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Building Self-Esteem: What Are You Saying to Yourself?


Self-esteem is our sense of how we feel about ourselves, and it has absolutely nothing to do with what other people think about us. It’s about your overall sense of self-worth or personal value, and it can be the foundation for making decisions for yourself that are true to the real you. People with high self esteem don’t concern themselves with what others think they should do. Instead, they are able to make their decisions based on what is true to them. Imagine being able to make your own life decisions, both big and small, without ever thinking  about what others think? With a good self-esteem, you can do exactly that.

If you want to start making some changes to build your self-esteem, one of the best places to start is with your self-talk.

What is self-talk? One of the simplest ways to both assess and improve your own self-esteem is through self-talk. When you are faced with any type of stressor in your life, what do you say to yourself? That is your self-talk. For instance, somebody trying to establish an exercise habit in an effort to lose weight might say, “Why should I bother? I’m fat, and I never stick to a program anyway.” Or, she might say, “I’m ready to do this! I’m going to keep at it and take off these pounds!” The self-talk in that situation can make all the difference in whether she succeeds.

Self-talk is both learned and self-created. Learned self-talk may have come from messages you received from other people, especially while you were growing up. Think about the dominant adults in your life when you were a child. Did you hear more messages that encouraged you and had confidence in you, or did you hear more that had little faith in you or maybe even insulted you?

Self-talk that you created yourself could be from your own negative thoughts, unreasonably high expectations, or by comparing yourself to others.

Regardless of where it came from, though, if your self-talk is negative, it’s time to let it go.

Recognize and replace your self-talk. What type of self-talk do you typically use? If you want to speak up at a business meeting, are you more likely to say to yourself, “They might think this is dumb,” or would you say, “They’ll be so glad I shared this idea!” If you are meeting your boyfriend’s friends for the first time, do you think, “They’re not going to think I’m good enough for him,” or do you think, “They’ll think we’re the perfect match!”

If you are more likely to use negative self-talk (even mildly negative, such as “I’m not sure if this is good enough” or “This is too much pressure for me”), think about ways to replace your thoughts with more positive ones.

Instead of “This is stressing me out,” use “If I’m calm, it will be easier.”

Instead of “This probably won’t work,” use “This is the answer, and I’ve got other ideas I can try too.”

Instead of “I can’t deal with this one minute longer,” use “I can bear anything for a while.”

You get the idea!

More positive self-talk statements If you’re having trouble coming up with positive self-talk statements to substitute for your old messages, here’s a list of more generic ones that can be used in a variety of situations:

No problem, I thrive on challenge.
This is an opportunity, not a threat.
I come through under pressure.
I can do almost anything I set my mind to.
I have confidence.
I’m getting better all the time!
I make things happen.
I have more talents and skills than I have yet discovered.
I am calm and confident.
I am doing the best I can.
I will be true to myself.
One step at a time.
I can remain calm with this difficult person.
I know I will be okay no matter what happens.
In the long run, does this really matter?
Is this really worth getting upset about?
I’m not going to overreact.

Now try this exercise! Which positive self-talk statements in the list above would work best for you? What other ones can you think of that would work even better for you? Write them down on a 3×5 card or small piece of paper, and think about when you might be able to use them. For the next several days, when you find yourself using negative self-talk, think about the messages on your card and see if you can change it to positive self-talk. Later, take a moment to reflect back. Can you see how the positive messages you gave yourself in a stressful setting automatically improved that situation?

Improving your self-talk is the first step to improving your self-esteem. By being your own cheerleader, you will gain confidence in yourself. And when you do that, you will get to know yourself better, and you will be able to make choices in your life that are true to the real you, being easily able to disregard what others might think you should do.

Keep working on changing your self-talk with your new positive messages. Take note of how much better it works, and then let me know how it goes. I’d love to hear from you in the comments!