This weeks post comes from another of my very good friends, Sarah. Sarah and I first got chatting on the Weight Watchers forum just after I joined in January 2010 - we were both students with around 8st to lose so we had a lot to talk about! Since then we've stayed in pretty much constant contact and she's always there if I need to talk about anything, Weight Watchers related or otherwise.
I asked Sarah to write this post for me as I know she has some experience on the subject of self-esteem and the problems associated with it. I'm sure that most of the people, whether they're attempting to lose weight or not, have struggled with low self-esteem at some point in their lives. Its not necessarily a physical thing - it may not have anything to do with how you look, but can instead be focused on work or studying, or anything really. So here is Sarah's story about her struggles with low self-esteem, and a few tips for overcoming it.
Low self-esteem is an issue that most young women and surprisingly a lot of men suffer from. I am one of those people. Low self-esteem has always been a problem for me ever since I started senior school I would say. There are many reasons for my low self-esteem, most being around issues with my weight and with bullying. I was bullied by a girl I went to school with from a very young age, mostly about my weight and my family’s weight as I come from a family full of obese people. I used to fear going to school and never walked home alone because of passing her house on the way. These fears led to more and more negative thoughts which in turn gave me lower and lower self-esteem. The bullying continued all the way through school up to an incident when we were 14 where she attacked me on the way home from a local shop with two of her friends which resulted in the police being involved.
Even now I still look out every time I walk past her parents’ house, even though she no longer lives there, it’s the fear and remembrance of one of the lowest points of my life. Through the low self-esteem I have become somewhat a social recluse, I struggle to make new friendships and often unintentionally sabotage the ones I currently have out of fear of what they will think of me, and how much I might get hurt.
Going to University was a turning point for me, I took a huge risk and moved into student halls of residence which placed me living with 5 other people every day and I have to say it was one of the best experiences of my life and one of best things I ever did for myself. It forced me out there to socialise with other people, I was still somewhat shy and reserved, but me and one of my flatmates constantly clicked and I would say she really helped me develop myself. It wasn’t a miraculous change, I still only spent time with people she or my other flatmates knew, I didn’t let very many people get close to me, but it was still progress in my eyes.
During my second year though I fell ill in the first week of term and I was off for the first 12 weeks of the semester right up to Christmas. This ruined our friendship, and I moved back home and since then I have to say I have returned to many of my old ways. I have lost contact with most of my friends from school and college and those I do know I still see little. I’ve returned to the old fears and thoughts and the cycle is very hard to break.
May this year I decided to do something about it, I was at probably my lowest point by then, I wasn’t going out at all other than for university and work. But having spent 4 weeks finishing my dissertation with now access to outside world I knew I was ready to change. So I started going to a self-esteem counselling group through the university. I almost backed out at the start but I am so glad I went, to meet and talk with other people and realise you are not the only person who has these thoughts and these fears was so relieving. There were even people that were worse off than me in terms of self-esteem which made me realise I wasn’t ready to take a step back but needed to take one forward.
The group session wasn’t about talking about what the issues of your low self-esteem were, in fact it never even came up at all really, what it was about was small changes you could make to help improve your self-esteem. Each week we had a topic to talk about and then a small goal to set ourselves for the following week that was related to the topic we had discuss. So I thought I would share these with you.
1. Body Language/Gestures – This is the use of words like “I can’t”, “I don’t know how” or gestures such as turning away, avoiding eye contact
A Assertiveness - this is mostly around the issue of yes and no. have you ever had someone ask you to do something and you want to say no, but you say yes because you’re worried about what they will think if you say no? This is one of the signs of low self-esteem. – So be assertive. Say no. Even just once and for something simple can be very empowering.
3. Positive Thinking – are you a half full or half empty type of person? If you’re half empty it could be a sign of low self-esteem. Do you automatically assume the worst will happen? Do your thoughts constantly spiral from one negative thought to another? If something goes wrong is it the end of the world, does it feel like everything is going wrong? Changing our thought patterns from negative thoughts to even neutral ones can have a surprisingly positive effect on your self-esteem. Using words such as maybe, possibly instead of I can’t, I don’t know how. Not assuming the worst will happen and thinking, well I don’t know what’s going to happen.
4. Stress Management – Stress is our perceived ability to handle a situation, so the lower your self-esteem the more stressed you will become as you will automatically assume you can’t cope with the situation you’re in or that’s arising. This can also lead to more negative thought processes as well. When you are stressed it’s important to take out time for yourself. Small things like taking care of yourself often get neglected. Make sure you do all the usual things you would do, shower, moisturise, and then do something a little more. Paint your nails, watch a movie, have a bath instead of a shower. Even 5 minutes to unwind is better than none at all.
With low self-esteem it’s so very easy to take a step backwards into the spiral of low self-esteem so it’s important to remember to keep making these small changes. Even a small change of thought or gesture can make a significant difference in your confidence and each small step forward is better than a step backwards. Even I have to keep reminding myself of this sometimes.
I just want to say another massive thank you to Sarah for taking the time for writing that post for me today, and everyone go check out her blog - She's Coming Undone.
Happy Monday everybody!