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COUNSELING CORNER: Overcoming barriers to improved self-esteem

Self-esteem is the term that describes our overall sense of self-worth or personal value. It is how much we appreciate and like ourselves.

A healthy level of self-esteem can play a significant role in succeeding in life. It means you believe in yourself and are more willing to take chances. But improving self-esteem sometimes requires overcoming various obstacles.

One such obstacle can be waiting for the perfect moment to start or finish something new. To overcome this, it’s necessary to live in the present and to take action, rather than waiting for the stars to align perfectly before moving forward. Waiting for things to be “just right” usually means never taking action.

Tied to that can be the belief that we have to be perfect. Instead, it’s important to look at our lives as works in progress, and to understand that sometimes it’s okay to make a mistake or two. It can feel risky to take chances when we can’t be positive of the outcome, but when we take that chance, and it comes out well, it means a big boost to our self-esteem and self-confidence.

Another problem in trying to improve self-esteem is that we often ignore our own needs. It can feel good when we do things that please others, but over time it can leave us feeling ignored and not worthy ourselves. While it’s a good thing to be able to offer help to others, our own self-esteem increases when our relationships become more reciprocal. When we learn to voice our own needs and to ask for help when it’s required, our appreciation of our own worth is going to grow as we see that others also value us and are willing to lend a hand.

People with low self-esteem sometimes hide in the background, trying not to be noticed. Doing so can leave us feeling lonely, misunderstood and frustrated because few people really get to know us. The cure is to be willing to share our ideas and opinions and to open ourselves to interactions with more people. Who doesn’t feel better about themselves when they have more friends?

Trying something new or even risky is almost always better than staying stuck.  But if low self-esteem has you feeling miserable and depressed, and you can’t get started on overcoming the problem, consider meeting with a professional counselor who can offer help in working through self-esteem issues.

“Counseling Corner” is provided by the American Counseling Association. Comments and questions to ACAcorner@counseling.org or visit the ACA website at www.counseling.org.