How To Build Self-Esteem with Skill



“Low self-esteem is like driving through life with your hand-break on.” — Anonymous

What are the secrets of self-esteem?

While there are many things you can do, there are some proven patterns and practices.

One key practice is  challenging your negative self-image.

Another key practices is shutting down your inner critic.

In Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy Revised and Updated, David Burns shares some insights about self-esteem.

The 4 D’s of a Depressed Self Image: Defeated, Defective, Deserted, and Deprived

According to Dr. Burns, these are the 4 D’s of a depressed self-image:

  1. Defeated – You feel defeated
  2. Defective – You feel broken or defective or like you need to be fixed
  3. Deserted – You feel alone or abandoned
  4. Deprived – You feel like you are missing out or lacking

Key Notes About Building Your Self-Esteem

According to Dr. Burns, the following are key points about a depressed self image:

  1. A depressed self-image can be characterized by the four D’s: You feel
    Defeated, Defective, Deserted, and Deprived.
  2. Almost all negative emotional reactions inflict their damage only as a
    result of low self-esteem.
  3. A poor self-image is the magnifying glass that can transform a trivial
    mistake or an imperfection into an overwhelming symbol of personal defeat.
  4. The more depressed and miserable you feel, the more twisted your
    thinking becomes.
  5. Conversely, in the absence of mental distortion, you cannot experience
    low self-worth.
  6. You cannot earn worth through what you do. Self-worth based
    on accomplishments is not the genuine thing.
  7. You can’t base a sense of self-worth on your looks, talent, fame or

Re-evaluate a Negative Self-Image

Take another look.

Via Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy Revised and Updated:

“One of the cardinal features of cognitive therapy is that it stubbornly refuses to buy into your sense of worthlessness. In my practice, I lead my patients through a systematic re-evaluation of their negative self-image.

I raise the same question over and over again: ‘Are you really right when you insist that somewhere inside you are essentially a loser?’

The first step is to take a close look at what you say about yourself when you insist you are no good. The evidence you present in defense of your worthlessness will usually, if not always, make no sense.”

Challenge your negative self image.  Put your evidence to the test.

See 10 Distorted Thinking Patterns to see if any of the distorted thinking patterns are impacting your self-image. (Some examples are all-or-nothing thinking, over-generalization, and labeling.)

Turn Off Your Inner Critic

The squeaky wheel gets the oil.  Don’t.

Via Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy Revised and Updated:

“Just as your feelings do not determine your worth, neither do your thoughts or behaviors. Some may be positive, creative, and enhancing; the great majority are neutral. Others may be irrational, self-defeating, and maladaptive.

These can be modified if you are willing to exert the effort, but they certainly do not and cannot mean that you are no good. There is no such thing in this universe as a worthless human being.
‘Then how can I develop a sense of self-esteem?’ you may ask.

The answer is – you don’t have to! 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. Why? Because that inner critical voice is wrong!”

The key is to turn off your inner critic.  See How To: Use the Triple Column Technique for an effective way to turn your inner critic from a critic to a coach.

Key Takeaways

Here are my key takeaways:

  • Know the 4 D’s of low self-esteem.  The 4 D’s of low self-esteem are: Defeated, Defective, Deserted, and Deprived.
  • Challenge your negative self-image.  One of the keys to turning around low self-esteem is to challenge your negative self-image.
  • Turn off your inner critic.  Another key to turning around low self-esteem is turning off your inner critic.
  • High self-esteem can reduce negative emotional reactions.   When your self-esteem is low, it’s easy to respond with negative emotional reactions.

Go for it.  Challenge your self-image.

The real key to a more empowering self-image is reflection and re-evaluation.

The examined self, is your better self.

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