720.370.1800 - Intl 844.331.1993
Select Page
Developing Self-Esteem: One Thought at a Time

Developing Self-Esteem: One Thought at a Time

Do You Know How Awesome You Are?

Hey, let’s try something. Can you name 3 things that you LOVE about yourself? 

You don’t have to grab a piece of paper or pull up your Notes app. Just take a moment, close your eyes, and answer that question for yourself in your mind.

How did it feel to do that?

Now think about how easy it is for you to describe the wonderful things about someone else in your life. Someone you love, admire, or even only know superficially. For many people, it is a little more complicated to do that for themselves

Some people can rattle off a long list of their best qualities and accomplishments. Some can confidently name a few. I was working with a client recently who felt extremely uncomfortable identifying even one. 

When I asked her to do this exercise, she puzzled over it for a while before settling on one. But then came a flood of uncertainty, and she began to doubt whether it was true or not. She tried a few more times but ultimately she gave up on the entire exercise, feeling frustrated and disingenuous. 

This was someone who is highly intelligent, extremely kind, a hard worker, and truly lovely inside and out. She struggled with perfectionism in her work, insecurity in her relationships, and a lot of anxiety. We worked together to tackle those issues, and found that ultimately they all stemmed from her low self-esteem.

Recognize Your Narratives

The narratives we construct about ourselves are informed by our early experiences, our caregivers, our teachers, our friends, the media, and society at large. As we grow up, we are constantly bombarded with messages and belief systems about the world around us, and we quickly learn to internalize them. Recognize that some of the thoughts you have about yourself are part of deeper, more subconscious narratives you hold, and may not actually be the whole truth. 

For example, if you’re in the dating world, you may be experiencing various forms of rejection on a regular basis. A bad date can lead to thoughts like, “I acted like an idiot!”, “I can’t believe I said that, I’m so stupid!”, “I’m ugly!”. It’s important to recognize that thoughts like these are your brain cherry-picking through all the potential thoughts you could have about that situation in order to feed into those constructed narratives that you hold about yourself. In this case, it may be a deeper narrative of “I’m not loveable”.

Reflecting, journaling, and doing growth work through therapy or coaching are some ways to learn to recognize these thought patterns and the deeper narratives you are holding on to. They are usually so ingrained and instinctual that we have to make a real effort to even notice that they are present. 

Learn How to Thought-Stop

Thought-stopping is a CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) technique that I teach many of my clients who struggle with anxiety. Once you have done the work of recognizing the untrue or harmful narratives you hold about yourself, the goal is to learn to stop the thoughts that feed them further. 

I like to describe this as a muscle: Just as you need to continually do strength training work to keep your biceps strong, you need to strengthen your thought-stopping muscle in order for it to be effective. 

The basic idea is to bring more awareness to those moments when you have an unhelpful or harmful thought, like “I’m an idiot!”, and quickly perform a stopping exercise. This can be simply saying “Stop!” to yourself, or even a physical action like snapping a rubber band on your wrist. The goal is to develop awareness of the thought patterns, and to stop the tendency of letting harmful thoughts spiral into anxiety or continue to feed that unhelpful narrative. 

I like to think of thought-stopping as a protective measure to keep that harmful self-narrative from cementing further. It’s good practice to develop more awareness of your thought patterns and to feel more in control of your thoughts and anxiety. However, to develop self-esteem, we also have to do some deeper work to challenge these narratives we hold about ourselves.

Challenge, Re-Frame, and Practice Self-Compassion

While thought-stopping is a great practice to have in your toolbox for managing anxiety and spiraling self-criticism, we also want to make a deliberate effort to challenge some of those harmful narratives we hold about ourselves. Taking time and space to really look at what we think about ourselves, where it comes from, and how to re-frame some of those beliefs with more compassion is a vital part of building self-esteem. 

For example, with the dating situation, listing the ways in which you are a desirable partner and truly allowing yourself to look at where you tend to dismiss the positives and highlight the negatives. A supportive therapist or coach can be a helpful person to do this with, because we often find it hard to recognize when we are being unfair on ourselves or engaging in black-and-white thinking.

If you’ve read this far, you are probably someone who is looking to boost their self-esteem and are ready to make some changes in your life. One actionable tip I have for you may be one you’ve heard before: talk to yourself as you would talk to a close friend who is going through something difficult. 

Would you be harsh or overly critical with this friend when they make mistakes? When someone says something rude to them on a date? When someone talks down to them at work? When they are feeling anxious or fearful of tackling a challenge in their life? Just as you are capable of being a kind, compassionate and supportive friend, you are capable of developing your own self-esteem and gaining more success and happiness in so many more areas of your life.

Remember that exercise we started with? Try incorporating it into your life as a 5 minute practice. Maybe in the evening, before you go to bed, as a way to wind down and reflect. Or maybe in a 5 minute break in the middle of your busy day, when you’ve been on the go and have already had a thousand thoughts that you have not yet brought awareness to. Take a few minutes to breathe, check in on your thoughts, reframe anything that you need to, and remind yourself that you are trying your best, and you are worthy. 

Developing self-esteem is not easy. It takes a lot of energy, patience, perseverance, and support to be able to do some of the work I’ve laid out here. But it can be hugely gratifying to be able to live with less self-doubt, less anxiety, more purpose, more confidence, and a stronger sense of how kickass you are!

All the best, 
Sharmishtha Gupta, Ed.M., M.A.

Sharmishtha Gupta, Ed.M, M.A., is a warm, validating counselor and coach who can help you uncover your strengths, get clear about who you are, heal your spirit, and attain the highest and best in yourself and your relationships.

Let’s  Talk

How to Stay Motivated During Your Job Search

How to Stay Motivated During Your Job Search

Sharmishtha Gupta, M.A. is a warm, validating counselor, life coach and career coach who can help you uncover your strengths, get clear about who you are, heal your spirit, and attain the highest and best in yourself, your career, and your relationships.

Job Search Rejection? Here’s How to Cope.

Hello! I’m now a part of the Growing Self team, but I wasn’t always. Even though I’m a career coach, I know first hand what it feels like to keep your head up as you job search for the right position. My experiences in job exploration have taught me how to stay positive and focus on my goals in the face of endless cover letters, difficult interviews, and of course, countless rejections.

Before finding my path as a mental health counselor, life coach and career coach, I dabbled in a lot of different fields. I’ve worked in marketing, at a tech startup, as a pet sitter and dog walker, as a social media manager, as an administrative assistant, and as a tutor. Here are some things I’ve learned along the way….

“I’m sending out tons of applications and not hearing back…”

Remind yourself, finding a new job is a numbers game. Even in a “people” field like counseling, a lot of organizations use recruiters or algorithms to narrow down the pool of applicants. Many fields are highly competitive, with the sheer volume of applications drowning out any chance that yours will get noticed.

Although a cover letter is an opportunity to present yourself to the potential employer, it is still a limited window into who you are as a person. You are a complex, multi-talented and interesting person! I know how demoralizing it can be to put in a lot of effort into trying to convey that through a job application and getting no response. Remember that you are more than your job application, and that the whole process of job hunting makes it easy to feel like you’re being constantly rejected for putting yourself out there.

Depending on the field in which you’re trying to get a job, there can be many alternate approaches to try to improve your chances of landing an interview. Reaching out via LinkedIn or other appropriate social media, marketing yourself in creative ways, or even making a phone call (*gasp* I know!) can be strategies that might be helpful if appropriate for the field. Get guidance from a career coach to explore alternate ways of approaching the job search so you’re not just churning out hundreds of applications and feeling disheartened at not hearing back.

“But I had a great interview and didn’t hear back….”

First of all, do not take it personally! I completely understand the tendency to feel like a failure or to feel like the rejection is a personal blow. Feeling like the interview went well, and even getting validation during the interview and then getting a rejection can be a real blow to your self-esteem.

I once had an interviewer tell me “We have three rounds of interviews, and you’ll be getting a second interview.” This was a position I really wanted, and I spent the week excitedly awaiting the next interview invitation. When I didn’t hear from them and reached out, I got an email saying, “We decided not to move forward with your application at this point.” I was devastated, and also very confused as to what could have changed their minds.

But the reality is, most of the time, it’s not about you. Sometimes someone else is a better fit, even if you have all the qualifications and skills required for the position. Sometimes the person interviewing you vouches for you but someone else overrules them for whatever reason. Either way, it’s out of your control. You can only present yourself in the best light and follow up appropriately, nd remind yourself that a rejection from a job application is not a rejection of you as a person.

“I’m feeling burned out and I can’t apply any more…”

Take a step back and reframe the job search. Take some time to reflect on what your goals are and what you’re trying to accomplish. This might be a great time to meet with a career coach, to help you refocus and to come up with strategies of how to accomplish these goals without tearing down at your energy and your self-esteem.

Make sure you’re reaching out to the people around you and letting them know what’s going on with you. Reach out to family, friends, current coworkers, and past coworkers. Let them know you’re job searching and ask for both moral support as well as networking opportunities. Some people have a negative view of networking – you might feel like you’re being a burden or an annoyance to people for asking for help. Trust me, you are not. People like to feel helpful, and also they know that they may be coming to you for the same help at another time!

You’ve got this!

Remember, whether you’re a fresh graduate, a career changer, or someone with decades of experience, the process of job hunting can be stressful and demoralizing. It may feel like you are struggling alone, but challenge those feelings by reaching out to others and sharing what’s going on.

A career coach or counselor may be a great resource at this time to help you come up with ways to keep yourself afloat emotionally, as well as to come up with tools and resources to approach the job search with a personalized game plan. I’ve been there, and I’m going to continue to be there throughout my own career. I’m here for you, but you have to believe in yourself too: you’ve got this!

Warmly,

Sharmishtha Gupta, M.A.
Life and Career Coach

Growing Self Counseling & Coaching
Growing Self
Loading...