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20 Steps to Better Self-Esteem--page 11
by Monica A. Frank, Ph.D.

Step 11. Don't Evaluate Yourself Based on Others.

A common problem for people with low self-esteem is they evaluate themselves based upon how others react to them. Unfortunately, for several reasons this can frequently lead to a worsening of self-esteem or a negative self-concept:

1. You don't know what others are thinking. You are only observing their behavior which may or may not be a reaction to you. Recognize a lack of response can mean different things. Sometimes people are thinking or focused on something else. Sometimes they don't realize you are talking to them. Don't personalize a lack of response. In addition, when you get a negative response you could be inaccurate in your perception because you are interpreting what they are thinking based upon the behavior you see.

2. Your interpretations may be influenced by past events. Many times without even being aware of it we react to others because of something that happened to us in the past. I frequently have seen people interpret others' behavior based upon someone else in the past and not on that individual's behavior. Some people have such a negative reaction to certain words or emotions that they automatically react. For instance, many people with low self-esteem will instantly feel guilt if someone is angry sometimes even when the person isn't angry with them. Learn to recognize when your reactions may be inaccurate because they are based upon interpretations from the past.

3. Many people have a negative reaction for reasons other than you. Other people, too, have their own histories that cause them to react in certain ways. Someone who is mean didn't just suddenly become mean because they interacted with you. Their behavior says more about them and the kind of person they are than it says about you. They are acting based upon their interpretations due to their experiences.

4. Others can't truly know you which means their judgments aren't accurate evaluations. You are the only one who fully understands everything about yourself—all your experiences, your interpretations, your intentions, your desires. No one else has a complete understanding of you. Therefore, any negative judgments are based upon limited information. Certainly, if time and time again you have the same negative reaction from others you may need to examine your behavior to determine why they are reacting to you in such a way. But otherwise, don't accept people's negative judgments because such judgments are made without full knowledge of who you are.

Whether or not someone is responsive to you doesn't change who you are. Don't feel bad about yourself just because someone ignores you or is mean to you. Such behaviors are a reflection of them, not of you. So don't base your self-concept upon others' reactions towards you. Instead, make a more accurate assessment of yourself.


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