Most people don’t realize the nature of the messages they send to themselves each day.
- “I’m a loser. I can’t do anything right, so why should I even try?”
- “I’ve always been this way, and I’ll never change.”
- “No wonder nobody likes me. I wouldn’t like me either.”
With self-talk like that, it’s hard to feel good about who you are, or find enjoyment in life or relationships. However, learning to hold yourself in a compassionate light can change everything.
Most people would not allow someone to talk to their kids the way that they talk to themselves. But it’s often our first impulse when we react to ourselves. Yet, we can find more positive ways to react. Using self-compassion can improve self-esteem and give you the courage to try new things, recover from mistakes more easily, and see positive changes you want in your life.
What is Self-Esteem?
Of course, everyone gets down on themselves from time to time, but if you frequently feel badly about yourself and your accomplishments, you may have poor self-esteem. Low self-esteem often shows up as mental habits. Constant self-doubt or self-criticism, focusing on your failures to the exclusion of your successes, and the inability to accept compliments are hallmarks of low self-esteem.
Sometimes you may compare yourself negatively with others or, feel depression, shame, or anger. With low self-esteem, you may sometimes feel like you’re worthless, that nothing good will ever happen to you, and you can expect disappointment in your life. These thoughts may leave you feeling hopeless. But these are just thoughts. There is real hope that you can learn new habits of mind and enjoy more positive experiences.
How Can Self-Compassion Help?
Self-compassion is an attitude that helps improve low self-esteem. Self-compassion doesn’t focus on one’s feelings; rather, self-compassion focuses on holding your thoughts and feelings with reflection and acceptance. Self-compassion encourages you to treat yourself the way that you would treat other people.
To understand this frame of mind, think of how you would treat a loved one who made a mistake like bouncing a check, forgetting an appointment, or breaking something valuable. When someone you like is suffering, you may feel a strong urge to help. You may try your best to calm your friend’s anxiety, saying: “I know, you didn’t mean to do that. It’s too bad that happened. I see you want to figure out how to avoid this in the future.”
Compassion doesn’t deny that something bad happened. It gives the other person space to be human because nobody is perfect. We can’t reasonably expect everyone to do everything perfectly all of the time. That includes ourselves.
Seeing Habits of Self-Talk You Can Change
When there’s a problem and you see how you are at fault, you may naturally want to acknowledge the issue, apologize for it, and try to make amends. You may already do that, but if you have low self-esteem, you may mistake the difficulty as a reflection of your value as a person. You may feel overcome by feelings of failure and frustration that a mistake brings. Low self-esteem won’t let you move on, and let the past in the past.
A habit of thinking with low self-esteem may leave you feeling trapped in a cycle of failure, wondering if you will never change. Self-compassion does the opposite. Self-compassion is a different habit of self-talk that says, “You made a mistake, but you are still worthy, you are still important, and you will try to improve in the future.” Instead of punishing yourself for mistakes, you will give yourself support and compassion.
The interesting thing about self-compassion is that it does ultimately change the way that you feel about yourself. Changing a habit of negative self-talk takes time. But with healing, self-compassion may become second nature.
If you feel stuck in a cycle of self-doubt and frustration, a qualified therapist can help. Lifelong patterns of low self-esteem, poor self-image, and negative self-talk can be difficult to break on your own. Problems and mistakes don’t have to get you down the as they have in the past. You can enjoy feeling optimistic about the future and know you are worthy, and deeply deserving of your own best friendship, acceptance and love.
What To Do Next
We are here to help you when you are ready. Contact us at Oak River Wellness to learn about many different ways we can work together, including counseling, Reiki, yoga and more.