Boosting Self-Esteem For Dummies®

Table of Contents

Boosting Self-Esteem For Dummies®


About the Authors

Rhena Branch: Rhena has her own private practice and also teaches and supervises on the MSc at Goldsmith’s University London. Rhena has co-written CBT and REBT textbooks as well as self-help books. She treats general psychiatric disorders with special interest in eating disorders and anxiety disorders.

Rob Willson: Rob runs his own private practice and is involved in supervising and teaching on the MSc in CBT and REBT at Goldsmith’s University London. Rob has co-authored several self-help books and has appeared on both radio and television. He’s currently involved in research into the treatment of body dysmorphic disorder.

Authors' Acknowledgments

Rhena Branch: I extend a very big thank you to Felix and Atticus (my two teenage sons) for being patient whilst I wrote yet another book that neither one of them is likely to read soon. Also thanks to Rob for his input and help, especially in the final hour.

I also wish to acknowledge and thank all those excellent CBT practitioners and mental health professionals out there for providing literature and research to draw upon. And of course, my gratitude to all my patients over the years for teaching me so much about the ways we humans work.

I also probably need to apologise to a few friends for being inaccessible over the past few months (you know who you are) and to my dogs for being remiss in the rambling walks department.

Also, thanks to the Wiley team for your expert guidance.

Rob Willson: Thank you to Rhena for being the driving force behind this book.

As ever, I’m indebted to my patients for sharing with me their thoughts, feelings and strategies.

Publisher’s Acknowledgments

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Low self-esteem probably brings more people to therapy than any other problem. Many people are aware that the opinion they have of themselves could be better. In our clinical practice we see people from all walks of life, from different personal and professional backgrounds, and of all races, ages and creeds, complaining of the same thing: low self-esteem. In fact, low self-esteem is such a commonly reported problem that we’ve written a whole book about defining what healthy self-esteem is and telling you how to get it.

Unfortunately self-doubt and poor self-appreciation seem to go hand-in-hand with being human. Even if you have generally healthy and good self-esteem, you probably have times in your life when you feel down and have denigrating ideas and thoughts about yourself. It seems to us that very few people (if any) escape feelings of low self-esteem at some point in their lifetimes. So, even if you think that you’re the only person on the planet who feels as badly about him or herself as you do, we can reassure you: that’s most certainly not the case.

Self-esteem is frequently misunderstood. You may think that it’s all about being successful and confident or being able to make your mark on the world. But that doesn’t account for the swathe of individuals in the world who have little wealth or power and yet still manage to think well of themselves. Healthy self-esteem isn’t about what you have, what you’ve achieved or even about what you can do; it’s an internal understanding of yourself as a complex, unique and intrinsically valuable person regardless of external factors.

This book helps you to better understand what low self-esteem really is and how it may be affecting your life. We aim to give you a better understanding of the nature of healthy self-esteem and how you can achieve it. Whether you suffer from chronic low self-esteem or just seem to get occasional bouts of it, we believe that the information in this book can benefit you.

About This Book

This book can be used as a form of self-help on its own or in conjunction with seeing a therapist or other type of mental health professional. You can use the information in this book to help yourself develop healthy self-esteem or to understand and support a loved one. If you’re a psychology student or even a fully trained therapist, you’re likely to find something of use to you in these chapters.

This book includes the following information:

check.png Definitions of low self-esteem and descriptions of the many different ways it can manifest in your life.

check.png Explanations of common emotional and behavioural problems that people with low self-esteem typically experience.

check.png Cognitive behavioural techniques to help you change your negative thoughts and take on board more helpful ways of thinking and behaving.

check.png Lots of practical exercises that you can do to help improve your self-esteem, your overall mood and your day-to-day functioning.

check.png Examples and case studies that represent the actual problems and circumstances of people we have treated. The names, however, are entirely fictional and not direct reflections of any particular clients.

check.png Additional information that can help you to understand yourself better and improve the ways in which you relate to other people in your life.

The methods outlined throughout this book are based on cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) principles. CBT is a popular, effective, scientifically researched and well-respected psychotherapeutic method used in the treatment of many different kinds of emotional and psychological problems. So you can rest assured that the advice we offer has scientific validity and has been proven to work.

We wrote this book to give you hope that you can find a way out of the trap of low self-esteem. No matter how severe your self-image problems are, you can do a lot to make meaningful improvements. We also hope you find using this book at least a little bit interesting and entertaining. So we ask you to read on and urge you to keep an open mind about new ideas and techniques.

Conventions Used in This Book

To make this book easier to read and to highlight key points, we use the following conventions:

check.png Italics introduce new terminology, highlight differences in meaning between words or underline key aspects of a sentence or an example.

check.png We attempt to use a roughly equal number of male and female examples throughout the book in the interests of gender equality.

check.png Bold text is used to show the action part of numbered lists and practical exercises.

What You’re Not to Read

This book is yours, you paid for it, so you can read whatever you like. Right down to the fine print on the opposite side of the title page if you feel so inclined (may be a bit dull, however). Seriously though, this book is written in such a way that you can dip in and out of it as the mood takes you. Each chapter is self-contained and so you don’t need to read them in sequential order. If the information in a particular chapter is enhanced in another chapter, we make a reference to that chapter.

Just to give you a few basic guidelines on what you may not need or want to read, here’s a little extra advice:

check.png Our acknowledgments are important to us but very possibly not to you. We tried to resist being sentimental but they may well make you sick if you’ve just had a large dinner.

check.png Sidebars, those grey boxes full of text, contain some interesting and useful information that isn’t an essential part of the topic at hand. So if you aren’t drawn in by them, you don’t miss anything critical if you give them a miss.

check.png The index makes for pretty boring reading; however, it can be very useful if you want to know where to find information on a specific topic. Otherwise you can read it straight through as a possible strategy for combating insomnia.

Foolish Assumptions

Oh, if we had but a penny for every foolish assumption we ever made in our lives. Well, we can tell you that we’d be rich enough not to need to write books for a living!

In the process of writing this book, we made some assumptions about the people (like your good self) who are going to read it:

check.png You suffer from low self-esteem or you know someone who does and are interested in finding out ways to overcome it.

check.png You’re willing to take in new information and to try out new techniques in the interests of improving your self-esteem.

check.png You have healthy self-esteem and are interested in finding out how to keep it that way.

check.png You’re a human being and therefore will find something within this book that’s useful and resonates with your personal experiences.

check.png You’re a For Dummies junkie and have collected every title in the series.

If any of these assumptions apply to you, then read on…

How This Book Is Organised

This book is divided into 6 parts and 19 chapters. The table of contents includes subheadings for each chapter that clarify which subjects you can expect each chapter to deal with. We lay out the main points contained in each part of the book in the next sections.

Part I: Understanding Self-Esteem

This part gives you a basic understanding of what both low self-esteem and healthy self-esteem are and how to spot the differences. These chapters explore common but often unhelpful ways people assess their own worth and offer more useful alternatives. Some of the more common psychological problems associated with low self-esteem are defined and explained.

Part II: Acknowledging That You’re Okay As You Are

This part is all about discovering how to appreciate yourself just as you are. We look at some of the ways that you may be undermining your own self-esteem and how you can strive to accept yourself as a complex, vibrant and ever-changing human being.

This part also deals with negative self-focus and provides practical exercises to help you take control of your attention. We explore body image problems and suggest ways to become more comfortable and content with how you look and with who you are. Finally, we look at goal-setting and personal development as a way of enhancing your enjoyment of life and appreciation of yourself.

Part III: Taking On New Techniques

Roll your sleeves up and apply some elbow grease. In this part of the book we help you explore your past with a view to finding out how it continues to inform your personal beliefs today. We also offer some advice and practical exercises that encourage you to treat yourself with care and compassion. In Chapter 11 we urge you to behave like a scientist and get busy with the business of proving your own worth to yourself. Doing so may sound easy, but it involves a fair amount of effort on your part.

Part IV: Looking at the Ripple Effects of Low Self-Esteem

Your poor self-esteem obviously has some very negative effects on you. Low self-esteem also has implications for the people in your life who love and care about you. In this part, we examine the effects of your low self-esteem on your personal and professional relationships. We look at how you can stop the rot and make your love, work and family life relationships more fulfilling.

Part V: Living Like You Mean It

If you want to feel better about yourself, you need to act in better self-enhancing ways. This part is all about getting to grips with personal commitments and values. Living in accordance with how you want to feel and think about yourself is extremely important to improving your self-esteem. In this part we help you to identify what’s truly important to you and to make plans about how to reflect your values through action.

Part VI: The Part of Tens

This part of the book acts like a quick ‘ready reckoner’ for how to recognise healthy self-esteem in yourself and in others. This recognition is useful because it leads you towards actions and ways of thinking that you can benefit from. In Chapter 19 we discuss ten ways to boost your self-esteem and coax you further along the path towards embracing healthy self-esteem.


The Appendix gives you a list of organisations through which you can find professional help from a CBT therapist. It also has recommended additional reading and some useful websites that you may want to have a closer look at.

Icons Used in This Book

We use the following icons throughout this book to highlight certain types of information.

Tip.eps This bulls-eye flags up useful tips to help you get the most out of the practical exercises and information in the book.

Remember.eps This icon is a gentle but persistent signal to bear important points in mind.

warning_bomb.eps This icon alerts you to possible traps and pitfalls along your path to developing healthy self-esteem.

example.eps This icon means that we’re about to give you an example to illustrate a point or principle that we just discussed.

practice.eps This icon indicates a chance for you to put new techniques into action. It may involve putting pen to paper or may indicate more direct behavioural action.

Where to Go from Here

Reading this book from cover to cover will probably be very good for your self-esteem; it would certainly be good for ours! Just kidding. As we explain in Chapter 1, that’s not really how it works (still, it got a chuckle out of us). In fact, healthy self-esteem comes not from what you do or achieve necessarily, but from how you fundamentally think of yourself. Your sense of personal worth can be very solid and robust, even if you’re not setting the world on fire every day. Your achievements may give your confidence a boost (and make you feel good) but your intrinsic worth is a constant that you can learn to appreciate even when you’re not busy doing great things.

You’re probably best advised to meander through the table of contents and turn to the chapters that interest you the most or seem to address your particular low self-esteem difficulties. Or both, why not? In for a penny, in for a pound.

When you’ve used this book, you may want to get even more help with improving your self-esteem by seeing a skilled and qualified CBT therapist for a few sessions. If your difficulties with poor self-esteem are mild to moderate, this book may be enough to help you overcome them. If you have very severe and chronic low self-esteem this book helps put you on the right track, but you may also benefit from some professional input and support. Turn to the appendix for information on where to find a qualified CBT therapist.

Part I

Understanding Self-Esteem


In this part . . .

You get a clear understanding of the nature of healthy self-esteem and how it differs from low self-esteem. We help you identify thoughts and ideas that can perpetuate feelings of low self-esteem and point you towards healthier ways of thinking about your self-worth. We also discuss some of the more common psychological problems associated with poor self-esteem and suggest strategies for tackling them.

Chapter 1

Explaining Self-Esteem

In This Chapter

arrow Understanding the components of healthy self-esteem

arrow Accepting yourself and others

arrow Trusting your own judgement

Many people know that the opinion they have of themselves can be better. In our clinical practice, we see all sorts of different people from all walks of life battling with self-esteem issues. Difficulty appreciating personal worth is such a core issue that it can be said to apply legitimately to every single human being on the planet in one way or another and at one time or another. In fact, low self-esteem is such a commonly reported problem that we’ve written a whole book about defining healthy self-esteem and telling you how to get it.

Pause for a moment and think about your own definition of ‘self-esteem’. Maybe you think that having good self-esteem means being ever confident and happy. Or perhaps you link healthy self-esteem with success, wealth, achievement, attractiveness and popularity. If so, you aren’t alone. These qualities have an undeniable ‘feel good’ factor but they don’t necessarily guarantee healthy self-esteem.

Assuming that self-esteem is determined by external factors is a very common misconception. In this chapter (and to a greater extent in Chapter 2) we help you understand that true self-esteem is based on much more than confidence or success.

Remember.eps Even the person who seems to have everything can be suffering with low self-esteem. Equally, a person with little wealth or obvious success can have very healthy self-esteem.

Defining Healthy Self-Esteem

Healthy self-esteem is having an enduring sense of yourself as a fundamentally valuable and worthwhile individual. This view translates into treating yourself with compassion and appreciation and not relying on outside opinions to think well of yourself.

Remember.eps We use the term healthy self-esteem instead of high self-esteem because we want you to think of your worth as a constant, rather than as something that goes up and down depending on circumstance.

Some examples of what we mean by enduring healthy self-esteem:

check.png Accepting yourself even when you’re faced with failure.

check.png Liking who you are while simultaneously striving for personal development (have a gander at Chapters 8 and 14 for more details).

check.png Thinking that you’re worthwhile and lovable even when a long-term relationship ends.

A lot of people also make the faulty assumption that having good self-esteem makes them impervious to a crisis of confidence or unpleasant feelings. Even if your self-esteem is very robust, you still experience times when your confidence wobbles in your ability to do certain things. Plus, you still experience negative emotions when bad things happen, no matter how healthy your self-esteem happens to be.

Considering common foundations for self-esteem

Very often people assume that their worth is based purely on what they can achieve or what the rest of the world approves of and is impressed by. However, important factors such as your personal values, character traits and unique personality are more accurate and healthy measures.

You may also believe that your level of self-esteem is determined entirely by the quality of your childhood relationships with your parents. Although this idea certainly contains some truth, it’s not the whole story. Many different types of experiences contribute to your understanding of yourself. Even individuals who have had very negative childhood experiences often manage to develop a robust sense of their own worth. So you’re not strictly at the mercy of your past (Chapter 10 is all about this topic).

Rejecting futile strategies for improvement

You may have tried many different strategies to elevate your self-esteem with limited or short-lived success. Common but often problematic strategies people use to try and raise their self-esteem include:

check.png Driving themselves to improve their status through professional, academic or financial success.

check.png Judging themselves on what others seem to think of them.

check.png Striving for approval from other people, such as parents, peers and authority figures.

check.png Trying extremely hard to avoid failure and mistakes.

We’re not suggesting that these kinds of endeavours are necessarily bad for you. However, linking your self-worth exclusively to such external factors leaves you vulnerable to low self-esteem whenever you’re unable to meet your demands. And some strategies inadvertently keep you locked in a cycle of self-judgement and recrimination.

Knowing You’re in Charge of Your Self-Esteem

You may believe that self-esteem is something you have or don’t have. But in fact the way you feel about yourself is something that you can work towards improving. Good solid self-esteem requires continuous effort and nurturing. Just as responsible parents make efforts to engender a sense of significance and worth in their children, so you can do the same for yourself (investigate Chapters 9 and 15 for more on generating self-esteem through language and having values, respectively).

Throughout this book you find lots of useful information and advice to help you build reliable ways of recognising your own worth.

Giving up the rating game

Human beings like to assess things and give them an overall rating: ‘that was a great film’, ‘this meal is terrible’ and so on. And assigning static values to certain tangible things can be useful, even things whose values can fluctuate, such as property, products and possessions.

You may find, however, that you give your whole self a global rating (or value) based on a few aspects or even one aspect of yourself – your behaviour at work or your social performance to name but two possibilities. Although this way of assigning value seems to make sense, it’s actually very problematic; the result is that your opinion of yourself goes up and down like a yo-yo depending on your most recent experience. For example, if you receive a work promotion, you may decide: ‘I’m such a winner!’, but then two days later you fail your driving test and conclude: ‘I’m such a loser!’. Neither label is accurate or true. Actually the reality is that you’re a human being capable of both success and failure. No one is wholly good or wholly bad. Everybody has good, bad and neutral aspects to their whole selves.

A fundamental part of developing enduring healthy self-esteem is to stop giving yourself an overall rating on the basis of one or more parts of your overall self (we talk more about this aspect in Chapter 4). Equating ‘I’ve done something bad’ with ‘I’m a bad person’ is inaccurate and overly simplistic: you’re throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

Remember.eps You have many hundreds (upon thousands, upon millions!) of various features about yourself, and so trying to give yourself a single, all-encompassing rating – such as ‘good’ or ‘bad’, ‘weak’ or ‘strong’, ‘a success’ or ‘a failure’ – is wholly nonsensical.

Figure 1-1 illustrates just how many different bits and pieces comprise a whole person (and these aspects are just the ones we can fit on the page!) Take a look at the illustration and think about yourself for a minute. How many different things make you the person you are?

Figure 1-1: The many aspects of one person.


Instead of trying to categorise your entire person as if you’re sorting rotten fruit from unblemished, don’t give yourself a rating at all. You’re far too complex and multidimensional for that.

You can justifiably rate individual facets of yourself and work to improve on them if doing so is possible, but be clear and specific. Be strict about judging only the value of individual aspects of yourself or your actions – not your entire being. This discrimination allows you to be fair and realistic about what you do or fail to do. Being highly specific in your judgements means that you retain your sense of basic worth while being displeased or dissatisfied with certain parts of yourself. This book expands on this key principle and shows you how using it can promote self-development and enable you to make positive lifestyle changes (explore Chapter 15).

Recognising the vibrant ever-changing you

Some things are static, but you aren’t. A chair is a chair and will always be a chair until it becomes firewood. A car is a car until it becomes an old wreck of a car and eventually a heap of car parts. But you change and grow throughout your entire life whether you plan to or not. And because you’re a human being, you will at some stage die and become food for worms (sorry if that seems too direct!).

In that interim between birth and death (and we sincerely hope that the interim is long and happy) you perpetually evolve: your interests develop, you age, you acquire new skills, your priorities shift, new friendships are forged, your health changes and so on. Some changes are good and others are less desirable, some within your control and others without. Still, the upshot is that you’re not a static creature. Nothing that lives – trees, animals or bacteria – remains exactly the same from starting point to end point.

Speaking of points, the one we’re trying to make here is that no one can accurately measure or evaluate something that’s in a constant state of flux. Therefore stop trying to decide whether you’re thoroughly good or bad, adequate or inadequate. You’re never going to be able to sustain one global view of yourself because you’re always changing. Try thinking of yourself as a work in progress rather than a finished product. As you discover through reading this book, (whatever your age) you always have time for deliberate and positive action.

I’m Okay and You’re Not So Bad Yourself

Accepting yourself and accepting other people go hand in hand. One reinforces the other. Everyone has room for growth and improvement. However, assuming responsibility for your own personal development is important, as is letting others take control of their own.

If you can live and work alongside others while accepting them as fallible creatures, you stand a good chance of being able to live with your own faults too. Likewise, you’re more readily able to admire and appreciate things in others when you’re practised at doing the same with yourself (and vice versa).

We often describe self-esteem as two sides of a coin. Truly holding a compassionate attitude towards yourself, even when things aren’t going your way or when you seem to making mistake after mistake, is of enormous help in being able to do the same for others.

When you have healthy self-esteem, you probably enjoy good relationships with other people. Table 1-1 shows some of the attitudes you’re likely to exemplify when you have healthy self-esteem and esteem for others.

Table 1-1 Healthy Attitudes towards Yourself and Others

Attitudes towards Yourself

Attitudes towards Others

You give others the right to be wrong.

You give yourself the right to be wrong.

You recognise your own faults and weaknesses and still value your own humanity.

You can appreciate that others may hold different opinions, values and beliefs to your own.

You don’t see yourself as intrinsically inferior or superior to others.

You observe others with a sense of appreciation or admiration without putting yourself down by comparison.

You maintain your own viewpoint even when others disagree with you.

You take into account the opinion of others and use new information to refine or modify your own opinion if appropriate.

You have a healthy desire to be liked and approved of by others but not at the cost of your own ideals, values and personality.

You enjoy the company of others and are also able to enjoy time spent on your own.

You can receive and give a compliment.

You can give and receive constructive criticism.

You rarely denigrate yourself for your mistakes or misdeeds.

You rarely denigrate others for their mistakes or misdeeds.

Clearly, many of the items in this table are ‘easier said than done’, and some are easier to act in accordance with than others. After all, no one is perfect. In fact, if you’re able to say honestly that every item applies to you, you really don’t need this book.

We revisit these concepts throughout this book and give you assistance in turning them into regular habits.

Living with Your Limitations

Everybody is dissatisfied with certain aspects of themselves. Some of these aspects you can change and others you just have to live with. For example, you can strive to become more organised, fitter, better educated or to improve your social skills. On the other hand, you’re unlikely to have much success trying to make yourself taller, super extroverted if you’re naturally shy, or a mathematical genius if maths just isn’t your best subject.

Remember.eps You benefit from being realistic about self-development. And your self-esteem benefits when you concentrate your energies on improving in areas where you’re most likely to reap results.

You may believe that you just can’t change certain things about yourself because doing so seems too hard. But hard doesn’t equal impossible. Feelings and thoughts arising from low self-esteem often prevent people from embarking on a journey from their problems towards recovery. Getting to grips with your individual difficulties (take a peek at Chapter 3) and setting yourself realistic goals is something that we investigate throughout this book. (You can take a look at goal-setting in Chapter 8.)

You can find out how to appreciate plenty of things about yourself (peruse Chapter 6 for more information) and work to maximise or overcome certain aspects of yourself via your own steam. However, if you have quite a severe specific problem – such as addiction, anxiety, phobias or other psychological problems – you may need some professional help, too. The Appendix at the end of this book lists sources of support and recommends additional reading.

Appraising your attributes

Several self-help books and magazines talk about boosting your self-esteem by becoming stronger, younger-looking, wealthier or more popular. The problem we have with this approach is that it conveys the message that you’re not worthwhile just as you are. The implication is that the only way to be happy with yourself is to become more impressive to other people.

Although we’re all for being goal-orientated, we believe that lasting self-esteem comes from appreciating what you have. Instead of focusing solely on what you lack or want to attain, we encourage you to take stock of your good points and maximise them. Why? Quite simply, you feel better about yourself when you concentrate your attention more on what you have going for you than on what you don’t.

Again, we don’t mean to suggest that anything is wrong with self-improvement – not at all. In fact we strongly recommend it throughout this book. But as a starting-off point, have a look at the positive side of things. If your self-esteem is already at a low ebb, you’re at risk of putting yourself down further when you don’t take time to look at your good stuff.

We continually emphasise the importance of making changes for the right reasons. Too many people believe things such as: ‘If only I could get a good job then I’d have some worth’ or ‘If only I was more attractive with a devoted partner, I’d have some self-esteem’. These types of ideas are all kinds of wrong. First, they obliquely suggest that only certain types of people in certain situations deserve to have healthy self-esteem. Second, things like getting a nice job or a lovely partner can certainly enhance your enjoyment of life and boost your confidence in some areas, but your basic sense of personal worth may remain untouched. You may find that you just move the goalposts. Third, if you do get what you want and do feel better about yourself, your self-esteem is still likely to fall through the floor if you lose the job or the dashing partner.

Tip.eps When you choose a goal or start a plan of self-improvement, make sure that you’re doing so purely because you want the benefits. Aiming for goals because you believe that reaching them makes you more worthwhile is a low self-esteem pitfall of the highest order. You’re worthwhile right now. So think about things you want to do or change to improve your experience of life.

Managing making mistakes

No one likes making mistakes, certainly no one we’ve ever met! But everyone does it. Do you know anyone who has never made both serious and minor errors in his life? Didn’t think so. Mistakes are normal and permissible behaviour among humans. Yet so many people refuse to accept this reality.

Terror about making errors is largely due to what you decide your blunders mean. The following examples show some of the unhelpful ways people think about making mistakes, even small ones:

check.png I can’t stand other people knowing that I messed up.

check.png If I make a big mistake, the result will be total disaster.

check.png If I’m in a responsible role, mistakes are unacceptable.

check.png If I were a worthwhile person, I’d get things right.

check.png I’ll never be forgiven for making a mistake.

check.png Intelligent people don’t make mistakes.

check.png Making mistakes means I’m useless.

check.png Making silly little mistakes proves I’m an idiot, because they can be avoided.

check.png Mistakes are a sign of laziness.

check.png My mistakes are more serious than other people’s.

check.png Other people will think I’m stupid, incompetent or inadequate.

Looking at these common ways of thinking, it’s hardly surprising that so many people live in fear of making mistakes. Happily, none of these attitudes is true. Refuse to indoctrinate yourself with such low self-esteem-generating twaddle.

You can’t avoid errors altogether (unless you stop living) but you can take the fear out of making them. Bear in mind that if you try overly hard to avoid making mistakes, you may end up also avoiding taking any risks and holding yourself back from doing things that you want to do.

Here’s a list of healthy attitudes towards human error – we recap on this a lot throughout this book:

check.png Big mistakes are as easy to make as little ones.

check.png I prefer to avoid mistakes but I’m a human being and therefore I shouldn’t expect to never make any.

check.png Many mistakes are repairable in some way.

check.png Many mistakes turn out to have hidden benefits.

check.png Mistakes are an integral part of discovering a new skill.

check.png Mistakes can have very serious consequences but are never the end of the world.

check.png No one, no matter how intelligent, is immune to human error.

check.png Owning up to my mistakes is likely to prevent me from feeling ashamed of them.

Respecting Your Own Judgement

When your self-esteem isn’t great, assuming that other people know better than you is all too easy. The opinions they hold must be more valid than your own, you think. But beware: that’s your self-doubt speaking. It tells you: ‘Listen to other people! Who the hell do you think you are making your own mind up about stuff!? You’re not capable!’ If you want to have healthy self-esteem, the time has come to talk back.

Getting vocal

If your internal voice of self-doubt tells you to keep quiet, defy it! Stifling your opinions in social situations for fear of being disagreed with is common among people with poor self-esteem. Such self-censorship may seem like the safest strategy, but the result is that you feel even worse about yourself because you’re not getting involved in conversations. You end up feeling left out and isolated. Plus, you’re depriving others of the chance to get to know you.

Worse things exist than having your opinion disagreed with. Do you agree with everything you hear your friends discuss? Probably not, whether you speak up or keep your view to yourself. So if you don’t expect to agree with everything you hear other people say, why should you think that someone disagreeing with you is so terrible?

Instead of censoring everything you utter, speak your mind. Overcoming the fear of being disagreed with or causing offence is covered throughout this book. In particular we look at ways to challenge negative thoughts associated with low self-esteem in Chapters 5 and 11.

Putting your peers’ opinions into perspective

Getting an objective opinion about decisions, plans and so on is often very helpful. Friends can be really useful sources of advice and guidance. However, if you’re full of self-doubt, you may well rely too heavily on what other people say and dismiss your own ideas.

The more you turn to others before deciding a course of action, the more you undermine your faith in your own decision-making capabilities. You can make up your own mind about important stuff if you give yourself the chance. Your peers are unlikely to have extra information or special powers that render their views superior to your own.

Give yourself a chance to see how your own choices work out. Part of developing healthy self-esteem is realising that you can cope with any negative consequences arising from decisions you’ve made.

Spending (or dare we say wasting) a lot of time worrying about and second-guessing how others view you is part and parcel of low self-esteem. A term often used to describe excessive worry about being thought of badly by others is fear of negative evaluation or FNE for short (turn to Chapter 6 for more on this). In this book we discuss how you can care about other people’s opinions (sometimes very much), and yet cease worrying and allowing FNE to interrupt your life.