Self-esteem refers to how you feel about yourself. It reflects a person’s overall subjective emotional evaluation of their worth. Science has confirmed what we long suspected, mainly, that our thoughts follow our emotions. What we think matters.
The problem is that in the absence of reliable data, people will make up stories about themselves. This is normal as we are literally wired for story. Unfortunately the normality of it doesn’t take away the suffering. Every time you judge yourself, you stop nourishing the love that is the well-spring of your vitality. Therapy can help put an end to the vicious cycle.
Breaking the Shame Cycle
Toxic shame is a powerful emotion that can cause people to feel defective, unacceptable, even damaged beyond repair. When you feel shame, you’re feeling that your whole self is wrong. Whereas with guilt, you’re making a judgment that something you’ve done is wrong.
When you feel guilty about the wrong thing you did, you can take steps to make up for it and put it behind you. But feeling convinced that you are the thing that’s wrong offers no clear-cut way to “come back” to feeling more positive about yourself. That’s one difference between shame and guilt: the way they’re defined. But the effect of shame, and the behaviors it can cause, are far more important for you to know about.
Getting To Good-Enough
When something difficult happens, our emotions get the first crack of making sense of what’s going on. That’s because the brain is wired for survival and will immediately come up with a story for what is happening to alleviate threat and suffering.
In the absence of good or unchallenged information, we will always make up stories to help us know what to do next. The brain rewards you with feeling good regardless to the truth or accuracy of the story. When you own your story of struggle, you get to write the ending. But when you deny a story, it owns you.
I help people re-write their stories. This requires updating old information to more accurately reflect who you are today. Brené Brown likens the work of personal transformation to an arena. An arena is any place in our lives where we would like to try on a new way of being that’s a little bit bolder, a little bit more honest, and little bit more authentic. It’s learning how to push past the comfort of story in order to stay brave and stay in integrity, aligned with our deepest values and get back in the arena. The only thing you get to take into the arena is clarity of values. My role is to get you clear on what matters most.
The following is a free on-line, self-report questionnaire for self-esteem. It is not a substitute for professional help or advice. It’s intended to provide feedback and personal information, only.
If you found the above test helpful, the same website offers a wide variety of quick, simple and free self-report questionnaires. As with the above, these tools are not a substitute for clinical help.
Here is another free, online test. This one measures the degree of difficult situations you experienced as a child. Again, as always, it is not diagnostic instrument. It provides guidance and can give meaning to current behavior that may not be serving you any longer.