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Low Self-Esteem – Shed This 1 Mindset For a Brighter Year

Happy woman holding a flower

For years, I had trouble driving at night. I was practically blinded by oncoming headlights, so in the interest of safety, our marriage, and lower blood pressure, my husband always drove after sundown.

That was before the yellow glasses.

The glasses belonged to my grandfather, who died a long time ago. Despite their age, the glasses are surprisingly intact and the citrus-coloured lenses bear few scratches. As a truck driver, my grandfather spent a lot of time on the road and as soon as I put the glasses on, I understood why they were indispensable to him.

With those lenses on, blinding white headlights become a much less problematic warm yellow. Actually, when I wear them everything is tinged with yellow; I sometimes marvel at the weird hues in the sky as the sun’s last rays fade.

Wearing those yellow lenses doesn’t change reality, but it does change how I perceive reality. I put them on when I need them and remove them when I don’t. They are, in short, immensely helpful.

Alas, not all lenses are so helpful.

The lenses I’m referring to are mental lenses. These lenses, or mindsets, include our fears, prejudices, biases, perceptions, assumptions, and beliefs, and they deeply affect how we perceive the world around us. Often we don’t even know we are wearing them.

For this last post of the year, I want to focus on just one lens, a mindset that is immensely unhelpful. That mindset is low self-esteem and it might just be the #1 thing we need to let go of as we begin a new year.

Here’s why. Low self-esteem profoundly affects almost every aspect of an individual’s life, including their decisions, relationships, and overall mental health.

Importance of Overcoming Low Self-Esteem

Improved Mental Health: Building self-esteem is integral to fostering better mental health and emotional well-being. A healthier self-view reduces the risk of depression and anxiety.

Better Relationships: A strong sense of self-worth leads to healthier relationships. When we value ourselves, we are more likely to seek out and cultivate relationships that are respectful, supportive, and loving.

Enhanced Decision-Making: With higher self-esteem, we trust our judgment and make decisions that align with our values and aspirations, leading to a more fulfilling life.

Increased Resilience: A healthier self-view equips us to handle setbacks and challenges more effectively, fostering resilience and a growth mindset.

Unlocking Potential: Overcoming a low sense of self-worth can unleash potential in various life areas, including career, academics, hobbies, and personal development.

Autonomy and Empowerment: Healthy self-esteem promotes a sense of autonomy. We feel empowered to make choices for ourselves and live in a way that is authentic and satisfying.

There’s another really important reason to overcome low self-esteem and it has to do with something called confirmation bias.

So, What Exactly is Confirmation Bias?

Simply put, confirmation bias is our brain’s tendency to search for, interpret, and remember information in a way that confirms our pre-existing beliefs. If we believe we’re not good enough (and haven’t we all been there), our brain will almost automatically look for evidence to back this up.

Why It’s a Big Deal

For anyone struggling with low self-worth, confirmation bias is particularly problematic. It is like a constant background app, draining our battery. Worse still, it distorts how we perceive the world. We’re more likely to notice, remember, and give importance to experiences that validate our feelings of not being good enough. This can affect everything—from how we interpret a friend’s comment to how we perceive our performance at work.

Brené Brown puts it this way:

Don’t walk through the world looking for evidence that you’re not enough, because you will always find it.

If we’re convinced we’re not a people person, guess what? We’re likely to hone in on every awkward interaction, ignoring the times we have pleasant conversations. If we believe we are not good enough, confirmation bias ensures that we will find evidence of that belief at every turn.

Confirmation Bias and Low Self-Esteem

Selective Attention: Low self-esteem makes us more likely to notice and focus on information or events that reinforce our negative beliefs about ourselves. We may pay more attention to minor criticisms while overlooking praise or positive feedback.

Interpretation Bias: The way we interpret ambiguous or neutral situations can be skewed by low self-esteem. We might interpret a friend’s busy schedule or a colleague’s neutral comment as personal rejections or criticisms.

Memory Bias: Confirmation bias also affects memory. We are more likely to recall past experiences that align with our negative self-view, such as failures or embarrassing moments, rather than successes or positive experiences.

Self-Fulfilling Prophecy: Here’s the kicker – sometimes, this bias can lead to our beliefs becoming reality. Expecting to falter in a presentation can make us so nervous that we actually end up messing it up.

Impact on Relationships: In relationships, confirmation bias can lead to misinterpretations. We might misread others’ behaviours as signs of disinterest or dislike, which can strain relationships and lead to social withdrawal.

Overcoming Confirmation Bias

But here’s the good news: We can turn this around. We can choose to let this year be the year we put on a different pair of glasses and see the world, and ourselves, in a new light. Start with these steps.

  1. Awareness is Key: The first step is to recognize when confirmation bias is at play. Catch ourselves in the act. Are we interpreting situations through an old, unhelpful belief?
  2. Challenge Our Perceptions: Start actively looking for evidence that contradicts our negative beliefs. For every self-critical thought, we can ask ourselves: “Is this the whole picture?” “Is there a more positive way of looking at this?”
  3. Celebrate the Positives: Keep a journal of positive feedback and achievements, no matter how small. Over time, these pages will start to challenge the narrative we’ve been holding onto.
  4. Seek Support: Because we all have blind spots, sometimes we need an external perspective. A trusted friend, a coach, or a therapist can help us see the angles we might be missing.
  5. Mindfulness and Reflection: Practice mindfulness. It helps us step back and observe our thoughts without immediately accepting them as truths.

The Real You, Waiting to Be Seen

Imagine the end of this current year. What would it feel like to look back on a year where you saw yourself not through the distorted lens of bias, but for who you truly are. Imagine the decisions you would make, the opportunities you would seize, and the joy you would feel.

This isn’t just a dream; it’s a real possibility. Every step we take to recognize and challenge our confirmation bias and build a healthier self-worth is a step towards a more authentic, fulfilling life.

I’ll finish this post with the words of Louise Hay:

You’ve criticized yourself for years and nothing’s changed. Try approving of yourself and see what happens.

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