That little voice inside your head tells you that you've messed up - again.
Or maybe you’re just not smart enough to get that job, your hips are too big for that dress, you don’t deserve to be happy or you couldn’t possibly add anything interesting to that conversation.
Low self-esteem – and the negative internal chatter that comes with it – weighs down many women.
It can limit the activities they get involved in, the clothes they wear, the career opportunities they pursue and their ability to make friends.
It can also influence their choice of partner and what they’re prepared to put up with from the people in their lives.
‘‘Low self-esteem can mean that people don’t treat us as well as they should,’’ says Relationships Australia psychologist Danielle Ollington.
‘‘Our vulnerability or sense of fragility about us enables people to cross boundaries they wouldn’t cross with someone else.’’
So why do so many women have trouble accepting, respecting, trusting and believing in themselves? Ollington says it’s often because they’re still carrying around messages from childhood, such as taunts from siblings or things their parents did or didn’t say.
Abuse, suffered as a child or in adult relationships, can also erode self-esteem.
Children who lose a parent through divorce or death or who feel neglected are also prone to self-esteem problems in later life.
Ollington says self-esteem issues often emerge at times of challenge and change, such as during adolescence, after becoming a parent, during menopause and at times of grief.
It can create a feeling of emptiness that sufferers often try to fill with alcohol, drugs and other addictive behaviours.
Ollington says women can have high self-esteem in some areas of their life and low in others, such as a woman who feels strong and purposeful at work but defeated on the home front, or vice versa.
Negative thoughts and self-talk are common signs. Others include comparing yourself unfavourably with others, or not doing or trying something because you’ve already decided it won’t end well.
A key to improving poor self-esteem is to challenge negative self-beliefs and replace them with positive affirmations.
‘‘Being in charge of our own minds is one of the greatest powers we can have,’’ she says.
‘‘Catch yourself when you think negative thoughts and change them to something positive, such as ‘I accept all the different parts of myself ’.’’
Relaxation techniques, such as yoga and meditation, and looking after yourself physically and psychologically are also important.
Physical care includes eating well, exercising, getting enough sleep and taking any necessary medication.
Psychological care might involve writing in a journal, making time for self-reflection or having therapy.
Spending time with people who make you feel good and indulging in activities you enjoy can help meet emotional needs, while spiritual care might include spending time with nature, allowing yourself to be inspired, or getting involved in worthy causes and praying.
And finally, Ollington recommends striving for a balance in your work, family, relationships, play and rest.
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