Three signs of low self-esteem and how CBT can help.
Sign One: Your inner critic stops you from being happy
We all have an inner voice that either spurs us on to achieve our goals or criticises us when we’ve made a mistake. When you’re suffering from low self-esteem, it can feel like your inner critic is so deeply entrenched that you are unable to get a clear perspective on your reality.
Your inner critic works hard to bring you down and prevents you from moving past negative experiences with any form of self-belief. For example, you may have just secured your dream job, however, your inner critic will work hard to convince you that this is an underserved opportunity that you’re not capable of upholding.
Our inner critics are formed at childhood and are made up of the experiences we had with authority figures and our peers as we grew up. You may have been bullied or told by your teachers that you would never amount to anything. All of these factors contribute to your inner critic and make up the way you view yourself and believe in your abilities.
How CBT helps: When dealing with low self-esteem and particularly self-criticism, CBT helps us to examine how our thoughts, behaviours and beliefs may be contributing to our perceptions of ourselves and the world around us. During your CBT sessions, your therapist will work with you to identify negative patterns in your thoughts and behaviour and share evidence-based techniques that will help you silence your inner critic.
Sign Two: You take things personally
When you suffer from low self-esteem, it’s common to feel that certain negative events or experiences were specifically targeted at you or were in some way your fault. This belief can have a negative impact on your relationships and affect the way you interact in social situations. For example, a friend or colleague may have made a joke about you, which they only intended as such, but for you it was a crushing reinforcement of your negative view of yourself. This then may cause you to ruminate on the joke, long after it was told. You may then view the statement, which was originally intended in jest, as a true reflection of yourself.
How CBT helps: Cognitive Behavioural Therapy teaches us that when we suffer from issues such as low self-esteem, we can often get stuck in an irrational belief system that only holds us back. When we take things personally, we hold a particular belief system that puts us at the centre and as the intended victim. In this instance, CBT can help by helping you view a more realistic approach on the events. Your therapist will encourage you to search for facts that support this new approach instead of relying on your previous belief system. For example, you may believe that your partner has become distant and irritable with you. Instead of subscribing to the belief that it is your fault that they are like this or that they want to break off the relationship, your CBT therapist will encourage you to consider other reasons your partner may be short tempered. Perhaps they are feeling unwell or maybe they are under immense pressure at work.
Sign Three: You judge others harshly or put people down
We all have a person in mind that is highly opinionated or judges others harshly. This may even be a characteristic you recognise in yourself. If we’re personally dealing with low self-esteem, judging other people or criticise them harshly is often a sign a deeper issue that we have with our own insecurities. If we’re feeling low about ourselves, it can feel good disparaging other people.
How CBT helps: CBT can help build our self-esteem by first of all enabling us to identify our negative thoughts and behaviour. Your therapist will work with you to discover some of the limiting beliefs you may have of yourself or your abilities and help you develop, new and rational beliefs about yourself. If you find yourself harshly judging the people around you, your CBT therapist will work with you identify the source of these negative feelings and replace these with positive helpful thinking patterns that will eventually contribute to an improved view of yourself and the world around you.