Ignoring the Problem?

outcast_2_001For several years now, I have focused much of my writing and speaking engagements on self-esteem wounds and the impact of those wounds. I have preached the message that everyone has some self-esteem vulnerabilities and that many have been deeply wounded by past negative experiences. I have tried to speak for those who have difficulty speaking for themselves; the criticized boy who believes himself to be inadequate and stupid or the abandoned girl who sees herself as unimportant or not loveable.

And yet, I’m still shocked at times by the depth of some self-esteem wounds, or by the impact of those wounds. I’m reminded of the extent of the problem in our schools. I imagine the faces of kids who walk the halls every day, trying to act like they have it all together, or just trying to be invisible.

Some cover their insecurities by being loud, trying to be funny or even bullying. Others don’t speak, don’t make eye contact and move silently from class to class until the final bell rings. Some dread lunch because they feel everyone’s eyes focusing on them as they walk through the cafeteria. They imagine a wave of critical thoughts and words following them, as they try to find a table where they won’t be shunned, or worse, asked to move on.

For many, adulthood is better. We learn to worry less about others’ opinions and focus our attention to the tasks at hand. For many, however, the struggle continues throughout life. It doesn’t show, as adults are more adept at acting like they have it all together. Those with deeper self-esteems, those with particularly negative childhood experiences, continue to see themselves as inadequate, unimportant or defective.

Why don’t we do more to address the issue. Why aren’t there more programs in schools, communities or churches to help people rid themselves of their self-esteem wounds. Is it because we don’t care? Perhaps, but I hope not. Is it because we don’t have any idea what to do? That’s a big part of it, but I think the biggest reason is that we still imagine that we are the only ones with such feelings. We believe it when others say they are “fine.” We concluded as children that everyone else was okay, and we maintain the delusion.

Question: Why do you think so little is done to help children and adolescents deal with self-esteem wounds? Tell us what you think.

Who Are You; Really?

“Who are you?” This is an important question, perhaps one of your most important questions in life. It is such an important question because your answer to this question impacts your entire life.Thoughtful woman

Do you perceive yourself to be similar to others or to be different? Do you perceive yourself to be smart, competent and capable, or to be inadequate, incompetent and destined to fail? Do you believe you are likeable and loveable or that you are boring, odd, unimportant or likely to be rejected?

Your beliefs about who you are will greatly influence your decision making. If you believe you are competent and capable, you will be more likely to go after your dreams or desires. You will apply for that promotion, sign up for that course or degree, start that business or tackle that challenging hobby. Your decision making will focus more on whether you want or do not want to do something, not on whether you can or cannot do it. You will be more likely to assume that you can do whatever you want to do.

Also, when you believe you are competent and capable, you are less vulnerable to the inevitable failures in life. You aren’t as likely to be crushed by criticism, nullified by the naysayers, or mangled by your mistakes. You see a poor performance as an exception to who you are rather than a definition of who you are. You move on and try again.

When you believe you are likeable and loveable, you approach social situations with more self-confidence. You enter relationships with an assumption that the other person will like you. You focus your attention on the similarities between you and others, rather than the differences. You expect, and even demand, that others offer you the same respect and courtesy you give them.

When you believe you are likeable and loveable, you are less likely to be crushed by the times when others treat you badly or ignore you altogether. When someone acts distant or unfriendly, you tend to attribute the behavior to some factor in that person, rather than assuming that they treated you that way because of some defective factor in you.

Your answer to the question, “Who am I?” is the core determinant of your self-esteem or self-concept. You can assess your current self-esteem by paying attention to the thoughts passing through you mind, as you go through your day. Watch for self-critical thoughts. Watch for perceptions or anticipations of rejection. Also, pay attention to your choices, both now and in the past. Do your choices suggest that you go after what you want? Do your relationship choices suggest that you expect others to treat you as you treat them?

This week, you can become more aware of your self-esteem. Simply by paying attention, you can gain a better understanding of your answer to the question, “Who am I?”

*Some content taken from Dr. Ledford’s book, “Parables for a Wounded Heart: Overcoming the Wounds to Your Self-Esteem and Transforming Your Perception of You.”

The Power of Your Thinking
By Terry L. Ledford, Ph.D.

Young Woman Biting Her Finger NailAs a man thinks in his heart, so is he.
Proverbs 23:7

You talk to yourself all day. All your waking hours, you are thinking in words and sentences. You carry on an internal conversation with yourself. You comment on events, ask yourself questions and then answer them. This is normal. We all do it, but we usually aren’t aware that we’re doing it.

Have you ever stopped to consider the impact of all this internal chatter? You might be surprised at the degree to which your thoughts influence your mood, guide your perceptions and direct your behaviors. We would all do well to pay attention to the content of our thoughts, and consider their influence on our mood and choices. Have negative thought patterns caused you to experience unnecessary pain or make unhealthy choices?

The power of our thinking is magnified by the sheer volume of thoughts that go through our minds each day. Thousands of words, hundreds of phrases, judging thoughts, assuming thoughts, emotionally charged thoughts, all passing unquestioned into our minds and hearts.

A little internal observation will reveal that we all have habitual patterns of thinking. Some of us tend to think optimistic thoughts and some pessimistic thoughts. Some people are kind to themselves in their thoughts and some are very self-critical. Some people tend to be skeptical of others and some trusting in their thoughts.

This week, pay attention to your thoughts. Notice what you are saying to yourself. Particularly, notice any repeated patterns of negative thinking. Also, notice how your thoughts influence your mood and your behaviors. Was a negative or irritable mood preceded by negative thinking? Was a depressed mood preceded by self-critical or pessimistic thoughts? I believe that a little self-examination will reveal a connection between your self-talk and your life experience.
There are many forms of negative thinking can hurt us. In future posts, I will be addressing several specific types of negative thinking and providing tools we can use to change our thinking and improve our lives. For now, just notice the internal conversation as you go through your day. Become aware of your thoughts, your assumptions and your attributions. Awareness is the beginning of change.

Question: What techniques have you found to be helpful in monitoring your self-talk? Can you see a connection between the quality of your daily life experience and the thoughts that are going through your head?

Hello world!

Heart_ParablesWelcome to “Your Core Value.” My name is Terry L. Ledford, Ph.D. and I’m writing this blog to provide information about the causes of self-esteem wounds and the tools you can use to heal those wounds. My hope is that this blog can stimulate an online community of individuals who are passionate about helping themselves, those they love and even those they will never meet improve their self-esteem.

Once each week, I will provide articles about self-esteem issues and ideas for correcting negative self-beliefs. I will end each article with a question for readers. Hopefully, you will respond to those questions with feedback, a technique that has been helpful for you or an idea to help others.  Readers can then respond to other readers so we have a conversation, not just a monologue.

Many of the ideas I provide will be based on my recent book, “Parables for a Wounded Heart: Overcoming the Wounds to Your Self-Esteem and Transforming Your Perception of You.” Of course, I will be gathering new information as we go along and sharing that as well. I see this as an ongoing process. The direction of the community will depend on you as much as me. I know that I don’t have all the answers and look forward to your feedback.

We’ll cover this in much more detail later, but here is my basic premise about the origins of self-esteem wounds:

Children are not born with a negative or positive self-esteem. However, from the time they realize that they are beings, separate from the world, they begin looking for answers to the question, “Who am I?” They look to the reactions of their parents and other family members first. Then they look at the reactions they receive from teachers, other children and others. When children experience criticism, rejection or abuse, they conclude that there is something wrong with them that somehow warranted those experiences. They come to believe that they are inadequate, unimportant or defective. They believe that it must be their fault. Without intervention, these negative self-beliefs follow the child into adulthood and through the rest of their life.

These learned self-beliefs can be seen in the intelligent person who believes he is stupid or the kind, loveable person who believes that she is unimportant. The beliefs are also seen in the sexually abused child who believes the abuse was her fault. Without question, we know that these beliefs are wrong in others, but often fail to apply that knowledge to ourselves.

Question #1: What do you believe is the impact of low self-esteem or self-esteem wounds in our society? You can leave your comments by clicking here.