Self-Esteem Boosters: Stopping Self-Blame
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According to a survey administered by Dr. Aaron Beck, a renowned cognitive therapist, approximately 80% (or more) of depressed people dislike themselves (Cohen, 2006). In other words, they view themselves as defective, defeated, worthless, helpless, hopeless, deprived, deficient, deserted, and devalued. These individuals overly value attributes like: appearance (i.e. weight and beauty), popularity, athletic ability, intelligence, strength, achievement, and health (Cohen, 2006). The belief that you are somehow “less than” if you do fall safely inside a “pre-conceived box of attributes” can cause you to spiral into low self-esteem.
Dr. Beck does not believe in the notion that some people are worthless, regardless of whether the feelings are attributed to depression or not. Rather, his technique is to help people understand how depression is causing their low self-esteem, which is triggering their feelings of hopelessness, helplessness and worthlessness (Cohen, 2006). Truth-be-told, it is common to feel despair and feelings of inadequacy, when you are depressed. Why? Well, because the areas of your brain that control emotions and moods are affected when you are depressed. A chemical imbalance and a lack of communication in this part of your brain can trigger depression and feelings of hopelessness, helplessness and worthlessness.
Low Self-Esteem Linked With Depression
According to Jen Wilson, contributor for the mental health website, “Good Therapy” (2012), multiple research studies indicate that there is a definite link between depression and low self-esteem. Depending on the severity of the depression, you may not be able to eliminate these feelings without help from a trained mental health professional (i.e. psychologist, psychiatrist, counselor, therapist, and/or clinical social worker). The way this professional handles your feelings is paramount to boosting your self-esteem, eliminating your feelings of hopelessness, helplessness, and worthlessness, and setting you on the path to recovery. If you are unsure if you need professional help at this time or unable to get to a mental health professional right now – you are in luck because listed below are self-esteem booster activities that you can try until you can get the help you need.
Adopt a More Positive Attitude
Yes, one of the best ways to eliminate feelings of hopelessness, helplessness and worthlessness is to adopt a more positive attitude. How? Well, by stopping yourself when negative thoughts and feelings creep up on you. In other words, when you start to doubt, question, criticize or blame yourself, counter those thoughts and emotions with more positive ones. For example, when you start to tell yourself that you don’t have a romantic partner because you are too fat, dumb and/or ugly – stop yourself immediately. Reframe your negative thoughts with more positive ones by telling yourself that you are a beautiful, worthy person.
Pick something about your appearance and body (i.e. dimples, freckles, blue eyes, green eyes, brown eyes, long, thick eyelashes, heart-shaped face, plump lips, naturally curly/wavy/straight/thick hair, naturally straight eyebrows, coke-bottle figure, toned calves, cute belly button, good-sized breasts, nice butt, high cheekbones, etc.) that is unique and beautiful. Also, evaluate your intelligence. I bet there is something that makes you “standout.” Do you know something that most people do not know? What are you interested in (i.e. history, movies, music/singing, dancing, books/reading, cooking, writing, sports, space, animals, the environment, archaeology, etc.)? Can you figure things out before most people? Are you super creative and have a unique way of looking at things?
Intelligence does not only center on “book smarts,” grades, and standardized tests – it actually entails way more than just those things. Intelligence also includes a variety of factors such as: being able to create things, being able to see things from a different perspective (i.e. thinking-outside-of-the-box), and being able to see the bigger picture when most people only see what is right in front of them. To sum it up – you are not dumb. In fact, no one is really “dumb.” Just because others do not see your intelligence for what it really is – that does not make you “dumb.” In fact, it may actually make you smarter than the majority of people! If you cannot think of anything positive to say about yourself, call a friend and tell him or her how you are feeling. Ask that person to tell you what they like best about you, and concentrate on those positive attributes when you feel depressed.
Surround Yourself with Positive People
One of the most effective self-esteem boosters is to surround yourself with positive people. Have you ever been “down in the dumps” until you called or visited an uplifting, positive friend? If the answer is “yes,” you are not alone. Most of us have experienced a positive shift in mood, while spending time with positive people (i.e. friends, co-workers, and relatives). A supportive and loving friend or family member can boost your self-esteem in minutes. These individuals remind you that you are not alone with your struggles. They can also make you laugh, and offer great advice. So, the next time you feel depressed, call or visit your most uplifting friend and chat with him or her until your sad mood dissipates.
Talk about your issues or talk about everything but them – it is up to you. After 30 minutes with a positive person, you will feel positive and hopeful as well. Positivity is infectious! (If you do not have anyone positive to call or visit, rent a funny movie from Redbox or watch a Netflix movie that makes you chuckle, watch a comedy on television, listen to upbeat, happy music, and/or read a humorous book or magazine – all of these things will brighten your mood and boost your self-esteem!
Abandon Your “Perfectionist” Tendencies
Yes, I said it, “Abandon your perfectionist tendencies.” Why? Well, because they are only contributing to your feelings of hopelessness, helplessness and worthlessness. Don’t believe me – look at it this way, if you are a “perfectionist” and also depressed, if you do not make 100 on a work or school test, you fall even further into “the dumps.” You look at yourself as a failure, even though you scored 98 on the test. In your mind, you are helpless, hopeless and worthless because you did not make the “perfect” grade. Moreover, if you are a “perfectionist” suffering from depression, and you step on the scale, and it says that you have gained 5 pounds, you berate yourself as a failure because you gained weight.
In your mind, you are hideously obese, when in reality you still fit into a size 4 (a small size for a woman). Your “perfectionist” tendencies are contributing to your low self-esteem, whether you see it or not. So, when you find yourself criticizing yourself because you are human and not “perfect” – STOP IT. Reframe these negative thoughts with more positive ones (i.e. I may not be “perfect,” but I have really pretty eyes, hair and/or body shape. Or, I am still smart, even if I don’t make “perfect” grades or complete tasks “perfectly.”) Tell yourself that it is OK to be yourself, even if it is not “perfect.”
Volunteer or Find a Hobby
One of the best ways to make you feel good about yourself is to volunteer at a local agency or business. Helping others can boost your mood and self-esteem in minutes. If you think about it, volunteering not only help others, it also helps you with your depression, and feelings of hopelessness, helplessness and worthlessness. The best feeling in the world is helping others, and hearing them say, “Thank You.” The honesty and kindness in those two words are guaranteed to boost your self-esteem and banish your negative and unhealthy thoughts and feelings. So, next time you feel hopeless, helpless or worthless, volunteer at your local homeless shelter, domestic violence shelter, children’s hospital, Goodwill, Salvation Army, and/or Red Cross.
I guarantee you will feel better afterwards. If you cannot not physically volunteer at one of these organizations develop a hobby. It does not have to be something physical; in fact, it could be crossword puzzles, knitting, writing stories or poetry, singing, or cooking. It does not matter what you choose, just as long as it is entertaining and fulfilling for you. Doing something you like to do and doing it well will boost your self-esteem, and eliminate those feelings of hopelessness, helplessness and worthlessness before you know it!
- Dr. R. Y. Langham
Cohen, N. (2006). Feeling worthless and depression. Psych Central. Retrieved from http://psychcentral.com/lib/worthlessness-and-depression/000339
Wilson, J. (2012). The relationship between self-esteem and depression. Good Therapy. Retrieved from http://www.goodtherapy.org/blog/self-esteem-depression-anxiety-effects-0705123
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