05/11/2010 11:27 GMT | Updated 22/05/2015 06:12 BST

How To Improve Your Self Esteem

Are you your own best friend or worst enemy? Read on to discover how good your self esteem really is and find out what you can do to help improve your confidence...,feedConfig,localizationConfig,entry&id=947230&pid=947229&uts=1288007371

How good is your self esteem, really?

The idle chatter and circular thoughts that go through our minds are more powerful than most of us realise.

Our subconscious mind acts as a sponge, soaking up the messages we tell ourselves – and like anything else, the more frequently we repeat the messages the more powerful they become.

Unsurprisingly, negative thoughts beget more negative thoughts.

"You always mess things up... Nothing ever goes right for me... I knew it was too good to be true..." Do these sound familiar?

If so, you've fallen into the trap of self sabotage through negative thinking.

How good is your self esteem, really?

It's a sad fact of life that many of us have been damaged by negative messages given to us as children or young adults. While it's important to be aware and acknowledge that, it's just as important to take responsibility for your thought patterns now.

Your mother or sister or teacher isn't undermining you now (and if they are, it's time to confront them!) The real damage is done when we repeat their negative messages to ourselves. If the negative voice in your head takes on the tone of someone else it's a sure sign you're stuck in a time warp of negative thought.

Decide on a positive message and next time a negative one pops in your head say the new message to yourself. Keep doing it until it becomes a habit.

How good is your self esteem, really?

Do you find barriers (or blame other people) for stopping you reaching your goals?

"I'll go back to college once the children have grown up," or "I would exercise but I'm too fat to join the gym"?

Or perhaps, you think "If only this or that would change in my life, then I could really make something of myself"?

If so, it's time to take a long hard look and ask yourself whether, deep down, you'd rather find an excuse than try and (potentially) fail.

How good is your self esteem, really?

The secret to self esteem is to put the power (and responsibility) for your life back with you – rather than focusing on outside factors.

Write a list of things you can do – right now – to help you reach your goals. Could you do an evening class one night a week or build up a portfolio even if you can't commit to a course? Could you do a fitness DVD f you don't feel confident enough to join the gym?

Taking a positive step (no matter how small) in the right direction will give you confidence to take the next and the next.

And remember to celebrate your achievements!

How good is your self esteem, really?

If you feel like you've constantly got more on your plate than you can cope with it's time to take action.

People with low self esteem often find it hard to say 'No' - whether to work requests from their boss, or demands from partners, friends and even children.

If assertiveness is a problem for you, the good news is that it gets easier each time you do it.

Start by saying 'No' to small requests and then work up to tackling bigger issues at home or at work.

How good is your self esteem, really?

If you feel swamped at work it's worth drawing up a list of tasks and marking how long each takes. Take this list to your boss and work together to identify what your priorities should be.

If delegating tasks to others feels wrong it's worth being honest and asking yourself if you're afraid to release control, or on some levels you've got used to playing the martyr?

If you can delegate tasks - whether to the office junior or putting your teenager on washing-up duty - you'll feel more in control and less like a doormat.

How good is your self esteem, really?

If your find yourself constantly comparing yourself to others, whether a sibling, friend or work colleague, you could be chipping away at your self esteem without realising it.

Very few people are lucky enough to have a life they are 100% happy with - and anyone who says that things are perfect all of the time is a liar!

Spending time thinking about what (you perceive) others to have uses up mental energy you could be putting to good use working on yourself.

How good is your self esteem, really?

Say 'thank you' next time someone pays you a compliment. That doesn't mean saying thank you and then running yourself down in the next breath!

Deliberately spend time remembering the compliments you have been given and the things that have gone well.

Mentally run through everything you have to be grateful for. Say a silent thank you (a prayer if you're religious) or just a message to the universe.

All too often we focus on what we want – which puts energy into the things missing in our lives. Put some focus into the things you DO have and you'll feel better.

How good is your self esteem, really?

If you find yourself going on a shopping spree to 'pick yourself up' but find the buzz of your new purchases soon wears off you could be using a prop to artificially boost your self esteem.

Of course, it's not just shopping. Other artificial self esteem boosters include using alcohol to boost confidence in the short term or going back to a relationship that boosts our ego but which is ultimately destructive.

How good is your self esteem, really?

The good news is that by identifying and admitting to 'sticking plaster' behaviours used to cover up deeper issues of low self esteem, you've already taken the first step to helping yourself.

Thousands of people find that counselling provides them with a valuable opportunity to talk through problems and give them a new way of viewing things - especially useful if you've been trapped in a pattern of negative thinking for years.

By tackling the underlying causes of self esteem you will be on the path to a new, more positive future.

How good is your self esteem, really?