We tend to go through
life evaluating ourselves and others according
to a scale of worth. The idea of
self esteem is the amount of value that we consider we are worth. These
values vary from person to person. Whilst we might rate
ourselves as being of little value, others might rate us much higher. If
we get into the habit of thinking negatively about ourselves, then low self
esteem, or placing little value on ourselves, is the result.
Low self esteem can be a result of negative life
experiences, particularly when we're young and most vulnerable. These
experiences may include being criticised or judged negatively, such as from a
parent or school bullies. As adults, abusive relationships and very
stressful life events can also cause low self esteem.
Low self esteem can
stay low, because of our own self-critical thoughts, which can be triggered by
criticism, or perceived criticism (even if none is intended, we believe we are
Imagine you're given a parrot. This parrot is just a parrot - it doesn't have
any knowledge, wisdom or insight. It’s bird-brained after all. It recites
things ‘parrot fashion’ – without any understanding or comprehension. It’s a
However, this particular parrot is a poisoned and poisonous parrot. It's
been specifically trained to be unhelpful to you,
continuously commenting on you and your life, in a way that constantly puts you
down, criticising you. For example, the bus gets stuck in a traffic jam, and
you arrive at work 5 minutes late. The parrot sits there saying: "There you go
again. Late. You just can’t manage to get there on time can you. So stupid.
If you’d left the house and got the earlier bus you’d have arrived with loads of
time to spare and the boss would be happy. But you? No way. Just can’t do
it. Useless. Waste of space. Absolutely pathetic!"
long would you put up with this abuse before throwing a towel over the cage, or
getting rid of the parrot? We can often put up with the thoughts from this
internal bully for far too long.
can learn to use the antidote: notice that ‘parrot’ – and cover the cage.
"There's that parrot again - I don't have to listen to it", and go and do
something else. Put your focus of attention elsewhere. Be persistent
in your practice! Eventually this poisoned parrot will tire of the towel,
tire of you not responding. You'll notice it less and less. It might
just give up its poison as your antidote overcomes it, or perhaps fly off to
wherever poisoned parrots go.
(Vivyan 2009 - adapted from 'The Malevolent
Parrot" source unknown)
What would a caring
friend say to me in this situation?
What is a kind and constructive way to think about how I can
improve this situation?
Whoever said human beings are supposed to be perfect?
Would a caring mother say this to her child is she wanted the
child to grow and develop?
How will I learn if it's not okay to make mistakes?
strengths - start by writing out a list of things you're good at, or what others
have or do say about you.
Notice the positives
- carry a notepad around, and write down whenever you notice something good or
helpful that you've said, or done, or what others have said about you
At the end of each
day, ask yourself: What have I done or tried today that I've never done or
tried before? What have I done to help other people today? Who has
helped me? What have I enjoyed doing today?