Struggling with low self-esteem? Learn to challenge your negative thoughts

All human beings have areas where they feel especially insecure about their capabilities or the way they present themselves. Perhaps a presentation at work made them doubt the sound of their voice, or a crisis at home left them feeling like a failure. Whatever the specific stressor may be, these internal struggles can leave people experiencing low self-esteem. 

Low self-esteem has far-reaching effects on every aspect of life, including work, relationships and mental health. According to Mayo Clinic, adjusting your internal dialogue about these incidents can help you build yourself up again. It starts with identifying the events or conditions that draw out your low self-esteem. Some common triggers include major life changes, conflicts with loved ones or important work assignments. 

Once you recognize your triggers, focus on what you tell yourself when you are struggling. Are your thoughts and beliefs positive or negative? Are they based on facts or false beliefs and fear? Lastly, would you talk to a friend the way you are talking to yourself? Keeping these answers in mind, you can begin to challenge the inaccurate, negative thoughts that are adding to your low self-esteem. 

How to challenge negative thoughts: 

  • If you find yourself stuck in all-or-nothing thinking, you may tell yourself things like, “I will never be good enough to do this.” Turn those beliefs around by practicing hopeful statements like, “It may be hard, but I will learn from this experience.” 
  • If you jump to conclusions too quickly, take a step back by reframing your anxious thoughts. For example, “They responded to my email with a one-word answer, so they must be angry with me,” can become, “They are probably busy right now. What can I do to ease my stress?” 
  • If you have a hard time seeing beyond the negatives of a situation, you may tell yourself, “I made one mistake, and now my entire team will know I am a fraud.” Counteract these thoughts by focusing on the positive. Make a list of everything you have learned and all the ways you have grown, and remind yourself that no one expects you to be perfect. 
  • If you often deflect praise or discredit your own successes, give encouraging yourself a try. Instead of saying, “I only did well because I had extra time,” experiment with, “I did well because I set myself up for success and worked hard to meet my deadline. Even though I was not perfect, I met my goals.” 

Negative beliefs that lead to low self-esteem are common, but that does not mean they have to rule your mind. Remember to be patient with yourself as you practice challenging your long-term thought patterns. Big changes do not happen overnight. If you find yourself needing additional support, Dallas ISD’s Employee Assistance Program by LifeWorks can help. The secure, confidential service offers a variety of mental health resources as well as on-call counselors, all free of charge. 

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