Low Self Esteem – What’s the Story?

There are many reasons to disregard your own thoughts; especially when they lead you into low self-esteem. Thoughts form the stories we use to define our lives and to define our worth in our own eyes. Now, we really need our stories. Humans are storytelling machines, and as I’m sure you know, some of the best stories in the world are pure fiction.

So, What’s Your Story?

Cast your gaze back over your life. You will have a cascade of memories that dance playfully in front of your eyes. Maybe some scenes jump out as key moments that were pivotal in your life, while other memories might just be fleeting trivia.

Each story is locked away in long-term memory with strong emotional activity attached to some of them. The mind assigns meaning to each scene, and each meaning forms a building block in the story you present to yourself of who you are as a person.

Your self esteem is all about these stories. If your life story tells you that you are somehow not good enough, how could you possibly have any self esteem?

I Am What I Am

A very useful brain activity is our tendency to label everything. We place things into useful categories, and we do this by lumping things together, and say that things are the same when in reality they are only… kinda the same. We do this with our very self-concept, and THIS is where you might make a mistake.

The most common mistakes are of labeling yourself as a limitation. Of course, we have all gotten into a moment or two of “I’m just not cut out for this” or “I can never do (insert some cool activity here) because I’m too weak/old/young/stupid” or indeed any of a million limitations we could place upon ourselves. Any label you place upon yourself is, almost without a doubt, a self-imposed limitation. If that is the case, we had better be mindful of each and every one of the labels we have created for ourselves. Could low self esteem be a story too?

memories and low self-esteem

Ah yes, I remember it well.

Many would object, saying that their labels MUST be true and real in every way. They think this because the memory they have of whatever deed they use to justify their limiting self-belief is brought to mind with crystal clarity. The funny thing is, the human memory is pretty far from reliable.

If you were to imagine the memory as being like a video camera that stores events exactly as they happened, then you would be barking up the wrong tree. It isn’t like looking into a photo album. Memories, all too often, get deleted, over-emphasized, exaggerated, or even changed significantly by perfectly normal brain processes. Your own mind, in an attempt to make life easier for you, works diligently to fit memories into your self-story. If it has to make stuff up and change things around, your mind… doesn’t mind at all.

Yeah, But I REALLY am a loser.

Do you think? Well, those would be thoughts again; thoughts which, stem from conclusions and stories that maybe you came up with a long time ago. Even if they were true once, they might be pure fiction now. Even if they are not complete and total fiction, they are at least like one of those movies based on a true story”.

When you watch one of those, despite getting a vague idea of true enough events, there’s bound to be a whole lot of personal interpretation on the part of the storyteller. Movies are packed with storyteller bias, and so are you.

So it’s all a big lie?

No, let’s not get all excited. You are still you in every way, but we would do well to be mindful of those things we say to ourselves. This applies most especially when we are talking about ourselves. Ask yourself to observe your habitual self-talk. A notebook is useful here.

You can get to know the habitual labels you slap upon yourself. You don’t even necessarily have to do anything with that thought. I mean, sure, you could go through each and every limiting thought that occurs to you. You could go through cognitive restructuring or use Stoic questioning methods… if you want. They are great techniques, but let’s take a look at something else.

the mindfulness solution to low self-esteem, mental health

Low Self Esteem – The Mindfulness Solution

The solution is going to be all about catching yourself in the very act of labeling yourself. You can catch yourself using self-talk that starts with “I can’t”, “I’m the kind of person who,”  or even “That’s just not me” when presented with anything remotely outside of your comfort zone. There are many varieties of limiting labels you can catch yourself slapping upon yourself. The experience is somewhat along the lines of:

“Oh look. There I go telling myself I’m not good enough. That’s a part of my “such a loser” story”

When you notice, and catch yourself in the very act of living out a self-limiting story, there is a kind of instant enlightenment. It is a mini satori that can become more and more frequent as you yourself become more and more aware. Awareness is the antidote to habitual thought. It is the antidote to unconscious self-limitation. This awareness is what you need to cast doubt upon those memories that make your story.

An Instance of Freedom

I said right at the start, that your concept of who you are and of your value stems from your thoughts, your memories, and the story you tell about yourself.  This mindful act of being open to hearing your own self-talk in your day-to-day life will give you instance after instance of freedom.

These are tiny moments, but they are a chink in the armor of that low self-esteem. In that instant, we can choose to let our story go and possibly start to write another one.

Want more useful articles? You might like this one – Positivity: 10 Tips to Change Your Negative Mindset