To ask if you've improved your self esteem, how you did it?

(69 Posts)
Housesellerihope Sat 19-Oct-13 18:32:47

I would rally like to be able to be respected for my opinions and behaviour at work in my professional job - think solicitor although it isn't exactly that as I don't want to out myself. However, I was badly abused as a child and have an anxiety disorder and low self esteem as a result. I also have bad posture due to a skeletal deformity that causes lumbar lordosis so hunched shoulders, etc. plus I'm short and can't wear heels due to said deformity.

I really know my stuff at work and my written reports are very good. But in discussions and meetings I either clam up or sort of lash out nervously. So i come across as knowing a lot less than i do. Although I get on well with my immediate colleagues the ones who don't know me tend to think I'm a bit weird at best and incompetent at worst.

So... AIBU to ask if you've had ishoos in the past with self esteem and self presentation? And if you've managed to get beyond them what did you do?

AllBoxedUp Sat 19-Oct-13 21:14:19

I found this book really useful. It really helped me feel less self conscious which helped me feel better about myself. I didn't actually even do it properly in terms of carrying out the exercises - just reading it helped me change the way I saw things.

Selks Sat 19-Oct-13 21:19:03

At around age 18 I kind of made a decision that I was consciously going to try to think better of myself; when the negative thoughts and self-doubt crept in I'd consciously not allow myself to dwell on it. A key moment had been when an older friend had told me that I had as much right to like myself as anyone else, and I just thought "yes; yes I do." From then on I learned to recognise the aspects of myself that I liked that I had previously ignored, and learning to like certain aspects of me led to me being less self-critical of myself in general. I decided that life is too short to continuously beat myself up with a big stick.

EBearhug Sat 19-Oct-13 21:24:40

Counselling and recognising that my mother putting me down all the time didn't mean everyone else thought the same. But also careers counselling, and the counsellor being visibly impressed by some of the stuff I've done. And getting older and having survived all the shit life's thrown at me.

Realising that nearly everyone else worries they're about to be found out, however good they are, and the ones who don't are the ones who really should be worrying about it (yes, useless German manager, I do mean you.)

Mind you, I was told last week that some of our new team members are intimidated about asking me questions, because I always seem to know what I'm talking about, point out where things need improving and sometimes say no. I probably do know what I'm talking about from their point of view, as I've been giving them training on an area of work I know inside out, but if they asked me about other stuff, I'd have no idea. And I hope that telling them where they need to improve, I'm doing it in a supportive, constructive way. And I do sometimes say no, because there are only 24 hours in the day, but it's usually along the lines of, "No, not now, but ask me again after my 3pm meeting." I'm still finding it weird that anyone could find me scary, though.

It's all making me wonder if what I think other people think of me is actually what other people think of me.

LustyBusty Sat 19-Oct-13 21:30:01

For me, as many others, CBT and counselling. You know that voice in your head? The one that tells you that you are doing badly/wrong (mine tells me I'm stupid, fat and ugly FWIW). Make it sound like Donald Duck instead. No one can take Donald Duck seriously. Now I don't believe the voice telling me I'm stupid, fat and ugly. And I say out loud every morning before work at least 3 things about me that are true. Eg. I am good at my job. I am a friendly and approachable woman. My eyes look gorgeous. I repeat them until I believe them IYSWIM. Then I face the day with a smile on my face and fractionally more improved self esteem. (If you can't think of a nice thing to say about yourself, imagine what your mum/best friend/DH would say. I couldn't think of one single thing I liked about myself when I started, and the only thing I could think of in the session was that my eyes were a nice shade of blue. That's it. I also cried. A LOT!!)
Good luck.

ilovesooty Sat 19-Oct-13 22:48:00

Left the bastard.

Changed career.

Studied counselling, learned a lot about myself through study and personal therapy.

Realised that people pleasing is destructive and that if I don't value and respect myself no one else will. Saying no becomes easier with practice.

Lilacroses Sat 19-Oct-13 23:04:15

Something I did OP that has really helped me recover my confidence since being ill for 18 months is learning to meditate. I did it online at a site called get me some headspace. I know that sounds unrelated to your op but I really found it helped me to recognise how I was feeling and then to control those feelings. As a result, whenever I have a flare up of my illness now, I recognise what is happening, acknowledge the feelings and then force myself to think positively rather than disappearing down a negative, self hating spiral.

If you can identify the physical and emotional feelings that come with your anxiety (in meetings or elsewhere) and then practise some positive mantras to say to yourself at these times or develop some other coping strategies you may find that you can, over time, change your behaviour.

I've used these principles more recently in trying to lose weight. They are really helping me to break some bad habits just by being more prepared ie "when I feel as if I want to eat a packet of biscuits I'm going to say this" etc. It is working and making me realise that you really can change the way you behave it you like it!

Lilacroses Sat 19-Oct-13 23:06:53

Sorry, I meant you really can change the way you behave if you want to despite how entrenched those behaviours might be.

Lilacroses Sat 19-Oct-13 23:08:13

Me again...yes, very much as LustyBusty says, it's about taming those voices in your head, you have control of the volume or you can completely change the script.

magicalpony41 Sat 19-Oct-13 23:45:35

I think trying to act confident before you feel confident is a bad idea, and often actually makes you feel worse because you're pretending to be someone you're not (and usually not very convincingly). Work on how you feel inside before you worry about what others think about you. Sorry, that's not particularly helpful, but something I have found very important.

magicalpony41 Sat 19-Oct-13 23:48:02

Plus I think people can usually tell when someone is just pretending to be confident...

Housesellerihope Sun 20-Oct-13 08:56:15

Thanks, all, I have gotten a lot out of this thread.

I will check out the books and meditation techniques. I dont have the will to go to therapy at the moment let alone time and money but i will consider it for the future. It's strange, though, because when I stand back and try to be objective I actually do feel quite impressed with myself - sorry I don't mean to brag, just that I have gotten a good education, good job, travelled, etc without any help from family. Growing up and being told I was stupid every day made me determined to prove I wasn't and that determination has had some positive effects that I'm proud of.

I suppose the main thing I don't like about myself is that I feel like I can't do small talk, ie just chatting with people I don't low well and being funny and interesting. I feel boring :-(. Can small talk be learned? Also just get nervous when peop,e are looking at me and end up with a false grimace, I get nervous and it ends up making others nervous, etc. I just wish I could relax and act natural! I know medication could help but when I've tried the side effects have been awful.

I especially like the comments about not assuming people think a certain way about me because I don't know. And besides, I find a lot of people, particularly men, who don't seem to care much whether random people like them or not and this hasn't affected their careers badly at all. This need to be liked and thought of as "normal" (whatever that is) by everyone is possibly putting me under unnecessary pressure and making my anxiety worse than it needs to be? Is it actually ok to just decide to be a nice person, help others when I can, and just not worry about the rest???

Marking my place as I would like to know how to improve my self esteem too.

Delilahlilah Sun 20-Oct-13 09:42:29

I saw a quote yesterday:

I used to walk in to a room full of people, and wonder if they liked me.

Now, I walk in to a room full of people, and wonder if I like them.

That is how I feel now. My strategy with people was the same one I used for exams, what's the worst that can happen? I wonder if you can use that a little, in that you kind of thinking the worst at the moment, so it has to get better from there. Your last sentence above about being a nice person will be exactly why people do like you. I bet more people think better of you than you realise.

Dilidali Sun 20-Oct-13 10:05:12

Sure, small talk can be learnt. But make it positive, every time you feel like saying:isn't the weather awful, stop yourself and say something like:the wonderful summer we had seems so long ago now. Makes sense?

If networking is important in your job, prize information about the others. And remember it. And few days/weeks down the line ask: so, how is your cat/garage door/MIL etc.

Smile, it confuses peoplesmile

My secret weapon is my goal. I don't do anything without a clear smart goal. In my career I know exactly, in minutiae details, what I want to achieve. No, I am not after being THE boss,but I am keeping my eyes on the prize. It is often not what people expect. I like chess. A lot. That helps, because I am thinking strategy, I am sacrificing deliberately, learn from my mistakes and I enjoy the game. Then go home and do my nails, change beds and decorate fairy cakes and write shopping lists and menus.

When you see people at ease with the world, it is often not because of the silver spoon, genetics and luck. It's because they've worked hard at it. smile

DoYourKegels Sun 20-Oct-13 10:18:51

I think it is perfectly fine to decide you are basically doing well but want to practice your social skills.

There are an astonishing number of top professionals who practice those skills, because they don't come naturally.

Ramit Sethi's blog 'I Will Teach You To Be Rich' covers exactly this, amongst other things. He discusses the fact that social/networking skills are important and need addressing to help your career. Worth a look.

Broodzilla Sun 20-Oct-13 10:33:06

I'm not sure I know how to explain this properly, but:

Can you try to focus on how the people that know you (rather than the ones who's "impressions of you", you're worried about) see you? You know, the co-workers who see you as competent, the person(s) who read your kick-ass reports, the person who hired you, the client who brings you repeat business?

Put some time aside to see what they see, acknowledge that they ARE right, tell yourself to believe in their version of you - because they see you for who you really are and they aren't hearing that voice inside you that makes you feel not-good-enough.

Does that make any sense? confused

Because, as someone above said, "fake it 'til you make it" really will just make you feel fake, unless you're confident enough while you're at it.

Good luck! (And really, luck didn't get you where you are - YOU got you there. Through talent and hard work. Own it! wink)

Sahmof3 Sun 20-Oct-13 13:18:51

Watching this with interest as I have similar problems. Just wondered what makes you think that some people think you're weird and incompetent? Has anybody ever said anything to you?

An actress once advised me to think of someone I really admire and can identify with in some way and then to begin to act like them. My acting skills aren't great unfortunately, but perhaps it could work for you.

Do wish you all the best, it is horrible knowing that you are knowledgeable but feeling that you don't present yourself in the best light.

SugarMouse1 Sun 20-Oct-13 14:39:04

Watching with great interest

I had improved my self esteem enough to apply for jobs/ get interviews, got a job, but a week a go I was 'let go of' in the probationary period- why? I wasnt bubbly enough!

I had honestly made LOADS of effort in smiling, chatting, being approachable and as helpful as possible.

I feel like absolute shit now, and that there is no point trying, cos this has just set me back so much, that I don't even want to apply for jobs/ work, I'd rather sit at home and rot if I'm gonna end up feeling like absolute shit anyway.

Sorry for the rant.

Snog Sun 20-Oct-13 15:06:54

SugarMouse1 what kind of job was this? Not all jobs value bubble-ability!

Snog Sun 20-Oct-13 15:07:54

eg I don't expect that a solicitor would be particularly valued for this behaviour...

sonu678 Sun 20-Oct-13 15:09:04

custy once said on mn, that if you want self esteem, then you have to do esteemable things. A bit harsh, but she is correct. once you recognise that you do in fact have plenty of esteemable traits, and actions in your past, self esteem can be built up

Viviennemary Sun 20-Oct-13 15:11:15

Are you in the right job and with the right partner. I think as others have already said this is important for self esteem. And also if you have 'friends' that put you down on a regular basis you should think again about them. I also thing counselling or CBT if you can afford it is a good idea.

TeamEdward Sun 20-Oct-13 16:08:51

I am terrible at small talk. Actually, I'm probably not terrible, but I think that I am and therefore it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
I'm prone to babble on, mostly about myself, and then I panic because I fear they'll think I'm self-centred and uncaring and so I seize up. Really, I have a poor memory for the details of other people's lives and so I talk about myself to cover up the fact I can't remember where their daughter goes to school or if their Mum had a stroke or a heart attack, for example. And that all manifests itself by me not entering into small talk for fear of putting my foot in it and saying something wrong or only talking about myself.

I am working hard on defeating this though. I've made an effort to make eye contact instead of avoiding people. If they initiate the conversation then it's one less thing for me to do.
Also, before talking I've thought of one positive thing to say to someone, in passing. eg "I love that scarf, the colour looks great on you." Generally people are polite enough to pay back a compliment and so not only are you making small talk, but someone else has said something nice about you!

delasi Sun 20-Oct-13 16:33:47

I have read through some of the advice on here and I think the tips may be more useful than mine, in the long run, but still wanted to add in my tuppence worth having been a worrier of these things before and not being too great at getting to know people (and definitely awful at small talk and jokes). These are just my basic go-to reminders when I start to worry.

- remind yourself, out loud, everything that you do and that you are capable of doing. You become much more aware of your capabilities when you make it explicit to yourself. This in turn makes you feel more confident on the whole and better able to communicate those abilities. (just saw your other post about your achievements, do this!)

- if there are people who make you nervous, or put you down, just remember: they're just a person. One man, or one woman. What in their make up makes them any more special than you?! Nothing! They came into this world just as you did and they're going out in the same fashion.

- what's the worst that can happen? (I didn't steal this from Dr Pepper, honest). Seriously. Take it step by step, starting from a particular issue, and hypothesising the various realistic outcomes. I've gone through this so many times and realised that each time I've been anxious over something the worst case scenario is actually something really manageable.

- be your skills. Your posts are great, you sound so confident about how capable you are. So a bit like the first point, make that who you are. You don't have to do small talk or water cooler chats and your physical appearance is not important. You can take your time to get to know people - it doesn't matter if you don't 'click' with people instantly, focus on the professional side and whilst working alongside you they will 'get' you too, just as you say your immediate colleagues do.

Lazysuzanne Sun 20-Oct-13 19:49:51

Sugarmouse if someone told me I wasn't bubbly enough I think I'd be relieved, I see it as being synonymous with silly airhead type

(I know thats no consolation for being 'let go of')

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