Margaret Marean, NAIT’s registered psychologist, has become a staple of the NAIT Nugget as she provided counselling tips for students in every issue for years. Margaret has provided a wealth of knowledge and advice for students throughout their semesters at NAIT with topics ranging from self esteem, health, procrastination and success.
Margaret’s counselling advice has been student focused and incredibly valuable for student life and the stresses they encounter. The editorial team at the NAIT Nugget wanted to say a major thank you to Margaret for her work and her reliable and timely counselling-related articles for our paper.
Thank you Margaret.
From the NAIT Nugget
By Margaret Marean
People with high self-esteem have positive yet realistic views of themselves and their situations. They trust their own abilities, have a general sense of control in their lives, and believe that they will be able to meet most of their goals. High self-esteem means accepting yourself for who you are, and not depending excessively on the approval of others in order to feel good about yourself. People with high self-esteem take reasonable risks and do not feel they have to conform to the expectations of others. Typically people have areas where they feel confident (such as academics or social relationships) and areas where their self-esteem is not as high (for example, personal appearance or athletics).
Lack of self-esteem is not necessarily related to lack of ability. It is often the result of focusing too much on the unrealistic expectations of others and setting unrealistic standards for performance. Self-esteem is developed as you are growing up and is affected by the messages you receive from parents and peers. We usually carry the messages we have learned as children into our adult lives. However you can improve your self-esteem at any time of your life. Just remember that change takes time and work. Be patient with yourself. Check off the strategies you already use and then choose one other strategy you can focus on this month to enhance your self-esteem:
- Identify your self-defeating thought patterns and work towards changing them.
- All or Nothing Thinking. For example “I am a total failure when my performance is not perfect”.
- Magnification of Negative/ Minimization of Positive. When a single negative detail, piece of criticism or comment colors your reality, or when you don’t put nearly as much weight on positive happenings as you do on negative ones. For example “She didn’t say hi to me so nobody likes me” or “I got five A’s but the one C really shows my abilities”.
- Jumping to Conclusions. Concluding things are bad without any definite evidence.
- Emotional Reasoning. “I feel ugly/stupid/unpopular so it must be true”.
- Overemphasis of “Should” Statements. “Shoulds” distract us from identifying and fulfilling our own needs, abilities, interests and personal goals. “Should” statements are often perfectionistic and reflective of others’ expectations rather than our own. (I “should be getting straight A’s).
- Labeling. Instead of saying “I made a mistake and I can learn from that”, saying “I am a loser and it is all my fault.”
- Difficulty Accepting Compliments. “You like this outfit? I think it makes me look fat.”
- Emphasize your strengths. Give yourself credit for everything you try. By focusing on what you attempt, you credit yourself for efforts rather than emphasizing end products. Accept current limitations and learn to live with those that can’t be changed as well as those that you don’t want to put the effort into changing.
- Develop your skills. Learn and practice the skills that you feel you are lacking and that would add value to your life.
- Set realistic goals. Establish goals on the basis of what you can realistically achieve. Break your goals down into small steps and then work towards completing each step. To strive always for perfectionistic absolute goals such as – “Anything less than an A in school is unacceptable” – invites stress and feelings of failure.
- Take risks. Approach new experiences as opportunities to learn rather than occasions to win or lose. Expect to make mistakes as part of the process; don’t be disappointed if you don’t do things perfectly. Feel good about trying something new, making progress and increasing your competence. Taking risks opens up new possibilities and can increase you sense of self-acceptance.
- Experience success. Seek out and put yourself in situations in which the probability of success is high. Look for projects that stretch – but don’t overwhelm – your abilities. Allow yourself to acknowledge and feel good about your successes.
- Use Positive Self-Talk. Stop listening to your negative inner “critic”. When you notice that you are doubting or judging yourself tell yourself “stop” and substitute more reasonable, self-accepting and supportive messages. For example, when you catch yourself expecting perfection, remind yourself that it is unrealistic for anyone to do everything perfectly.
- Respect your own needs. Recognize and take care of your own needs and wants first. Identify what really fulfills you – not just what is immediately gratifying. Respecting your deeper needs will increase your sense of worth and well-being.
- Solve problems. Don’t avoid problems and don’t stew over them. Face them, identify ways to solve them and act on your solutions. Procrastination lowers self-esteem.
- Make decisions. Practice making and implementing decisions. Trust yourself to make good decisions and to deal with the consequences.
- Be assertive. This means looking after your own needs while being respectful of the needs of others.
- Rely on your own opinion of yourself. Evaluate feedback from others, but do not rely on or put too much weight on their opinions. Depend on your own values in making decisions and deciding how you feel about yourself and what is right for you to do.
- Let go …of the past , … of unhealthy relationships, …of anger you are holding onto.
- Love yourself. Spend some time pampering yourself and treating yourself like your own best friend. Stop comparing yourself with others and accept yourself for who you are.
And remember – there is only one person who can really improve your self-esteem – you! You have the choice to move forward or stand still, to be positive or negative, to be happy or sad. You have only one life to live and the choice of how to live it is yours. “Today is yours to make it whatever you want it to be” – H. Johnson