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Is Your Self-esteem Feeling Battered?

Is Your Self-esteem Feeling Battered?

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'I don't think I've ever felt that great about myself,' a client I'll call Jenny said to me. 'But some days my self-esteem is below sea level.' You too have probably had days when yourself-esteem feels battered. There are a lot of reasons why people don't feel so good about themselves, whether this is temporary or something that has been with them for years. But to be sure, an HIV diagnosis'and the ongoing challenges that arise along the way'can in turn have an effect on self-esteem. The good news is that you don't have to continue feeling this way. Here's how to get started: >Stop comparing yourself to other people. There is always going to be somebody better-looking, more successful, more popular. If you look to other people as your yardstick of success, you are always going to come up short. Each of us is unique. >Do an inventory of your strengths and accomplishments. Make a list of what you are good at and what the people you care about rely on you for'along with what you have accomplished so far'and keep it updated. Read through it when you feel your self-esteem slipping. Instead of listening to that voice inside of you that recites all of the things that you aren't, tell it to shut up, and then focus on what's going right in your life. >Do some housecleaning. Look around your environment and identify anything that drags you down. This might literally mean cleaning up your living space and stocking up on healthier food. But also identify any activities or bad habits that interfere with you being the best person possible. >Consider adding some new challenges. Take the risk of trying something that enhances you in some way'a new responsibility at work, a diet and exercise plan, a new hobby, or volunteer gig, or approaching someone who might be a potential friend. Don't expect to be perfect! Just taking a small step outside of your comfort zone is a big step forward and a great ego booster. >Refuse to buy into the judgments of others. While constructive criticism can be helpful, tell the people who constantly point out your weaknesses that this is unacceptable. And spend more time with people who build you up. >Consider talking to a counselor or therapist. Don't be afraid to look for some help'preferably from someone who has experience with HIV issues'to assist you to identify what's bringing down your self-esteem and to strategize with you on what to do to change it. >Don't wait to 'feel better' before you take action in your life. Your daily life is a living laboratory for conjuring up your own recipe for building up your self-esteem. Jump in and get started. You'll surprise yourself with the results. McClain is a licensed counselor in New York City with a specialty in coping with chronic and life-threatening health conditions. His books include The Complete Idiot's Guide to Breaking Bad Habits and Empowering Your Life With Joy, and he is a frequent contributor to health-related publications.

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