Depression is becoming widely accepted as a valid illness and while many people are still reluctant to speak of the depression they may be experiencing, they generally find that once they do it is a relief. In fact, what they find is that most people they speak to have either experienced depression in some form themselves or have someone they know that has had a similar experience.
Speaking of depression and realising that most people are supportive, although perhaps don’t always understand, can play a large role in helping the recovery from this illness. It is wonderful that we are starting to be more aware and accepting of this illness.
However, one of the things that we as a society rarely address or speak openly of is low self-esteem that seems to affect so many people. I always see low self-esteem as an issue when a client presents with depression. If the depression is event based and generally mild and short term, this isn’t always a part of it. However, in any form of moderate to severe depression, I have yet to work with anyone with depression who has a healthy view of themselves.
Therefore, there seems to be a strong link between self-esteem and depression. Improving self-esteem can play a large role in recovering from depression and it is this view of ourselves that we need to pay attention to and change if we want to fully recover. In fact, when working with depression, this can be a key area to address to help make some real change.
When I ask most people with depression to describe themselves or how they perceive others to see them, there is often a list like this:
- Ugly, unattractive, overweight
- A failure
- Not good enough
- Socially inept (or socially alright but it a pretence)
- A fraud
The list is often consistent regardless of how a person looks or what they have achieved in their lives. Many of these people would be considered very attractive and incredibly successful but not in their own eyes. To others looking in, they appear to be a normal, functioning person. To themselves, they are never quite good enough and it is a façade that they are putting on for people.
They are not basing their self-view on reality, but on the distorted thoughts that they have of themselves. They are able to look at other people clearly, but not at themselves in the same way. When people give them compliments, they may be able to say thankyou and generally look uncomfortable, but often they push the compliment away, as in their eyes it is not true and it is embarrassing to hear.
Sometimes people with low self-esteem will talk themselves up to others in an attempt to keep up the pretence and not allow others to see how they really feel about themselves. In particular, they may speak of the assets they have to try and prove to you that they are in fact successful when they doubt it themselves.
What are the signs of low self-esteem?
- Being very critical of yourself
- Being a perfectionist
- Paying no attention to achievements
- Using negative words to describe yourself (fat, ugly, stupid, a failure)
- Having trouble accepting compliments
- Allowing others to treat you in a manner which is not acceptable
- Having difficulty saying no
- Avoiding activities so as not to be judged by others
- Become an overachiever to try and cover up or compensate
- Exhibit self-harming behaviours such as drinking/drug abuse or eating disorders
- Lacking in self confidence
In terms of treating depression, it is important to address the self-esteem and improve it, or they will be more susceptible to the depression again in the future.
Most of the time, we have a chatter going on in our head. “I need to pay that bill”, “I’m running late and the traffic is a nightmare”, “I’m looking forward to that movie” etc. For people with low self-esteem, this chatter has a distinctly negative slant. There may be some areas that they are in fact confident in, but a lot of the self-talk is negative. “They say I did a good job but I know they didn’t mean it”, “That person is looking at me, they must think I’m ugly”, “I can never get anything right”.
For some people, this voice has been there for so long and is so consistent, that they are not even aware that it is there anymore. If you don’t feel so great about yourself and are not sure if your self-esteem is healthy, tune into the voice in your head and see what is positive and what is negative. Don’t make a judgement on whether it is real or distorted, just on the slant of what you are saying to yourself.
If you notice that you are quite negative (you will think it is justified), then you probably need to work on your self-esteem. There are plenty of ways to help boost it yourself, but if they don’t work, then get some help to change it because changing this does have a big link to being resilient to depression.
Ways to help improve your self-esteem
- Write a list of all the things you are good at or the positives you see about yourself
- Practice saying ‘No’ to people
- Say ‘Thank you’ to a compliment even if you don’t believe it
- Set small achievable goals and celebrate when you reach them
- Surround yourself with positive people who treat you well
- Write a list of your existing achievements
- Try and be present in the moment and not looking into the future for problems
These are just a few small ways that you can start to work on your self-esteem on your own. Obviously depression is more complex than just improving self-esteem, but it does play a large role and working on your self-esteem can have benefits in many areas of your life. Tune into your head today and see how you really feel about yourself.
If you have a self-esteem problem and need a professional help, please call me on 0468 950 420 for a FREE 10-minute consultation to discuss your needs and find out how I can help you or press BOOK NOW button to find my available appointment and schedule an online booking.Sharon Chapman Professional Counsellor Affinity Counselling 0468 950 420 firstname.lastname@example.org www.affinitycounselling.com.au