By: Kelly Johnson,

Where do we get our self-esteem from, and how do we learn how to gain self esteem? Self-esteem is the reflection of an individual’s overall evaluation of her or his own worth. Everybody at one time or another has struggled with low self confidence. Self-esteem is influenced by our relationships, support systems, parenting styles, childhood, personal assets, perceived successes or failures, and our self-talk.

Self-talk and cognitive distortions

For the sake of this article, we are going to focus on self-talk. What do I mean by self-talk? Self-talk is the dialogue that goes on inside our head all the time. We are constantly evaluating our work ethic, personality, appearance, demeanor, choices, and abilities. Sometimes these evaluations are positive other times they are irrationally negative. Most of the time, these thoughts are automatic and we do not realize we have control over them and can change them.

These negative messages are also called cognitive distortions. A cognitive distortion is defined as a distortion in thinking from the truth. There are many different types of cognitive distortions such as making should statements, dismissing the positive, overgeneralization, all-or-nothing thinking, and mind reading.

An example of self-talk

Let’s explore a real life example with a man name Sam to make this more realistic. Sam has a work project that is due today. Sam went out to his car to get the project and all of a sudden realized he had forgotten the project at home. Sam’s boss seemed disappointed, but told him just to bring it in tomorrow. For the rest of the day Sam gave himself messages like, “You are such a failure,” “You do nothing right,” and “Your boss hates you and thinks you’re worthless.” These statements are overgeneralizations and are simply not true. You can probably imagine that if Sam gave himself messages like this every day, his sense of self-worth would take a plunge.

How to improve self-esteem

We can take practical steps each day to improve our self-esteem by practicing positive self-talk. Now hear me loud and clear, I am not talking about giving ourselves meaningless fluffy self talk, “I think I can; I think I can; I think I can.” There is some validity to this type of thinking; but I am specifically talking about changing our thought process so we are speaking truthfully to ourselves. The first step in changing our thought process is to realize we have control over our thoughts. We can choose to think negative thoughts or reframe the thought in positive language. Here are three steps you can take to get you in the right direction.

  • Keep a thoughts journal where you record your daily negative thoughts. Write down all of the negative thoughts you had that day each evening.
  • After you write these thoughts down, create 2 columns, on the left side write down your uncensored negative thoughts. On the right side reframe the thought making it more truthful and positive. Let’s take Sam’s example to illustrate this point.
    • Put the negative uncensored thoughts on the left side
      “You are such a failure, your boss hates you.”
    • Reframe the thought on the right side—make it positive and realistic
      “You made a mistake, its okay everybody makes mistakes. Your boss thinks you do great work. Next time, maybe write out a list for yourself so you won’t forget.”
  • The third step is to practice this every day, making the automatic negative thoughts less automatic and the truthful thoughts more automatic.

Remember, our thoughts become our reality.

Give yourself messages of self-love, truth, and encouragement each day instead of ridicule, disappointment, and judgment. Furthermore, share this with your friends and family. When you hear them beating themselves down about a situation, correct them and help them replace the thought with a more truthful statement. Self-esteem counseling can also help individuals dramatically with improving their self-talk.

Kelly Johnson is the founding therapist from Aurora, CO with the Colorado Center for Healing And Change. Kelly sees people for a wide variety of issues, but has a special passion for empowering people with a strong sense of self esteem and identity which results in healthier relationships and families.

The original article can be found here: