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20 Steps to Better Self-Esteem--page 1
by Monica A. Frank, Ph.D.

Step 1. Recognize that Self-Esteem is Self-Imposed

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Self-esteem isn't something that exists independently--you either have it or you don't. No, self-esteem changes based upon how you think of yourself. Self-esteem is not a reaction to what others think of you but how you think of you. Yet, too frequently, we give this power to others and use them as the yardstick to measure ourselves. Even when we don't know what they are truly thinking of us.

For example, I read about a woman who described how her co-workers treated her differently when she lost weight. She said they acknowledged her and chatted with her. But when she gained the weight back they returned to ignoring her. She interpreted their behavior to indicate they thought she was worthwhile when she was thin but not when she was fat. She complained that others should change their behavior and treat obese people better. However, I propose their reactions had to do with how she felt about herself and was not based on a judgment of her. People take their cues about us from us. Most likely, when she was thin she probably held her head a little higher, looked people in the eye and smiled more. In other words, she was more approachable. In her description she even said she tried to not be noticed when she was fat. That tells me she most likely looked down, ignored others more, didn't smile at people or initiate conversations. People treated her in the way they thought she wanted to be treated—she wanted to be ignored so that is what they did.

As I said, people respond to our cues. This means if we think others don't believe we are worthwhile it is only because we are projecting that onto them. They are treating us based upon how we think of ourselves and what we expect from them. If we project “ignore me” that is usually what they will do because how can they know we want the opposite? People can't read our minds. But they do read our non-verbal messages. Try an experiment: act as if you feel good about yourself, smile, approach others, say “hi”, speak up so they can hear, look them in the eye, walk with your shoulders up and your head held high. See if people treat you differently. Many people with low self-esteem will say “I can't” to this suggestion which shows how much self-esteem is self-imposed.

By recognizing that self-esteem is your choice and not based upon how others treat you, you can change your self-esteem. I will be sharing 20 steps to better self-esteem. Don't try to do all the steps at one time. Try focusing on one at a time until it becomes automatic or natural for you. The steps are somewhat in order in the sense that it is better to build on skills from easier to harder, but some may not be relevant for you or you might find a different order is better for you. As long as you recognize your ability to change your self-esteem and follow a plan to do so, you can feel better about yourself and interact more effectively with others.

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