BRING IT TO BARB Answering your questions on mental health, relationships and life issues

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DearBarb,

I always seem to second-guess my decisions and can’t make a decision without wrestling about it endlessly. My friends tell me that I am a perfectionist and that I worry too much about making a mistake. I hesitate to plan something too long and then the opportunity disappears and I am angry at myself. I confide in other family members to get their opinion on some of my choices and only end up feeling bad about myself. What could be making me feel so lost?

Signed,

Feeling Displaced

Dear Displaced,

Sometimes the signs aren’t always obvious, but I suspect you may suffer from low self-esteem. There are many key signs and behaviors that expose low self-esteem in people. Whether you notice them in yourself, or notice them in other people, it’s important to know the telltale signs of low self-esteem.

People who have low self-esteem are often indecisive. They have trouble making choices, and often spend more time than necessary deliberating over them. It could be something big or small, it doesn’t matter. Making a choice is difficult for people with low self-esteem.

People who have low self-esteem don’t like to spend time by themselves — this is usually due to the fact that they don’t like themselves very much. Instead, people with low self-esteem prefer to hang out with other people. The people that they surround themselves with are often used only to validate their own feelings.

One interesting thing you may not realize is that those with low self-esteem really don’t appreciate other people’s high self-esteem. When we feel bad about ourselves, we can disparage or belittle other people, and that makes us feel better about ourselves.

People with low self-esteem don’t believe in themselves. This creates a fear of failure. They won’t even try to reach their goals or challenge themselves because they don’t believe they are capable of it in the first place.

Perfectionism is one of the more destructive aspects of low self-esteem. A perfectionist is someone who lives with a constant sense of failure because their achievements, no matter how impressive, don’t ever feel quite good enough.

Most people are able to recognize a mistake and correct it and then move on. However, people who have low self-esteem don’t have that ability. In fact, people with low self-esteem become easily frustrated with their mistakes. Mistakes consume them, and they can’t stop worrying over them.

Those struggling with self-esteem problems tend to try to find reasons for people to like them. Being a “yes man” is one of the ways. Even overworked and overwhelmed, someone with low self-esteem isn’t likely to say “no.”

One of the best ways to improve self-esteem is by using an internal voice that is kind and gentle. Imagine speaking to a loved one softly. Change the internal dialogue to more positive when you talk to yourself

Take time out of your day to unwind, relax and be alone. Do something that makes you feel good every day. Instead of hiding from mistakes, embrace them. Learn what went wrong and make a plan of action for next time.

Self-esteem can be greatly impacted by holding onto grudges. Learn to forgive for your own peace of mind, and for your self-esteem.

Smiling is essential to happiness and improves self-esteem. Studies show that smiling more (even if forced) can genuinely decrease stress, and also has many other benefits.

Walk right up to the mirror and compliment yourself — it’s as simple as that. It could be anything from, “My hair looks great today” to, “I love the authentic, beautiful, unique person I am!”

My motto: What you think, you become!

Barb Rock is a mental health counselor for the House of Matthew Homeward Bound program in Tacoma, and the published author of “Run Your Own Race: Happiness after 50.” Send any questions related to mental health, relationships or life issues to her at BarbRockrocks@yahoo.com.

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