Feelings 2: Self-esteem

The material in this series of 22 x blogs (of which this is number 2) with this similar format were originally published by the now late Ivan Sokolov and his wife Jacquie Pearson under the auspices of The Parent Network.  They are re-published with the permission of the authors for which we are most grateful.


There is one quality above all others that determines how individuals respond to circumstances in their lives – that quality is self-esteem. Self-esteem is how a person feels about himself or herself; how much he likes being him, how much she feels good about just being alive.

The level of self-esteem of those around you is clearly not your `responsibility’ – but we would be surprised if we knew to what extent our words and actions affect the ways those around us see themselves.  When it comes to children, our responsibility increases dramatically.

When thinking about the your effect on those around you, and the extent to which you can exert a positive influence, the first and most important place to start is looking at your own self-esteem. Do you have `a quiet sense of self-respect, a feeling of self-worth’ – are you glad that you are you?

Everything good that you wish for those around you, you deserve for yourself.  Are you giving yourself those things, or do you think that you are not important, or that your needs can wait? How you treat yourself  is a model for how others will treat you.

How you treat yourself will also affect how you do your job,  and take care of those around you. The more you look after yourself, the better and happier you will feel, and the more energy you will have perform those tasks you must perform. It is a little like making sure you keep your car battery topped up. If it is too low and your next door neighbour needs a jump start, you will not be able to help.  Or to put it another way, only if you keep filling up your own cup will there be anything in it for others  to drink.

Some ways to develop your own self esteem

Being nice to yourself

We all need what psychologist Eric Berne called `strokes’.  A stroke is a unit of attention, and it can be negative or positive.  A smile or a loving touch are loving strokes, an angry frown or sharp slap are negative strokes.

The worst thing for all people (and animals) is not to be getting any strokes at all – in other words to be ignored or to feel left out.  Even negative strokes are better than no strokes at all!

Many adults are so busy stroking their children, their partner, the hamster, the house, the boss, that they forget about getting strokes for themselves.  They end up tired and depressed and wonder what on earth is wrong with them. Somewhere along the line they start ignoring themselves and feeling that they are not important, and everybody else follows suit.  No one is an endless reservoir of energy. In order to keep giving out love, care and attention, we all need to get something back for ourselves, and being adults, the responsibility for that lies firmly in our own laps.

There are two main ways to get strokes:

1. Stroking yourself

This means treating yourself with love, care and attention, and is usually to do with very simple things.

  • It means giving yourself something just for you, just because you enjoy it. Also giving yourself time to rest when you know that you are tired.
  • It means caring for your body, wearing things that you like, having space for yourself that is warm and comforting.
  • It means cooking and eating what you like, with time to enjoy it.
  • It means making sure that you have something that you love to do, just for yourself. It may be painting, walking in the country, reading adventure novels, being with a close friend.  The important thing is that it is for you, not for anyone else.

Make a list of the things you really like to do, even things that seem impossible at the moment.  If you have been ignoring yourself for a long time this may prove difficult at first but that is all the more reason to do it. You are in real need of strokes if you have forgotten what it is you like to do.

However much we would like others to take care of us, it is ultimately our own responsibility to see that we get the love, care, attention and fun that we need.

The place to start is by giving to yourself, and thereby signalling to the world that you are an important human being and you deserve nice things!


2.  Getting strokes from others

We are hampered in our attempts to get what we want from others by some strong but false messages. These say things like:

  • If you loved me you would know what I want!
  • It isn’t the same if  I have to ask for it!
  • “I want” doesn’t get!

People are not mind readers. If they are not told what it is you like them to give you, they will get it all wrong, apart from a few lucky guesses!

Many people get strokes from others that they either don’t value or don’t like. Again, it is your responsibility to let others know exactly what it is you want them to do or  say.

Doing this can bring up fears of rejection but, if you are asking from the stand-point of being a valuable person who has a right to get his or her needs met, the likelihood of your being rejected is small. Asking in a straightforward way for what you want doesn’t mean that you will always get it but it is honest and clear and encourages others to respond in the same way to you.

Think about the following things:-

  • What forms of attention do you value from others?
  • What would you like them to say to you?
  • How would you like them to comfort you?
  • What things about you would you like them to take notice of?
  • What sort of things do you like to be given as presents?
  • How do you like to be touched and made love to?

Do you get these things?


Affirmations – saying nice things to yourself

Have you got a little voice inside your head? One that chatters on endlessly about what you should or shouldn’t do, like some miniature critic who lives somewhere inside your grey matter?  I do – and we have yet to meet anybody that didn’t.

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We could call this voice the tape recorder and affirmations are the tapes to put in it, tapes that say positive things about you.

If you have to have a voice inside your head it might as well be saying nice things to you!

What we say to ourselves is important because both our conscious and unconscious minds listen to what we are saying and act upon it. If you are telling yourself that you are fat, stupid and ugly, unconsciously you will be working away at being just that!

Remember what we said about labels as self fulfilling. You already have all the material you will ever need for your affirmations.  At the moment they are in the form of negative statements that you say to yourself.  All you have to do is reverse their message in a way that is meaningful to you.  You will know if your affirmations are meaningful by your reaction to them.  If they are difficult for you to say, if you get “funny feelings” like tingling, warmth, tears or if you suddenly  “feel better” or lighter, then the affirmation is doing its work. It is changing how you feel  and think about yourself at a very deep level.

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The negative statements in our head are not true but they are very powerful. If we try to fight them or to argue with them we just reinforce them.  Just let them be and build yourself some positive ones. Use them to help yourself instead of pulling yourself down.

If affirmations appeal to you, they work. Try it and see!

If saying affirmations seems strange or odd to you, don’t you also think it is odd to have a voice telling you how awful you are all the time?

The enemy within is probably the biggest any of us will ever have to fight.


The unconscious self not only listens to what you say, it also notices the thoughts and pictures, or images, that you have.

Some of us can see very clear pictures in our mind’s eye and some of us don’t.  This is just the different ways in which brains can work but if you can think about something and somehow “experience it”, in whatever way you do it, then you can do what we call “visualise”.

Think about pink snow ………..

The first kitchen you ever remember seeing …….

A large stone with a bright light in the centre of it………

There you visualised those things in whatever way was right for you!

Trust your own way and don’t worry if it’s not like anyone else’s. It’s yours and it works!

Now we can use the process of visualisation to help us build our self-esteem.

To visualise for this purpose means to close your eyes and imagine yourself or others as you want them to be.

Imagine your family is happy and at peace.  Imagine yourself being as you would like to be.

When Carol gets tired and worried, because her baby always seems to be so upset, she closes her eyes and allows herself to imagine a Carol who is a warm, caring, capable mother, a Carol who knows, deep inside, that she has every right to be the mother of this child, who has every right to be tired and will give herself the rest she needs.

When John worries about his presentation to the managing director, he closes his eyes and  visualises himself as a calm but alert person who can communicate in a clear, concise way, as a man with something important to say, and who deserves to be listened to.

What we think and say to ourselves matters.  Use the skills of affirmations and visualisations to help yourself build a more positive self image. Also teach these ideas to your children. They will take to them very easily because, unlike adults, they tend to believe that what they think can change reality.

The child within us

Even when we are adults, there is a child tucked away inside. Learning to take care of the child within us is of major importance. Some people can do this easily, especially if they had affectionate, caring parents.  Others have to really work at it, especially if they didn’t get enough love, direction and attention for themselves when they were young.

The child in you is often more active when you are feeling hungry, sick, worried, tired, hurt or afraid.  The child in you then feels a need for something – food, sleep, comfort, encouragement, love and so forth.  If these needs are not met, then you feel worse.  Whereas if they are met you usually not only feel better but are able to cope better.

One way to care for your inner child is to care for or nurture yourself.  Treat yourself to your favourite things: a special food, a new book, a walk in the sunshine or the rain, a meal without the children, a visit to your friend. Give yourself the things you really enjoy and deserve because you are a person too.

Another form of nurturing is to give yourself the things that are good for you: fresh air, some form of exercise that feels right for you, proper care and attention when you don’t feel so good.

Nurturing also involves giving yourself comfort: cool, clean sheets, a snuggle in a favourite blanket or arm chair, a hot bath and comfortable clothing, peace and quiet or your favourite music.  It can also include talking to yourself to give yourself comfort, reassurance and encouragement.

Your inner child may like playing and having fun: running on the grass, playing catch, laughing at a silly joke. Recapture your childlike fun, however that expressed itself!  It’s also possible to have fun alone: a walk in the woods, paddling in a stream, feeling the warm sun on your face, drawing, dancing to music.  Children are able to enjoy themselves alone and that ability still lies within us as adults, however deeply buried.  Recognising and fulfilling your inner child’s needs leads you towards becoming a happier, more secure person, and that in turn makes you more able to meet your responsibilities towards others.  Everyone benefits when you are nicer to yourself and more accepting of yourself and your needs.

If you are aware of not doing enough to look after yourself and your inner child, it might be useful to think about what stops you or what is getting in the way? What steps would you have to take to start nurturing yourself more?  You will have opportunities in your “Peace of Mind” group to learn what other people are beginning to do for themselves and how you can too.

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In case you missed this at the top!  The material in this series of 22 x blogs (of which this is number 2) with this similar format were originally published by the now late Ivan Sokolov and his wife Jacquie Pearson under the auspices of The Parent Network.  They are re-published with the permission of the authors for which we are most grateful.

There are many things that will help you in Sue’s book “Peace of Mind – Pathways to Successful Living”.  Download chapter 1 free now!

There are helpful free downloads at: sue@suewashington.com


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