Today I have a guest on my blog writing about changing your self-esteem filters. Let me introduce you to Kassandra Lamb, a retired psychotherapist turned mystery author. Thank you for sharing your knowledge on the topic of self-esteem.
She also writes a blog regularly on misterio press. Check it out.
Thanks so much for having me on your blog today, Pirkko!
A filter should be easy to change, right? I can change the one in my furnace in five minutes. Any self-respecting auto mechanic can change an oil filter in a car in less than twenty. An air filter’s even easier.
So why is it so hard to change our self-esteem filters?
Mainly it’s because they’ve been established for so long. It’s like those rusty screws or bolts in something that you can’t get loose for love nor money.
Our self-esteem filters are established when we’re kids. How we feel about ourselves is a product of how our worth has been reflected back to us by the environment. Our parents, other family members, teachers even, influence how we perceive ourselves at a young age. Then it’s hard later to change that “first impression” of ourselves.
There are two components to self-esteem: self-worth and self-confidence. So we actually have two sets of filters. One is related to how we feel about ourselves as a person–are we worthy of love? The other is about how well we think we can do things.
We can have a parent who showers us with expressions of love but doesn’t let us try things for ourselves. That child will have good self-worth but may not be all that confident that they can handle what life dishes out. Another child may be taught how to do things and be praised for doing them well, but his or her parents don’t realize that the child needs to feel loved as well (that s/he needs to hear the words; kids don’t automatically assume their parents love them). This child may have confidence in his/her abilities but may feel less than worthy as a human being.
As adults, these beliefs about our worth and abilities become filters for new information. Any new input that counters what we already believe about ourselves will bounce off these filters. They won’t let that information in.
This is a good thing if you have high self-esteem. If you are mistreated by others, you will quickly realize you deserve better and do something about the mistreatment. When people tell you they love you, you’ll believe them, and when you do something well, you will let the pleasure of that accomplishment sink in. And if you fail at something, you will assume that you need to try harder and/or get more instruction, and you will likely try again.
But if your self-esteem is low, these filters are a major problem. They won’t let in the information you need in order to feel better about yourself. And the negative information they do let in just reinforces the poor opinion of yourself.
So when people tell you they like you, you figure they just don’t know you all that well, or they’re just being kind. If others mistreat you, that may feel like what you deserve.
If you do something well, you may dismiss it as luck or a fluke, or give someone else more of the credit than they deserve for that accomplishment. If you fail at something, you figure that’s par for the course and your self-confidence plummets even further.
What Can We Do To Change Our Filters?
I wish I had an easy answer for this. Most of the time it takes quite a few sessions with a professional counselor in order to get these filters turned around, so they start letting in the helpful information instead of the negatives.
But there are a few things we can do on our own–before, during and after that period of counseling.
1) Make a conscious effort to let the good stuff in. Accept the compliments rather than deflecting them. (See my post for hints on how to do this.) Take a long look at the people who say they like or love you. Are they idiots? Probably not. They’re probably reasonably intelligent and discerning folks who genuinely see value in you.
And when you do something well, make a conscious effort to give yourself credit where credit is due. This is harder to do than it sounds, which brings us to…
2) Watch your self-talk! We all talk to ourselves in our heads all the time. Make an effort to notice what you are saying to yourself. If the self-talk is negative, intentionally turn that around. It can help to keep a self-talk journal initially, and write down what you notice you are saying to yourself. Then write down the countering positive message and repeat that to yourself several times. Sounds hokey, but it helps.
3) Look at where the original filters came from. Do you know as an adult that your parents love you (most parents do love their kids)? Visualize that insecure little child that you once were in your mind’s eye. Tell that child that Mom and Dad really do love him/her; they’re just not very good at showing it. Or perhaps they had their own issues that made them less than stellar parents. That doesn’t mean that child is unlovable! (Imagery is particularly powerful for shifting the emotional charge on something.)
4) Examine your perfectionism. I plan to do another whole post on this subject soon, as I am a recovering perfectionist myself. But for now, let me say that perfectionism comes from two sources: too harsh standards for performance when we were kids so we believe we have to do something perfectly in order for it to count as good, and/or an attempt to overcome poor self-worth by being perfect as what we do. If I do everything just so, then people will find me worthy of love.
I’ll make two countering points here and save the rest for that future post. One, nobody is perfect and nothing humans do is ever done perfectly, so perfect as a goal is a set up for failure.
Two, our worthiness of love is not and should not be predicated on how well we perform certain tasks, and it certainly shouldn’t be required that we be perfect at everything in order to be okay as people. Nobody is perfect, or even good, at every single thing they attempt.
Give yourself permission to not be good at certain things that aren’t that important to you. Save your higher standards (but still don’t expect perfect) for those things you really care about.
Which brings me to my most recent writing project. I decided to let my inner perfectionist loose for awhile as I went back to the very first book in my mystery series and re-wrote it. I didn’t change any of the plot or the characters. I just corrected some mistakes I had made when it first came out, because I was a novice writer at the time and didn’t know what I know now.
I did this, and gave it a spiffy new cover as well, because I’m planning to make this book $0.99 indefinitely.
For me, writing is less about making money and more about sharing my characters with my readers. So I’m willing to practically give this first book away in order to get readers interested in the series.
But I wanted it to be as perfect as I could get it. So here it is… Tada! The new, close-to-perfect edition of Multiple Motives, A Kate Huntington Mystery (Even though it isn’t entirely perfect, I am very proud of it!)
Psychotherapist Kate Huntington helps other people cope with the horrible things that have happened to them, but she herself has led a charmed life… until now. When a series of what seem like random events–a matter of being in the wrong place at the wrong time–takes a sinister twist, it becomes apparent that she and her lawyer friend, Rob Franklin, have a common enemy. But the lead police detective has a different theory. He’s convinced Kate and Rob are lovers attempting to eliminate their spouses. And he seems determined to build a case against them.
As the attacks escalate, Kate and Rob are forced to investigate on their own. Who hates them enough to want them both dead? And doesn’t seem to mind if others get caught in the crossfire!
You can also get it from Kobo.