A lack of self-esteem – the belief that you’re not good enough – changes how you perceive the world. You may fear being taken advantage of; being picked on, not listened to, not hired, or not loved. That one hits me like a ton of bricks. The concept that you’re not good enough to be loved. Oomph.
If you believe, “I’m not enough,” then you have to put a lot of energy and effort into overcoming how believing this feels. You may work hard to be more and better, proving that you are enough with an endless list of strategies, compensations, and accommodations. You try to somehow convince yourself that you are good enough. You try to improve your self-esteem so you can have the life you want.
Who Says You’re Not Good Enough?
Who says you’re not good enough? You may not like this, but the answer is you. Only you. You may have had a lot of help and accumulated a lot of evidence to back up your self-judgment. But ultimately you decided; whether your version is I’m not tall enough, smart enough, attractive enough, talented enough, funny enough, likable enough, trusting enough, or faithful enough. Perhaps you think, I’m too short, too dumb, too ugly, too lame, too dull, too quiet, too loud, too trusting, too gullible, too insecure, too needy. No matter who told you these things, no matter how much proof you think you have, you decided it was true.
When you decided “I’m not good enough” was true, it gave you some hope. Hope that you could somehow change, improve or correct yourself. Hope that you could do something about not being good enough. If you could do something about it, then you might not ever have to feel the pain that the lack of self-esteem you’re feeling is causing. Have you judged yourself as fat and tried to be thin enough, hoping that losing weight would fix your low self-esteem. Have you judged yourself as stupid and tried to get smarter? As weak and tried to get stronger? As a coward and tried to appear brave?
Here’s why putting a band-aid on the problem won’t help your self-esteem. As long as you believe you’re too this or not enough that, you won’t be able to do enough, change enough, improve enough, grow enough, hide enough, overcome enough, or accomplish enough to improve your self-esteem.
It’s not you that needs to change. It’s what you believe about yourself. And until you change what you believe about yourself, you will continue to employ whatever strategy you can to minimize the consequences of your assumed beliefs.
How To Make a Permanent Change To Improve Your Self-Esteem
Let’s start with this idea: A belief is a thought, a concept. A belief may or may not be an accurate thought or concept. When beliefs are inaccurate, they hurt. Believing a thought that doesn’t match reality, according to the transformational icon Byron Katie, creates suffering in the form of disempowering emotions. A belief is a thought that explains your experiences so well that you use it often. After using a thought frequently enough, the brain turns the thought into a habit.
A belief is a thought habit. Beliefs live in our sub-conscious as the “truth.” Beliefs about ourselves that may not be true destroy your confidence and are a breeding ground for negative self-esteem and destructive self-talk.
Steps To Change a Belief and Improve Your Self-Esteem for a Better Life
Step 1. Identify the belief.
Beliefs exist in your subconscious, so you’re going to have to go looking for them. You will find beliefs hiding behind you predominant thoughts. Thoughts are much easier than beliefs to identify, so start there. For example, if I am concerned about what someone thinks of me my thoughts might be, “He doesn’t like me” or “She doesn’t approve.” Notice your thoughts and write them down. Brace yourself. This exercise may be mentally and emotionally challenging to do. However, this is only step one. Know there is more to be done to help you through the exercise.
Step 2: Find Proof of the Thought
Then ask, “If this thought is true, what does it prove?” What it (apparently) proves is what you believe. Here are some examples.
- Thought: “He doesn’t like me.” If it’s true that he doesn’t like me, that proves, I’m not likable. The belief is “I’m not likable.”
- Thought: “I didn’t deserve the promotion.” If it’s true that I didn’t deserve the promotion it proves I’m not smart enough. The belief is “I’m not smart enough.”
- Thought: “He didn’t call because he doesn’t like me.” If it’s true that he didn’t call because he doesn’t like me, it proves I’m not pretty enough. The belief is “I’m not pretty enough.”
- Thought: “She doesn’t approve.” If it’s true that she doesn’t approve, then it proves I’m too shallow. The belief is “I’m too shallow.”
Step 3. Challenge the belief
Now that you have identified your belief, let’s start to dissect it. And while you’re at it, check out the thoughts that exposed your beliefs. Notice how it feels to think and believe these thoughts. If it is painful to think about, you’re onto something. It’s not what is happening that hurts. It’s what you think about what is happening that hurts.
Let’s look at the first example above. If you believe, “I’m not likable” what proof do you have? If it’s true that you’re not likable, then it wouldn’t be possible for anyone to like you. Can you absolutely know that nobody likes you? Of course not – not if you are willing to be honest and look at reality. Then notice the impact that this belief has on you. How do you feel with you believe it? What do you do when you believe it? Byron Katie says that any time we believe a thought that argues with reality we suffer. Do you suffer when you believe this thought? If so, there is a very good chance that it argues with reality – that it’s not true.
Once you’ve challenged the belief, let’s move onto step four, so we can continue working through the exercise.
Step 4. What would change if you didn’t believe it?
Imagine that you can’t think the thought or believe the belief. What would change? How would you feel and act? Your thoughts and beliefs about what is happening are just concepts to explain what is happening – your “story” about what is happening.
Using one of the examples above, let’s say you have a supervisor who didn’t give you a promotion and now you’ve noticed he’s acting differently towards you. Naturally, you’ll start to make up all sorts of “stories” for why this might happen. You may think you’re not working enough hours. Maybe you’re not communicating enough. He must like your co-worker more, right? Or maybe this just proves that you aren’t smart enough.
By honestly examining these thoughts, they go away. This leaves you to focus on the things you do well, on what is really important to you. Without disempowering stories about what is happening, your self-esteem will naturally improve in the workplace as well as in every other part of your life. Without your story, what is happening won’t hurt.
Without the thought, “I didn’t get the promotion because I’m not smart enough”, who would you be in the very same circumstance? Would it change how you interact with your supervisor? Would it change how he interacts with you? Would you have more courage to ask him why you’ve noticed a shift in how he’s acting towards you?
Step 5. Try to find other possible ways to explain what is happening that may actually be true
When you challenge your disempowering beliefs, you begin to see what you couldn’t see before. You may see other obvious explanations for what has occurred. You will find it easier to take responsibility for what has and hasn’t happened. You will feel empowered and encouraged to take actions that reflect the truth, reality.
Will this process change a belief? Yes, eventually. Since a belief is a thought habit, changing a belief requires that you break the habit. If you challenge the legitimacy of your thoughts and beliefs every time you are angry or anxious, the belief won’t be so believable. Eventually, there will be enough holes in your belief that it will disintegrate. Breaking the pattern of false, disempowering beliefs will change how you feel about yourself. This process will to improve your self-esteem and give you confidence.
When disempowering thoughts and beliefs disappear, what shows up in their place is amazing!
This exercise can be difficult to go through on your own because it can be emotionally and mentally challenging. If you would like me to help you to go through this exercise and learn how to improve your self-esteem for a better life, schedule a free consultation with me. As a coach, I’m here to help you, and I believe improving your self-esteem naturally increases confidence and is one of the best ways to live the life you want! Contact me today to set up a time to talk.
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