A client once exclaimed, “I am my own worst enemy” and asked what she could do to build her self-esteem.

Based on what I heard in her question, she had a tendency to put herself down or not feel that she was as good as someone else. This is often a self-defeating behavior that truly becomes a way of living.

If you, too, feel this way, first, it might help to look at why you might be your own worst enemy. Certainly, you could go back into your past and perhaps come up with reasons from your childhood as to why you developed this tendency. Some reasons for perpetuating this type of behavior are as follows:

  • fear of not being good enough;
  • tendency to idealize others;
  • tendency to use the self put-down as a way to underachieve and not have expectations for yourself or accept others’ expectations for you;
  • pessimistic and cynical outlook in general;
  • tendency towards self-blame;
  • protection against other people’s jealousy or envy attacks.

The real question is “How can you become your own advocate?” This may call for an entire shift in your consciousness about life and how you participate in it.

For example, what if life is an opportunity to discover what you have to offer the world and what the world has to offer you? What if you are here to discover your true self? Part of this process will involve other people mirroring back to you your strengths and your challenges. When someone compliments you, consider that they may be right about you, no matter how hard it is to accept. Remember that they don’t suffer from the biases you hold about yourself.

You may also be acting in a self-defeating way in order to protect yourself against the jealousy and envy of others. This comes from an attitude that there are not enough good things in life for everyone. For example, if someone puts you down, you may agree that you really aren’t good as a way to keep the person from further attacking.

When you catch yourself putting yourself down, shift your thinking immediately to something about yourself that is positive. Keep a gratitude journal, even if you simply list 3 things each day that you are grateful for about yourself and your life. Write down the compliments that you receive. Remember that there are enough good things in life for everyone!

Participate in consciousness-raising groups or individual work that will help you to re-frame how you treat yourself. You can’t really rid yourself of negative thinking without trying out some positive behaviors and shifting the way you hold things to be.