The thoughts we have about ourselves, or how we define ourselves, contribute to our self-image. The feelings we have about these thoughts, whether these feelings are good or bad, are the building blocks of our self-esteem. Our self-image, and gradually our self-esteem, can be molded by our parents, family, friends, physical or intellectual abilities, education, and jobs. Just as we have definitions for most things in the world, we also have definitions of ourselves. We come to define ourselves the way others define us. Thus, if others treat us with love, kindness, and as if we are special and unique people, then we will eventually define ourselves in this way as well. On the other hand, if other people treat us as if we are a bother to have around and not worth much, then we will also come to see ourselves in this way.
Self-Esteem and Therapy
One of the things that therapy does best is to address issues of self-esteem. Many of us are wounded, in one way or another, by the way we were treated as we grew up. As adults it becomes our responsibility to put closure on the damage inflicted on us by others and to move on with our lives in a healthy way. Therapy can point out the ways in which we engage in destructive patterns of behavior. It allows us to explore why we punish ourselves and see ourselves as being less than other people. We have the ability to change our negative self-esteem tendencies and to replace them with self-nurturing, self-encouraging, and self-enhancing behavior. When we begin to treat ourselves in a more positive way, others pick up on our cues and respond to us in the special way we all deserve.
Some Characteristics of People with Positive Self-Esteem:
- Taking responsibility for one’s own feelings and actions
- Giving and taking compliments graciously
- Focused on the present and future – learning from the past
- Listening openly to others
- Take good care of body and appearance
- Making decisions from internal values
- Taking risks and challenging oneself
- Laughing at oneself, but never putting another person down
- Accepting mistakes as part of life, open to feedback
- Listening to criticism without anger, and not necessarily agreeing with the criticism
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