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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FISHGUT3 9/11/2018
thanks Report
KMILLER31 6/30/2018
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
JANIEWWJD 12/12/2017
Fantastic article; great advice!!! Report
DONN1ZYF 12/4/2017
Good advise Report
SKIMBRO 11/24/2017
Something for me to work on. Report
KACEYSW 11/15/2017
This article is spot on! So many of us have no concept of our true value and have become Champion Self-Deprecators. Report
MIYAMO 11/11/2017
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
MIYAMO 11/11/2017
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
JIACOLO 11/10/2017
I know I struggle with this. Somehow I need to accept that I am in fact worthy of feeling healthier! Report
PLCHAPPELL 11/10/2017
Self esteem is a huge f a ctor. Report
HEALTHYME98 11/9/2017
Oh me. I struggle in this area. This is great information. Thank you for sharing it. Report
REDROBIN47 11/9/2017
Very good information Report
CHRIS3874 10/27/2017
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
LIS193 10/19/2017
Great article! Report
great article. Report
HMBROWN1 10/19/2017
Great insight! Report
BILLTHOMSON 10/19/2017
I too sabotaged my own health for many years by putting it off on everyone else, today I take responsibility for me Report
BARCELONAME 10/16/2017
great article Report
2DAWN4 10/15/2017
Good article! Report
LESSOFMOORE 10/15/2017
Anyone have the opposite problem, too much self-esteem to see the need for self-improvement? Report
JANIEWWJD 10/15/2017
Very good article!! Report
SKIMBRO 10/14/2017
Great article. Very good read. Report
BILLTHOMSON 10/13/2017
Good article. Our self-esteem can effect every aspect of our life. Report
MBPP50 10/13/2017
Excellent Report
DGRIFFITH51 10/12/2017
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
_CYNDY55_ 10/12/2017
Thanks! Report
LARKDC 10/12/2017
Thank you for excellent article on important yet often overlooked area👍 Report
LOVELY*LADY 10/12/2017
guilty Report
PWILLOW1 10/12/2017
RAPUNZEL53 10/12/2017
Interesting. Report
JIACOLO 10/12/2017
I have been working on this lately. Report
BABY_GIRL69 10/12/2017
I'm more than worthy of losing weight but I just have to continue to re-evaluate my nutrition and fitness. Report
PCOH051610 10/12/2017
Thank you for posting this article as it certainly a topic many of can relate to. Report
ARTJAC 10/12/2017
thanks Report
CHRISTOPHER63 10/12/2017
Thank you Report
75HEALTHYME 10/12/2017
Thank you for this article.
AZMOMXTWO 10/12/2017
thank you Report
AZMOMXTWO 10/12/2017
thank you Report
AALLEY2 10/12/2017
Yes yes and yes! Great article and good reminder.
A_NEW_CHAPTER 10/12/2017
Wow - this is not a coincidence - my last blog was all about why I keep doing this to myself -- got the book on Kindle and will be reading all afternoon - Thank You! Report
CYUZYK 10/12/2017
Thanks for the good article. I needed to read this today.

It's nice to see new articles coming up as well instead of recycling the same old ones. Report
JENNAAW 10/12/2017
Nice article! Ever since I was a kid, I felt people are judging me in a negative way regarding my weight. This feeling has not been really helpful to me. Report
BARCELONAME 10/12/2017
thanks Report
PICKIE98 10/12/2017
Just one tiny victory builds self-esteem; one extra walk in the house or yard, one distant parking place.. Report
JEANNESPARK 10/12/2017
Great article, concise and to the point! Thank you! Report
ALUKOWSKY 10/12/2017
It's important to remember that self-esteem is built through success and mastery. It requires both setting goals that are sufficiently challenging that their achievement elicits that "YES, I DID it!" feeling, as well as HONEST self-reflection when one falls short. Goals need to be realistic, and it probably is more self-motivating to set and reach several smaller, sequential interim goals than focusing single-mindedly on the final outcome. However, you DO need to push yourself. You don't build self-esteem by patting yourself on the back for baby steps that you would easily reach anyway. Report
NANASUEH 10/12/2017
good points Report
-POOKIE- 10/12/2017
Interesting article. Report
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