The Other Way of Building Self-Esteem
Many of us suffer from low self-esteem, and have worked hard to try to overcome this problem. For those who've tried it, building self-esteem can be a long process. It can be difficult thing to quickly improve; even after years of working at it we can still be troubled by persistent, self-denigrating thoughts in our heads. However, a different way of looking at it might make the process a little easier.
Improving our self-efficacy
Albert Bandura, an American psychologist, suggested that rather than directly trying to overcome our issues of self-esteem and the negative thoughts that we have about ourselves, we should focus on trying to improve our self-efficacy. In other words, we should change our focus from noticing when we think badly of ourselves (and then trying to think better about ourselves), to a focus on becoming better at things and noticing that.
This is a pretty simple idea but it makes sense. Our opinion of ourselves is very subjective and is all locked up in our head. The nagging voice that tells us that we're not any good has been there, whispering in our ear for so long that we hardly even remember to check if it's actually right. Further, when tell ourselves we're self-critical, all we've found was a more sophisticated and indirect way of being telling ourselves off.
Focus on getting better at what you do
To focus instead on building self-efficacy sidesteps this problem rather neatly. If we focus on becoming better at what we do – even in small ways – this creates evidence for ourselves that is much harder to refute. If you do create something good, no matter how small, the proof of your skill is there before you, whether it's some well-written words or even a well-made sandwich. You can still be critical of yourself, but it's harder when you see the evidence to the contrary. Building self-efficacy is the most effective way of building self-esteem.
And to seal it all? There's scant evidence that self-criticism leads to self-improvement. Otherwise, the most competent people would be the harshest on themselves. Our character is not made better by bad experiences.
Changing our perceptions of self through building self-esteem
Counselling and psychotherapy can help with changing our perception about ourselves. When you start to talk to someone professional and begin to say the critical, self-denigrating things in your head, it can be a surprise and a challenge to hear these things spoken out loud. With support and the growth that comes from this, negative self-belief becomes harder to sustain and out of step with the person we know ourselves to be. We can learn to soothe our inner critic.
I'd be interested in what you think about this – please let me know in the comments below. Now, read about how we are made up of different parts.
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