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Finding the Value in Your Self-Worth

December 17, 2009 By:
Dr. H. Michael Zal, JE Feature
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Are you interested in discovering ways to feel better about yourself?

Self-esteem is a big issue out there these days. Negative feelings and distorted perspectives eclipse individuals' potential. Poor self-esteem often goes back to messages people received in childhood.

To help my patients grow, I cultivate ways to improve how they feel about themselves, and encourage all of the following goals that can help them move forward in their lives:

· Reduce feelings of shame and guilt. These heavy emotions can be a roadblock to success and cause much emotional pain. Many of the people I see for treatment tend to be too hard on themselves and take 100 percent of the blame for a situation. Better they should ask: What was the true reality of the situation? Why does it have to be my fault?

· Stay away from self-pity. Playing the victim is a limiting role. We all have our emotional baggage. We cannot pick our parents, and we cannot change our genetics. However, we can make the best of what we have and try to see things in a more positive light. Try to make a list of three things that are good about yourself or the situation.

· Diminish feelings of anger and depression. Depression is often anger turned against you. Talk to someone that you trust. Forgiveness does not mean that you condone what someone did. It only says that you are letting go of a very negative feeling. It will free up energy that you can use more constructively. Anger issues can mask underlying feelings of inadequacy.

· Only compare yourself to others in your same age group. My patients, particularly those in their 20s and 30s, sometimes feel that they are not doing well enough or advancing quickly enough. This is not a fair assessment if they're measuring themselves against those who are older, and as such, have advanced more their careers or other aspects of life. I say: Be patient.

· Try not to give others so much power over you. If you were bullied, ignored or often put down by your parents or peers as a youth, it can allow feelings of inadequacy and anger to grow. Eleanor Roosevelt said: "No one can make you feel inferior with out your permission." Not everyone has to like you. Do you like everyone? Love yourself.

· Gain some mastery. Find something at which you do well. This could be a sport, a craft or a mechanical skill. Be proud of yourself. Being able to say "I am good at this" will empower you to feel capable and strong. However, as Albert Einstein said: "Mastery demands all of a person." Establish a good work ethic. A job is an important part of your identity. Supervisors may not always give you positive feedback; however, enjoying and doing well at work can help instill pride and allow you to feel better about yourself. Give yourself credit for small successes.

· Get more involved in the world. Reach out to and invest more in others. Charity and volunteer work can give us much back. Doing something that you like will help you meet new people with common interests. Remember to keep contact with friends, parents and extended family; otherwise, they'll think that you're not interested and want to be alone. Know what you want and go for it.

Work on these suggestions. Hopefully, your assertiveness and self-confidence will grow, and your performance in the world will improve. However, if you feel that you're trying but not succeeding, perhaps you need to give therapy a chance. We all wear blinders about ourselves. Sometimes, even the strongest people need someone to talk to who can offer support.

H. Michael Zal, D.O., FACN, FAPA, a board-certified psychiatrist in private practice in Norristown, can be reached via e-mail at: dochmz@msn.com.

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