Raising Your Self-Esteem
A special by our Content Manager

Self-esteem is the latest buzz word to be tossed around by therapists, educators and the self-help industry, but the value of a positive self image has been recognized for decades. Self-esteem is what we used to call self-respect, self-confidence or self-worth. It is, simply, feeling good about yourself. 

Not so simple is what positive self-esteem does for us. Studies show that a positive sense of self affects not only our physical and emotional health, but also how we interact with others and cope with situations, good and bad. Self-esteem enhances creativity. It makes us feel secure, loved and accepted. A positive sense of self can even be reflected in healthy skin. 

Sounds wonderful, doesn't it? So how do you get it if you don't have it? 

That's not simple either, writes Dr. William B. Swann Jr. in an article in "Healthline." He dismisses quick-fixes, like endlessly reciting "I'm lovable and capable," as simplistic and naive. 

Cultivating self-esteem begins with changing the way you think about yourself. Here are some tips for how to cultivate your self-esteem: 
  Swann suggests focusing on your positive physical, mental and emotional qualities. What do you like about yourself? What are you good at? Instead of dwelling on the bump on your nose, recognize your fine sense of humor, your lovely complexion, the good relationship you have with your spouse.  Focus on your accomplishments. Congratulate yourself on the things you've done -- and do -- well.  Replace self-criticism with encouragement, according to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Counseling Center (UIUC). If you're always finding fault with the way you look or feel, try instead to compliment yourself and visualize what you want to achieve.  Refrain from evaluating yourself when you are tired, under stress, anxious or angry, say Edward J. O'Keefe and Donna S. Berger, authors of "Self-management for College Students: The ABC Approach."  When we are feeling down, it is not easy to think positively about anything, including ourselves," the authors say. "(We are) more vulnerable to distorted thoughts and dysfunctional beliefs. Positive feelings have the opposite effect. Thoughts such as 'I'm pretty good at this!' are much easier to come by when we are happy and feeling good."  Don't fall victim to the beauty cult. A Wellesley College study, "Raising Competent Girls," found adolescent white girls were both obsessed and dissatisfied with their looks, a no-win combination that lowered their self-esteem. By contrast, African-American girls, whose notions of beauty are less influenced by the white-dominated media, placed less importance on attractiveness and were happier about themselves than girls of any other ethnic group.  Don't aim for perfection in everything you do. It's an impossible goal. Do your best, counselors suggest, and then accept it. 
Take risks, but approach new experiences as opportunities to learn, rather than occasions to win or lose, according to the UIUC Counseling Center. And be willing to laugh at and learn from disappointments.