistake of placing their own judgment of their identity and skills on others.
In general, they try to please others by assuming responsibilities that are not theirs in order to feel that everyone around them is okay.
Anxiety disorders also include obsessive-compulsive disorders, which happens when these people have feelings that fluctuate between guilt, worry, and perfection. People with low self-esteem have a mixture of three feelings that causes them to be almost constantly in a wheel that they cannot get out of.
- When they remember something from the past, something they should have said or done, or something they just didn’t do, they feel guilty.
- When uncertainty invades them, when fears of what may happen to appear, they experience enormous concern.
- When they try to do a task, they tend to be perfectionists to avoid possible criticism from others.
The symptoms of depression are well known, although a person who suffers from them does not necessarily have to suffer from depression. Sadness, apathy, disappointment, discouragement, anhedonia, or feelings of frustration and hopelessness characterize this disorder. A person with low self-esteem feels that things are getting out of their hands, that despite being able to change something and improve, they do not do it because they cannot find triggers for their motivation.
Addiction and avoidance disorders
Drugs are commonly used by people with low self-esteem, as well as a shy and withdrawn demeanor.
Drugs keep these people away from facing their fears and difficulties, they take refuge in drinking alcohol or smoking marijuana to go unnoticed.
A situation as intimate and close as sex is something that, to people with low self-esteem, can seem like a terribly difficult process.
They feel withdrawn and think they are failures. They are unable to claim that they have been able to give pleasure to another person, even if they have not done it as they had imagined they would, they feel guilty. They are easily manipulated in these contexts. The opinion of the other person seems very important to their assessment. They put the other’s pleasure before their own and in some cases, they are unable to reach orgasm.