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Self-esteem is a very important aspect our wellbeing. It affects the way we look at our achievements and relationships and it impacts the way we perceive our future. High self-esteem fosters enthusiasm for self-development. When we think about self-development, we usually focus on our future goals related to professional achievements (a promotion at work), personal goals (run a marathon) or traits of the character (become more assertive). However, the attainment of all these goals is dependent on how much we like ourselves.

Lost and Confused

It is easy to feel lost, when the family and the media present visions of ideals that are in conflict with our own goals and with the vision of our own future. For example, if the pressure at home is to be an obedient daughter and a perfect mother and the media present ideals of perfect body images or passionate lovers, we tend to compare ourselves to these ideals and often feel inadequate.

If we try to measure up to someone else’s ideals of beauty or success, we feel frustration.

When we concentrate on our inadequacies, we forget that to be able to give something to other people, we must first possess it ourselves. For example, to provide feelings of comfort and safety to others, we must feel safe and comfortable ourselves.

Listen to your Inner Voice

There are numerous advantages to liking yourself, such as increased self-esteem, increased independence, and self-knowledge. These traits allow you to live life according to your own values.There are numerous advantages to liking yourself, such as increased self-esteem, increased independence, and self-knowledge. Higher self-esteem is followed by a better understanding of one’s feelings and thoughts. It also strengthens your confidence in decisions that you make and helps to find appropriate solutions to challenges. Carl Rogers, one of the founders of the humanistic approach to psychology, claimed that people who take care of themselves and understand their own needs, are more creative, more helpful, and more open towards other people.

Low self-esteem can be classified in two ways. It can either, take on the role of a punishing superego, which judges every single activity or it can become an internal critic, who is present in our daily life and who questions or negates a lot of what we do.

The critic has three functions, internal, external and a positive one. The internal critic influences our own views, thoughts and feelings. The external critic projects our own fears, attitudes and feelings on other people. The third, positive function, is helpful, because it allows us to see our mistakes, and it encourages us to improve and develop. However, the critic makes it very difficult to love ourselves, because it is a constant reminder how imperfect we are.

How to Conquer the Critic

It is not possible to change everything at once. The same way it is not possible to eat a huge cake at one sitting. However, you can eat the cake one piece at a time. The fear of taking the first step towards a goal or of being judged by others is like a huge cake. It is not possible to conquer it all at once, because it is rooted very deeply, but it is possible to expand one’s comfort zone little by little, by taking small steps and getting used to making your own decisions, regardless of what other people think. With time and practice this process becomes second nature.

Six Steps to Liking Yourself

  1. Write down your habits and how they impact your daily life. Think what you can change. What is difficult for you and what are you afraid of? In what circumstances do you experience a paralyzing fear that prevents you from doing what you want? What would happen, if you did take the first step toward your goal? What could you gain? Answering these questions will help you minimize the fear and will allow you to act. Think about the fear and courage as about two opposite ends of the same scale. You do not have to make a giant leap towards the courage end, but you can make a few small steps. When you do move forward and then look back at your starting point, you will notice that you are getting further and further away from fear and moving closer to courage, on the fear-courage scale.
  2. Describe how you see yourself. Do you see yourself as a lonely and unattractive person? Where does this assessment come from? Perhaps your loneliness is the result of avoiding other people. You might feel unattractive, because you are not taking care of yourself. It is not important how you define the problem, but it is crucial what you do about it. Will you see your loneliness or unattractive image as a challenge and choose to do something about or will you surrender and avoid taking any steps to improve the situation. It is up to you to improve things. You need to tell yourself what YOU can do to feel less lonely or to look more attractive. Perhaps you can make the effort and contact your friends, enroll in a course, or get a haircut. The most difficult thing is to realize that the world will not change to make you happy, but it is up to you to change your attitude and your perception of the world. The change must come from within yourself.
  3. Be responsible for your actions. When you are faced with a decision, ask yourself: “Is it worth the effort?”, “What are the advantages and disadvantages of the potential choice?”, “Am I able to do it?”, “What will I gain?” And do not be afraid of failure. Failure is an inherent part of a learning process. Only those that do nothing make no mistakes.
  4. Choose a Role Model. Success does not happen overnight. Steve Jobs knocked on many doors and experienced several failures, before he achieved a spectacular success with the famous Apple. Do not get discouraged on the way to your chosen goal.
  5. List the roles you play in your life. We all play many different roles in life. We are children, parents, employees, colleagues, bosses, lovers, and partners, to list a few. To see how you perform in your roles, draw a big circle and divide it into as many pizza slices as the roles you fulfil in your life. Each slice is a separate 100%. How well do you fulfill each of the roles? Are you satisfied with your performance? When was the last time you talked to your parents? What about your friends? Do you have enough time to take care of these relationships? Do you spend enough time with your partner and do you really listen to him or her and try to understand them? Evaluate your own performance in each category in percentages. This simple exercise usually provides a good overview of your current situation and shows where is the room for improvement.
  6. There is no time like the present. If you want to make changes, do not wait until tomorrow or the next week or the next month. Take the first step today, no matter how small. If you do nothing, the time will pass, but you will be stuck in the same, not so happy place in your life. Start now!


258 Izabela jaderek

About the Author

Izabela Jąderek - psychologist, sexologist and sex educator. Lecturer and doctoral student at SWPS University. Psychosocial competencies trainer certified at the National Open College in the UK. As a psychotherapist and sex-therapist, she works with numerous NGOs, such as Fundacja Promocji Zdrowia Seksualnego [Foundation for the Promotion of Sexual Health], Fundacja Trans-Fuzja [Trans-Fuzja Foundation], and Stowarzyszenie Akceptacja [Acceptance Association], that focus on sexual and mental health education and provide support to socially excluded individuals.