How to (not) Improve Self-Esteem


Part of my recovery from my big dip of anxiety was being part of an IOP program. IOP is intensive outpatient program and are used for all types of mental illnesses and addictions. Mine was tailored to people with high functioning depression and/or anxiety and everyday we went and learned about our brain and how it is ruining us (kidding... kinda) for two hours. I was in the program for five weeks and really benefitted from it. (for those of you from Colorado it was the Wellness Treatment Center but more on this in a tools post to come)

The most profound and seriously groundbreaking thing I learned there was about self-esteem. Western Culture and quite honestly all of my therapists taught me that self-esteem was something that I could improve and in turn my anxiety about not being good enough would go down - I can tell you from my own experience that is just wrong. I did everything to "work" on my self-esteem but I still felt pretty crummy when it came to social situations that made me anxious. So until a class where I learned something crazy I was just failing (and then making myself feel worse of course)

Self-esteem is not even real. I am not kidding you guys - it is nothing more than an opinion you hold about who you are as a person. Most of the time it isn't even true (even if we have really really high self-esteem)

I learned that I JUST AM. There is no _________ after that sentence. It isn't I am smart, or I am pretty or I am a good person. Nope. Just I am.

If you are like me at all you are probably thinking this is nuts and ridiculous. Well it kind of it haha but it also kinda works. When I take away the blank space after that sentence there is no longer an opportunity to label or judge myself. Within itself, "I am" is accepting and prepares me for every situation. If you think about it, no matter what I am doing, if I just "am" then I will be ok. This is a skill I have worked on for a few weeks now and it is changing my life by changing the way I think WITHOUT even touching "self-esteem". 

I have attached the hand out that broke this down for me for all of you. When we are leaving that _____ blank after our self-talk it is so much easier to revert to the bad. As humans, we easily pull from negative memories and experience rather than happy ones. BUT THAT IS OK! That is why I take away the dang blank. It leaves so much more room for all of us to be kind and accepting of who we are at in given point or place in our life. You may be a mother, a son, an anxious person but at the root of it you just are. 

I hope you read through this handout and maybe get some sort of peace when it comes to self-esteem because it can be one less thing you need to "fix". (you can even print it out and put it on your fridge like me - GREAT conversation piece)