Building Self-Esteem

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(This article appeared in the May/June 2007 issue of The American Postal Worker magazine.)

Joyce B. Robinson, Research & Education Department Director

Of all the judgment calls we make, none are as important as the ones we make about ourselves. Low self-esteem can lead to a wide range of personal problems, often masking what is truly wrong, and resulting in underachievement, fear of commitment, alcohol or drug abuse, anxiety, and depression. How we feel about ourselves affects virtually every aspect of our lives.

Four Personality Types

Four different basic personality types have been identified: Assertive, Non-Assertive, Aggressive, and Passive- Aggressive.

Assertive people are calm, rational, and self-confident, and they stand up for their rights without violating the rights of others. Assertive people confess to errors without loss of self-esteem; make requests instead of demands; give and receive constructive criticism; communicate openly, honestly and directly; express affection without embarrassment; voice personal opinions, including disagreements, without becoming defensive; take responsibility for their behavior and choices; and say “no” without feeling guilty.

Non-Assertive people are meek and have difficulty dealing with feelings of anger. Non-assertive people suppress their feelings; suffer low self-esteem, psychosomatic illness and hurt feelings; do not look people in the eye; do not refuse unreasonable requests; are indecisive; avoid all difficult situations; and try to please everyone.

Aggressive people are extremely competitive and domineering, and show no regard for the rights of others. Aggressive people humiliate, degrade, belittle, and overpower others; they are stubborn and resistant to change; make demands instead of requests; take credit for others’ ideas and blame others for their own mistakes; express anger in destructive ways; refuse to compromise; and have a chip on their shoulder.

Passive-Aggressive people view themselves as victims. They appear to be open, warm, and extroverted; they may pretend to be your friend, then talk behind your back. They often agree to perform a task, but conveniently forget about deadlines. They exhibit chronic tardiness; act like tigers on the job but like mice in intimate relationships; hold down demanding jobs and manage families, but are unable to say “no.” They may procrastinate consistently, justifying the practice with attempts to instill guilt in other people.

The extent to which each of us possesses the above personality traits contributes — or detracts — from our ability to improve our self-esteem.

Developing Self-Value

Build self-esteem by following these 10 golden rules:

1) Don’t demand perfection from yourself;

2) Reward, comfort, and love yourself;

3) You have the right to decide who and what you want to be without making excuses or apologizing;

4) Set limits and refuse to be manipulated by others;

5) Try to control feelings of inadequacy, fear and guilt;

6) Learn to cope with reality;

7) Don’t blame the world for your problems; try to find solutions;

8) Set realistic, achievable goals;

9) Don’t live in the past; and

10) Learn to take risks. If you don’t succeed, try again.

In addition, learn to exert these nine Basic Inalienable Rights: The right to stand up for your rights without infringing upon the rights of others; The right to consider your needs — and not always last; The right to be treated with dignity and respect; The right to self-fulfillment; The right to make mistakes; The right to change your mind, behavior, and values; The right to be left alone; The right to ask for help (while realizing that others have the right to refuse); and the right to say “no” without feeling guilty.

For additional reading materials on Building Self-Esteem, please visit the following Web pages.

Assertion Training: Be More Competent and Confident With Anyone, by Tom G. Stevens, PhD

Asserting Yourself: A Practical Guide for Positive Change, by Sharon Anthony Bower and Gordon H. Bower

Better Self-Esteem, by Published by The Counseling and Mental Health Center of the University of Texas

Building Self-Esteem: A Self-Help Guide, by the National Mental Health Information Center, United States Department of Health

Things You Can Do Right Away—Every Day—to Raise Your Self-Esteem

Changing Negative Thoughts About Yourself to Positive Ones

Activities That Will Help You Feel Good About Yourself

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