Challenge how you think about yourself

I have had a low self-esteem for all my life. I always compare myself to other people and am always negative about myself. I need help to put this behind me.

Having a low self-esteem can be caused by different experiences including bullying or abuse in the past.

Many people struggle with low self-esteem (often unknowingly) for years, and this can be very debilitating. It is recommended to try to understand why you have low self-esteem which will help in limiting negative self talk.

It can be helpful to identify and challenge negative self talk and associated beliefs that you hold about yourself. This includes asking yourself, “Would I say or think this of a friend or someone I love?”

Challenging negative self-talk may help improve your self-esteem over time, but it is best when you practise this consistently.

Mindfulness practices are highly recommended for dealing with negative thoughts and beliefs.

There are many free mindfulness apps that you can download.

You may also want to spend more time with people who respect and value you and avoid people who constantly put you down or criticise you.

Improving your habits may also help to improve your self esteem as the experiences of the mind and the body are often inextricably linked. This would entail that you find ways to take care of your body, including eating healthily, sleeping sufficiently, exercising regularly, and spending time in nature as often as possible.

Social media has also been found to contribute towards negative self-evaluation as people often only post their best aspects and this is not the full picture of their lives.

Social media images and stories are often unnaturally “perfect” and highly constructed to present snapshots of a perfect life. Limiting gadget and social media time can reduce anxiety and negative self evaluation.

Talking to others also helps to gain more of a balanced view of yourself. This may include that you talk to people who care about you and ask them what they know to be your strengths and skills. Often this may differ vastly from the negative view that you hold of yourself.

Another vital aspect is to learn to set boundaries, value your time and skills and say no to others. Learning to do this helps boost self-confidence.

Many people with low esteem think they need others’ approval but this is often not the case. You need to learn to love and approve of yourself first and foremost.

However, an ongoing problem may best be dealt with by consulting a mental health professional.

I am a big fan of reading your columns. I think I have a paranoid personality disorder. It is affecting my relationship with my partner, and I have decided to reach out to you for help.

Thank you for sharing your experience and reaching out for help in spite of your condition. Paranoid personality disorder is an unwarranted tendency to interpret the actions of other people as deliberately threatening or demeaning.

The disorder, surfacing by early adulthood, is manifested by an omnipresent sense of distrust and unjustified suspicion that leads to persistent misinterpretation of others’ intentions as being malicious.

People with this disorder are usually unable to acknowledge their own negative feelings towards others but do not generally lose touch with reality.

They will not confide in people, even if they prove trustworthy, for fear of being exploited or betrayed.

They will often misinterpret harmless comments and behaviour from others and may build up and harbour unfounded resentment for an unreasonable length of time.

This kind of behaviour can be especially challenging for intimate relationships.

The recommended treatment is both medication, to treat the anxiety symptoms and any psychotic or delusional symptoms, as well as long-term psychotherapy.

It may be difficult to trust a psychotherapist, but this kind of treatment is the most highly recommended for this condition. Contact a registered mental health professional for an assessment and further consultations.

I believe in God, but I have not been feeling happy and at peace for a while now. I try to be positive and hopeful, but nothing helps. I am not sure what to do.

I would suggest that you be assessed by your general practitioner or a mental health professional as it is difficult for me to assess your situation unless more is understood about your condition.

It may be that you are having spiritual “crisis”, where you feel that you have lost touch with a deeper connection to life and your higher power, or it may be that you are struggling with a psychological difficulty such as depression and need an appropriate psychological or psychiatric intervention.

For this reason, it would be best that you visit a health professional who can provide you with a thorough assessment of your condition and provide you with more clarity.

This will enable you to understand more clearly the way forward in terms of your mental health and/or spiritual growth.

I read your article “Learn the science of happiness” (February 14), which was very interesting and wanted to share what I found on a primary school classroom wall: “PAUSE… Stop shifting the blame Bring in some positivityAllow place for God”.

Thank you for sharing this. I agree that it is important to pause regularly before we do anything or even say something.

We get used to rushing through things and doing and saying the first thing that comes to mind. We then wonder why we feel so stressed and anxious in our daily lives.

Taking time to stop and be still, even if just for a moment to catch our breath, can help significantly in terms of how we feel for the rest of the day. Blaming others is never a solution to problems but only prolongs the possibility of growth.

Taking ownership for your side of the problem and wondering about how the problem can be solved together has so many benefits including building a sense of community and connection to others.

Finally, I suppose pausing is one of the important ways of allowing “a place for God”. It is inspiring to know that some primary school children are being encouraged to think about and practice these valuable life skills.

Carin-Lee Masters is a clinical psychologist. Write to her at Send a WhatsApp message or SMS to 082 264 7774.