By Suzanne E. Harrill
The group you work with has a level of
self-esteem based on the composite self-esteem levels of the
individuals in the group. We each take to the workplace (works
the same in families) our level of awareness, which includes
such things as our understanding of ourselves and others, our
communication skills, our ability to have realistic expectations
for ourselves and others, our degree of maintaining a positive
attitude, and our ability to stay in present-time and not let
past hurts be projected onto others. It also depends on taking
responsibility for our own life, managing our feelings, our
biases, and prejudices, and our ability to release and forgive
immature behavior and responses in others. One of the most
important things we do is model and reflect to others how we
value ourselves. To positively impact your work (or home)
environment take a look your own self-esteem awareness level and
see where you might make some improvements. It will improve your
own life, as well as that of the workplace. Let us define
self-esteem, look at characteristics of high and low
self-esteem, and learn ways to build and maintain self-esteem.
What is self-esteem? Very simply it is how you feel about
yourself. It includes your opinions, thoughts, beliefs, and
images you have about yourself. These messages are sent to
yourself from your own self and many exist at the unconscious
level. That is why it can be confusing to see our own degree of
self acceptance and love.
Let us look at two
lists of qualities, those defining high self-esteem and those
defining low self-esteem. Notice that the characteristics of a
person suffering from low self-esteem are extremes in feelings,
thoughts, and behaviors. A person enjoying higher self-esteem
lives a more balanced life with their feeling, thoughts, and
behaviors. It does not mean there are no problems or imbalances,
but there is the ability to move out of extremes because the
self-awareness is there to make a correction when out of
Signs of High Self-Esteem
Having an internal locus of
control, getting okayness from within, not from others.
Taking care of yourself –
physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually.
Maintaining a balance between
extremes of thought, feeling, and behavior. When out-of-balance,
taking action to correct.
Learning from mistakes and being
able to say, “I made a mistake.” If it involves another
person, being able to make amends or say, “I’m sorry.”
Able to forgive self and others.
Managing your life responsibly.
Honoring individual differences
Listening to other points of
Taking responsibility for your
own perceptions and reactions; not projecting onto others.
Having the ability to listen to
your wise inner self (your intuition), and to act on this
Knowing your own strengths and
self-improvement and taking positive risks.
Balancing being and doing.
Feeling warm and loving towards
Giving and receiving love easily,
with no strings attached.
self-confidence, and self-acceptance.
Signs of Low Self-Esteem
Self-blame, self-criticism, or
constantly putting others down through guilt, blame, shame,
or faultfinding. Finding
Over- or under-achieving,
-eating, -working, -doing, etc.
Playing the victim, rationalizing
that outside circumstances are the causes of your problems.
Not taking responsibility for
your own life; turning power over to another to make
decisions for you, then feeling victimized if the results
are not to your liking.
Taking too much responsibility
for the lives of others, dominating and making decisions for
Fear of change and reluctance to
take risks. Or too much change, taking dangerous, unwise risks.
Constant negativity or being so
optimistic that reality is denied.
Reacting to others with extreme
emotion or no emotion.
embellishing, exaggerating, and overbearing behavior around
Inability to maintain integrity
during interactions with others.
Demanding to be “right,”
needing to have agreement or have your own way most of the
time, or constantly acquiescing to the will and opinions of
Constantly comparing yourself to
others, thereby feeling inferior or superior.
Black/white, either/or thinking;
e.g., believing that a person is either good or bad based on
rigid standards of behavior.
Having pervasive deep-seated
feelings of fear, terror, or panic.
Speaking with lots of shoulds,
oughts, could haves,
and yes ,buts.
Interpreting the hurtful words or
actions of others as proof of your unworthiness.
Now look at the following ways we can
improve our own self-esteem. As we grow and change in positive
ways we mirror these changes to others, which in turn helps to
improve the work or family environment. As we experience more
self-acceptance, respect, and awareness we subtly encourage
others to see this in themselves as well, at least while in your
Ways to Improve Your Self-Esteem
1. Change your negative self-talk. Everyone has a voice inside
her/his mind that is continually commenting. The negative,
critical, hurtful comments need to be changed. Begin listening
to what you say to yourself and then talk back to your negative
self-talk with the truth. Speed up the process by saying
positive statements or affirmations;
such as, “I like myself and am a worthwhile person, I forgive
myself for not knowing/being/doing…, I deserve love, inner
peace, and fulfillment.”
Make a cassette tape, in your voice, of
affirmations and listen to it daily or make a list of
affirmations and read out loud to yourself daily.
2. Visualize what you want to create in your life. Picture what you want to
create, whether it is a new dress or feeling confident in new
situations. When you combine an affirmation, with deep feeling,
and with a positive mental picture you add power to what you
want to create. Look for pictures in magazines that picture what
you want to create and glue them into your journal.
3. Nurture yourself. Take
care of yourself physically, emotionally, mentally, and
spiritually. Enjoy the times when others are able to nurture you
or meet your needs; watch the tendency to set yourself up for
disappointment with unreal expectations.
4. Build a support system. You deserve to have at least one person
to talk to who accepts you without judging you. Consider joining
a group to meet new people.
5. Take time to be alone daily. Spending quality time alone allows
you to listen to your inner self. It is time to think, read,
write, pray, meditate, or listen to your intuition.
6. Use your talents. Develop your interests. Take classes, find a
teacher to begin. Volunteer to share your talents with others.
7. Keep a journal. Writing is a good way to get to know yourself,
solve your problems, lower your stress level, and balance
yourself emotionally. If you have never written before, begin by
writing for 20 minutes a day. Include your thoughts, feelings,
and emotional reactions to people and situations that have upset
or hurt you. Eventually, insights and wisdom, that under normal
circumstances are hidden from you, flow onto the paper. Do not
worry about spelling or grammar. Consider using different
colored inks. Writing clarifies your thoughts, feelings, needs,
wants, visions, values, goals, and priorities and helps you
communicate better with others. Following are questions to get
Questions to Get You Started
Write about the people
and situations that influenced your self-esteem, both
positively and negatively, in your early life, as an
adolescent, and as an adult? What would you like to say to
them or about them right now?
Write about the things
you are grateful for in your life? Update this often.
List your needs. Think
about needs in five different areas: physical (healthy food,
regular exercise), emotional (affection, one person to share
intimately with that does not judge you), social (belong to
a group, people to play with), mental (stimulating ideas to
keep you growing, explore an interest), and spiritual (quiet
time to be alone¾being instead of doing).
Write about significant
emotional events that have affected you positively and
What does forgiveness
mean to you? Where might you practice forgiveness?
Discuss three short-range
goals you have for yourself? List the steps you see as
necessary to achieve them. How will these goals affect
others in your life?
What gives your life
meaning? List your values (quality time with family, being
debt-free and saving money, integrity, kindness). What do you like about your life? What do you want to change?
Write about a close
friend and/or mentor in your life. Describe their impact on
your life. Is it easy or difficult to accept help from
another? Write about this.
How might you go about finding a friend or mentor if
you do not have this in your life.
Discuss your experience
with conditional and unconditional love.
Write about your wishes,
hopes, and dreams.
Record your nighttime
dreams. Write about your feelings, insights, and messages.
List things you are proud
of and things you like about yourself.
Discuss your greatest
fear and its effect? What do you want to do about it?
Write letters to people
with whom you are angry, feel have hurt or neglected
you, or anyone you
feel you treated unjustly. These letters are not to send.
What are the major themes
in your life? What lessons do you feel you have learned thus far within these themes? What do you still have to
What did you learn about
expressing your creativity from your mother? your father?
Write your autobiography,
then how your past can positively impact your future.
conclusion, enjoy new levels of success at work or in your
family when you improve your own self-esteem. As you work on
yourself notice your positive effect on those around you. Be
ready for at least one person to notice something is different
about you. Then you can share your secret. A handful of people
practicing solid self-esteem-building skills impacts the
workplace or family positively.