Before I came to work at Castle Craig I never really thought about self-esteem. Everybody talks about self-esteem here, but what does it really mean and why is it so important?
In simple terms, self-esteem means how much we like ourselves. For example, I like the fact that I can make other people laugh. Another big influence is how much other people like us — what my friends, family, work colleagues, classmates or teammates think of me influences my self-esteem greatly.
Most addicts have low self-esteem and this stops them trusting anybody. They feel unimportant and lonely. Recovery is about changing these attitudes, addicts need to understand that they are not worthless because they have been addicted.
In recovery they learn that they are good and capable people who can recover from their disease if they value themselves enough, ask for help and take responsibility for changing their lives through. This requires self-esteem and if you don’t have it, then you need to work at getting it.
Stop comparing yourself to others! There will always be people who are better, prettier, sportier and have nicer cars than you. Instead, we should focus on the things that we like in ourselves.
Here are five suggestions to improve self esteem:
Write down five things that you like about yourself. This is not boasting and if you feel uncomfortable it is only because of your low self-esteem. We all have some positive characteristics and you can start, for example, with: ‘I like myself because I helped John carrying his shopping bags’.
Make a list of 5 achievements in your life. You have probably achieved many more, but keep it simple. Don’t dismiss things as trivial, and don’t let the word ‘only’ influence your decisions of what to put on the list.
Ask your friends to tell you two things they like about you. Don’t avoid this – self-esteem is partly a result of what others tell us we are.
Don’t isolate. Many addicts make things worse through loneliness, isolation and boredom. Most negative feelings occur in isolation when we start brooding over things that can lead to self-pity and despair.
Share with others how you are feeling. Realising that others have similar feelings and thoughts to you can be immensely helpful in recovery.
Remember that people react to what they see – if they see a positive person they will reflect that back in their attitudes and responses, thus building your self-esteem even more.
Now, why not go and ask your friends what they like about you. I’ll do the same.