Your Family|March 2020
Many of us have had to face challenges in life that have knocked our confidence and left our self-esteem low. Sometimes we’re able to pull ourselves together and put it down to experience; other times, we may find ourselves spiraling and beginning to doubt everything we thought we knew and trusted about our capabilities and our sense of self. Clinical psychologist Michelle Nortje offers insights into why we suffer from attacks of low self-esteem, and how to combat our own negativity to restore our confidence.
CAN NEGATIVE SELF-WORTH BECOME ‘HARD-WIRED’?
Self-esteem can feel so ingrained in your identity that you simply accept it as part of your personality – as something that’s unlikely, if not impossible, to change.
According to Michelle, however, this isn’t necessarily the case: ‘Some people may be more prone to being shy, engaging in negative self-talk and self-doubt based on their temperament, upbringing, and other experiences. But self-esteem isn’t a rigid personality characteristic and therefore it can also be shifted with increased insight and more awareness of one’s thought and behavior patterns.’ She explains that therapeutic practices like cognitive behavioral therapy can be used to facilitate healthier processes of self-reflection. ‘The psychologist would assist the client to understand which thoughts about their self-esteem are based on irrational cognitive processes (over-simplification, exaggeration, and displacement, for example) and how to make the client more aware of how they’re impacting their daily interactions. These negative cognitions may be well-rehearsed and it can take time to become aware of them and make the necessary changes. Therapy requires the commitment of the client to the process and practicing new skills and ways of thinking.’
THE NEGATIVITY SPIRAL
Left unchecked, a negative sense of self can feed into serious mental health issues like depression and anxiety.
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