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Developing A Healthy Sense of Self-esteem

August 18, 2013
English: A colorful depiction of Maslow's Hier...

English: A colorful depiction of Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Choices. Choices are what cause us to experience the world in a certain way.  We have the beautiful gift of free will and everything boils down to choices. The disease of addiction for instance, it can be argued that it begins with a choice. In this day and age we are all well aware of the dangers of drugs and alcohol but some of us still take the risk and use these substances anyway.  What motivates a person to take such risks knowing the dangers? It’s caused, at least in part, by a low-self esteem.

We make a choice, motivated by a stimulus or a need. We feel hunger, we eat. We are tired, we sleep. We feel lonely, we call up a friend. These are the basic needs of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. It’s a simplistic theory of what motivates us to behave a certain way.  From the most basic physiological needs, to more complex psychological needs, Maslow uses a pyramid image to describe the different levels of needs.

While we are growing we develop a sense of self or self esteem.  Different choices cause different effects which cause different experiences that in turn affect our self-esteem.  Like our personalities, I thought once our self-esteem has developed that it’s, we’re stuck with what we got but that’s not the case.  There are different things that we can do to improve our self-esteem and self-confidence.  Many times a person with low-self esteem has other mental health issues such as depression, anxiety and personality disorders.  Those issues can also be found in most addicts pasts hence the self-medication.  So as the person grows they develop low self-esteem which goes hand in hand with depression and other mental health disorders and then they use drugs or alcohol to cope with those issues.  This spells disaster and is very difficult to treat.

There is hope though. It takes time, willingness, motivation, consistency and baby steps to accomplish.  It also is a realistic assumption that with a life of self-abuse, trauma and addiction, the person will not be 100% healthy overnight, this is a journey, a complete lifestyle renovation. A band-aid of anti-depressants and a trip to rehab is not going to “fix” them.

The first thing is counseling, good counseling. If a client does not see any change within a few sessions its probably time to search for a new counselor. Addicts are especially good at manipulation so I strongly recommend a therapist with specif and intense experience. The next thing to take on is disciplined addiction treatment, no one is going to improve while doped up on heroin. Then and only then can the changes start to take place.

I like to focus on the things I’m grateful for by writing out a gratitude list. Another way to improve self-esteem is to focus on your qualities and write down positive affirmation statements and say them out loud. I like to take one and meditate on it. If you continuously state negative things about yourself you’re going to begin to believe it. Stating positive things about yourself that you know are true and you will believe it. Another way to increase self-worth is to look in the mirror and say these positive things. Each time you do try to look for a bit longer then the last time. This sounds easy but if you have low-self esteem you know exactly what I”m talking about, it’s not easy at all let alone saying nice things about yourself. Next, catch yourself when negative thoughts come into your head. Stop and replace them with a positive one.

These examples seem easy but trust me, it’s easier said then done. It takes a lot of courage, determination and consistency to get better and maintain a healthy lifestyle but it’s possible. Don’t give up, you’re worth it!

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