Could Your Self-Esteem Be Undermining Your Wellness Efforts?

By , Elizabeth Babcock, Psychotherapist and Author
Do you repeatedly get on track with your self-care, only to let it slip away again despite achieving good results? Your self-esteem could be the culprit, whether you realize it or not. 
It can be tricky to know for sure because self-esteem isn't something you simply do or do not have; it can be stronger in some parts of your life than in others. If you are confident and accomplished at work, for example, you might not realize that you are showing some low self-esteem when you feel guilty or selfish about prioritizing your health.
If you don't believe that quality care is your birthright, you won't be able to provide it for yourself consistently. Your actions will continue to be influenced by the unconscious conviction that great health isn't really "you." Improving your self-esteem and learning to truly believe in yourself and your abilities is the first step to finding lifelong health and happiness.

Is Your Self-Esteem Suffering?

Some of the nicest people you've ever met may have self-esteem issues. Why? Some people are nice not only for its own sake but also because they believe they have so little intrinsic personal value that they must earn their way in with others through extra effort. Such people usually have trouble accepting compliments, and some of them apologize often, even when they've done nothing wrong. Their mindset is all about pleasing others, whatever that takes.
Suspect self-esteem may be at the root of your problems if you allow others to treat you in ways that you wouldn't find acceptable for someone else. Suspect it further if you find yourself in lopsided relationships in which you make most of the effort. Low self-esteem is what tells you that your needs can be addressed only if there are time and energy left over after everyone else is content.
Low self-esteem often shows itself in a stream of quiet, critical self-talk, to which you might be so accustomed that you barely notice anymore. Consider if you've ever thought to yourself phrases such as:
"No one wants to hear what I have to say."
 "I have no right to feel this way."
"Everyone else belongs except me."
"I look awful."
"I get by, but I'm not really good at anything."
Sound familiar? Before you write the internal chatter examples off as insignificant, imagine saying any one of the aforementioned phrases to another person. For example: "No one wants to hear what you have to say," or "You have no right to feel this way." Now, the cruelty is obvious.
When it comes to self-care the simplest litmus test for self-esteem is this: What would it look like if another person had to live with the choices you make for yourself—what you eat, how much you move, what you do for stress management, how much sleep you get and the priority placed on your emotional needs? Would that person be nurtured, neglected or some strange mix of the two? Once you recognize the issue, you can proactively start improving the way you think of and take care of yourself.

Improve Your Opinion of You

It's important to tackle self-esteem issues in small steps so that you can tolerate the change. Trying to do too much at once will result in an internal reaction of, "No—this isn't me," causing you to drop your efforts and remain in the same rut. Seek change at a level that stretches your comfort zone without overwhelming your sense of self.
  1. Challenge critical self-talk with objective facts. Get help with this from friends or family if you need because conquering negative self-talk is essential to moving forward.
  2. Recognize your time and energy as valuable, limited resources. Invest them only where they support your values, goals and needs.
  3. Cultivate relationships with people whose positive regard for you is obvious in their words and actions.
  4. Treat yourself as well as you treat others. Require the same in return.
  5. Make time for activities that are just for and about you. This shift in priorities strengthens your sense of self while giving you a nice emotional recharge. Relaxation, recreation and physical activity are good places to start.
  6. Spend time at pursuits which give you feelings of competence and accomplishment. Self-esteem issues or not, we all need this.
  7. Take care of yourself with the dedication you offer to others. Eat quality food. Engage in regular exercise, seeking choices that you find satisfying. Make sure you get some downtime. Stay current with your medical care and checkups.
If you believe that others deserve a certain kind of life, it is your job to work hard at believing in improvement and showing yourself that you do, too.

About the Author
Elizabeth Babcock, L.C.S.W. is a psychotherapist and community educator who has written extensively on topics of interest to all who seek a more peaceful, effective, and satisfying life. She recently published "Why We Overeat and How to Stop," a new approach to overeating which empowers readers to end the cycle of yo-yo dieting once and for all. A lover of the outdoors who resides in southwestern Pennsylvania, Elizabeth can be reached through and on Facebook. 

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SUNSET09 6/30/2019
Encourage yourself, SparkFriends. We can do it! Report
RENEEWL1 6/28/2019
Great article! Report
Great article! Report
HOLLYM48 6/28/2019
Great article! Report
BEEGIRL10PJ 6/27/2019
This fits me to a T. Thanks for the insight! Report
FRAN0426 6/27/2019
Thanks for the good info. Report
Nice to know I'm not the only one that feels like this sometimes. Report
JIACOLO 6/27/2019
I continue to be my own worst enemy Report
DRAGONFLY631 5/20/2019
Wonderful article. Thank you Report
TCANNO 3/3/2019
This could be my trouble at this time? Report
ANHELIC 10/23/2018
Thanks for a great article Report
KACEYSW 10/5/2018
This is me, painted with broad strokes on handmade paper! Thank you! I am printing this out and posting it in my bathroom. Report
JIACOLO 10/1/2018
I certainly can relate to this Report
Good counsel. Thanks for the reminder that we need to be as kind to our body and mind as much as we care for others. Report
GOALCXXV 9/30/2018
I see myself here. Oddly, my friends indicate that they see me as confident and having good self esteem. If I am wearing a mask, how many people I meet are also pretending to have confidence that they don't feel. Report
AMYRCMK 9/30/2018
Thank you, my self esteem does get in my way. Report
JANET552 9/30/2018
Great article Report
ANNEMARIE001 9/30/2018
Yes, that's me. I need to work on this. Report
FISHGUT3 9/11/2018
thanks Report
Low self-esteem affects so many facets of life. I wish there were a pill to fix it. Report
Great article. It's an eye opener for me. Report
Fantastic article; great advice!!! Report
Good advise Report
Something for me to work on. Report
This article is spot on! So many of us have no concept of our true value and have become Champion Self-Deprecators. Report
I need to start thinking that me, myself and I can get my weight down, exercise, and do the things I would like to do. Report
I need to start thinking that me, myself and I can get my weight down, exercise, and do the things I would like to do. Report
I struggle with self esteem all the time. Nothing is ever good enough; and that is partly to do with the body getting used to an activity so I have to change what I am doing. Changing the activity doesn't mean I see results so I get bummed and have the self esteem problem and say, nothing is good enough! Report
I know I struggle with this. Somehow I need to accept that I am in fact worthy of feeling healthier! Report
Self esteem is a huge f a ctor. Report
Oh me. I struggle in this area. This is great information. Thank you for sharing it. Report
Very good information Report
I always thought of myself as odd,ugly and stupid growing up - especially when I was constantly compared to my sister the "honour student" Report
Great article! Report
great article. Report
Great insight! Report
I too sabotaged my own health for many years by putting it off on everyone else, today I take responsibility for me Report
great article Report
Good article! Report
Anyone have the opposite problem, too much self-esteem to see the need for self-improvement? Report
Very good article!! Report
Great article. Very good read. Report
Good article. Our self-esteem can effect every aspect of our life. Report
Excellent Report
I spent two years in a recovery program learning why I reacted to things the way I did. One of the thingd I discovered was that because I was a victim of inappropriate sexual advancements if I was fat I felt safe, men left me alone. Report
Thanks! Report
Thank you for excellent article on important yet often overlooked area👍 Report
Interesting. Report