June 10, 2006

Building Healthy Self Esteem

Dr. Abraham Twerski, renowned psychiatrist, author, rabbi and founder of Gateway Rehabilitation alcoholism and addiction treatment center, has stated that he has never met an alcoholic or addict that did not have low self esteem before he or she became addicted.

This Beliefnet: Health and Healing article provides a useful overview of the topic and offers helpful advice and links to related resources, stating in part:

"'How we feel about ourselves crucially affects virtually every aspect of our experience...from the way we function at work, in love, in sex, to the way we operate as parents, to how high in life we are likely to rise. The dramas of our lives are the reflections of our most private visions of ourselves,' says Nathaniel Branden, a renowned psychotherapist and author, viewed by many as 'the father of modern-day self-esteem psychology.'

The Foundation of Self-esteem
According to Branden, self-esteem has two components: a feeling of personal competence and a feeling of personal worth, reflecting both your implicit judgment of your ability to cope with life's challenges and your belief that your interests, rights and needs are important.

Healthy self-esteem comes from realistically appraising your capabilities, striving to enhance these capabilities, and compassionately accepting your limitations and flaws. Living consciously—thinking independently, being self-aware, being honest with yourself, having an active orientation, taking risks, and respecting reality—says Branden, is the foundation of good self-esteem...

Turning Off the Negative Thoughts
In his bestselling book Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy, psychiatrist David Burns, M.D., says 'You don't have to do anything especially worthy to create or deserve self-esteem; all you have to do is turn off that critical, haranguing inner voice, because that critical inner voice is wrong! Your internal self-abuse springs from illogical, distorted thinking.'

According to Burns, cognitive distortions such as all-or-nothing thinking, overgeneralization and personalization can contribute to depression and an impaired sense of self-esteem. His powerfully simple prescription for correcting a negative self-image includes techniques like:

Learning to recognize automatic, self-critical, dysfunctional thoughts that make you feel bad about yourself
Learning to substitute more rational, less upsetting thoughts for these negative ones
Talking back to your internal critic...

A Rewarding Journey
Learning to feel good about who we are is a journey that takes time, patience, self-awareness and an ability to forgive ourselves for our human frailties. As difficult as that may be, the rewards—self confidence, improved relationships, a more positive self-image and a sense that all's right with the world—make it a goal worth striving for..."

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