How Beliefs affect Self-Esteem

Beliefs and Self-Esteem

Personal self-esteem isn’t something that a lot of people feel comfortable talking about. When we do discuss it, we generally use terms like healthy or low to describe the condition of our self-esteem. But what is the foundation of self-esteem? If we want to make some improvements in this area, where do we start?

Our beliefs form the basis for our self-esteem. Specifically, our beliefs about our value as a person and what we feel we are or are not capable of.

The way we view ourselves according to those beliefs is either empowering or limiting. We form these beliefs based on the conclusions we draw about our own experiences, especially our estimation of our ability to produce the results we want. Even though our value as a person has little to do with productivity, on an emotional level the two can seem almost inseparable.

How effort influences self-esteem

When our efforts do not produce the results we want it can cause us to doubt our own abilities. If this happens repeatedly, it will likely affect our overall sense of self-worth.

When our efforts in the past have led to pain and disappointment instead of pleasure, it is easy to conclude that further efforts will unavoidably lead to more pain and disappointment.  This type of mindset creates a negative reinforcement loop that feeds on itself.

With each painful experience, fear increases and self-esteem decreases.  Consequently, fear of failure brings with it a lack of commitment. And of course, lack of commitment will lead to disappointing results that reinforce the limiting belief.

Connecting the dots

Every single experience you have provides information to your nervous system through some or all of your five senses. This information is recorded as a memory. When you experience similar events over and over again, it forms an established neurological pathway. In turn, that pathway becomes an established emotional response pattern.

These patterns are outside of our normal thought process and therefore easily overrideour logical reasoning. Once we establish a belief about ourselves we no longer question it. Instead we simply accept it as part of our identity.

Self esteem is always susceptible

This can happen at any point in life.  Our self-esteem is often a carryover from experiences in childhood. But don’t conclude that this is always the case. A series of disappointing events, at any point in life, can batter our perception of who we are and what we are capable of. When our efforts repeatedly lead to pain and disappointment it can have a devastating effect on our confidence and self-esteem.

Whenever something happens in your life, your brain will ask two questions:

1) Is this going to bring me pain or pleasure?
2) What must I do now to avoid the pain and or gain the pleasure?

How you interpret the situation will determine your answers. It will also form the foundation for your future expectations.

We always try to avoid pain

When effort seems to equal pain our mind searches for a reason. All too often, the reasons we come up with are, “I’m not worthy, I’m worthless or I guess I don’t deserve anything good.” Remember, this is not about logic. It’s an emotionally charged response fueled by a natural desire to avoid more pain.

To rebuild our self-esteem requires that we dismantle our limiting beliefs about ourselves and find a way to change how we link pain and pleasure to our life experiences.

There are many ways to accomplish this and I will touch on some of them in future articles, but you don’t need to wait. If you want to dismantle your limiting beliefs and replace them with empowering ones, I highly recommend that you read the reviews of my book, TRUE SELF. This book is designed to walk you through the process. Short of personal coaching, it is the fastest way I know to get your beliefs moving in a positive direction.

Do these connections make sense to you?
Have you ever struggled with the effect of limiting beliefs?
The lines are open!

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  1. Maria February 8, 2011 Reply

    You actually make it seem so easy with your presentation but I find this matter to be really something which I think I would never understand. It seems too complicated and very broad for me. I’m looking forward for your next post, I’ll try to get the hang of it!

    • Jonathan March 15, 2011 Reply

      Hi Maria, my purpose here was simply to draw attention to the connection between beliefs and self-esteem. There a certain skills for dismantling limiting beliefs and replacing them with empowering ones that simplify the whole process. These skills are covered in detail in my book TRUE SELF.

  2. Rocket Bunny March 15, 2011 Reply

    Ok, here goes…
    1) Is this going to bring me pain or pleasure?
    I think this is normal but it shouldn’t create a barrier when trying something new.

    2) What must I do now to avoid the pain and or gain the pleasure?
    I think avoiding something is going to create regret which isn’t going to make you happy.

    Then: People who experience the same results in similar situations have to reevaluate the situations – in other words change their way of thinking. For example: If you have had bad relationships maybe you should change how you meet people or rediscover what the attraction really is that you have for these people.
    Bottom line I agree with you,

    • Jonathan March 15, 2011 Reply

      Hi Bunny, the whole dynamic of moving away from pain and toward pleasure is actually hard wired into us. It is actually connected to our survival instinct. But once we understand how it works we can consciously attach pain to something we want to move away from or avoid (like a bad habit). And we can attach a pleasure anchor to something we want to move toward (like a goal or positive lifestyle change).

  3. Nea March 15, 2011 Reply

    I think the most important thing to realize about self esteem is that it’s not contingent upon anything outside of self. When circumstances, successes and failures determine how we feel about ourselves, there isn’t a true sense of self esteem.

    It’s all about appreciating yourself as someone wonderful, worthy, deserving and precious…not matter what happens outside or around you.

    • Jonathan March 15, 2011 Reply

      Hi Nea, that is certainly the healthiest approach, but it can be a difficult distinction to make on an emotional level. Our culture has a way of linking self-worth with accomplishment. So, many people struggle when it comes to separating the two. Limiting beliefs based on insecurity about ones own worth is probably the most common reason why people suffer from low self-esteem. That’s where we can help!

  4. Steve March 16, 2011 Reply

    Nea has a good point: it’s so important to understand our intrinsic self worth as human beings. Each person is a universe of amazing personality and talents. At the same time, when we increase our competence in worthwhile efforts and pursuits, we enhance that intrinsic sense of self-esteem.

    • Jonathan March 21, 2011 Reply

      Too right Steve, and yet, understanding our intrinsic value analytically is not the same as accepting it emotionally. The emotional anchors that link accomplishment to worth are often established in childhood long before we have the ability to distinguish between the two or understand there relationship to one another. That’s where knowing how to dismantle those limiting beliefs comes in.

  5. Galen Pearl March 16, 2011 Reply

    My mother struggled with feelings of unworthiness all her life. That was so sad. Your post reminded me of a passage from A Course in Miracles. “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.” An interesting, different perspective. Thanks for a thoughtful post.

    • Jonathan March 21, 2011 Reply

      Hi Galen, so sorry about your mom’s challenge. Your comment reminded me of that two sided coin with fear of failure on one side and fear of success on the other. Both can be paralyzing!

  6. John Duffield March 17, 2011 Reply

    Good morning Jonathan. With your permission, I’d like to tell a “Self esteem” story. It starts by asking yourself a question. Here it is. Is the life of a rabbit’s tail worth less than the life of his ears? Go ahead. Ask it. Nobody’s watching. And the answer? It’s a nonsense question, because there aren’t two individual, separate lives there to judge. There’s only ONE life there, and it’s Mr. bunny’s. If you think the life of his ears is worth more than the life of his tail….think again. It’s the same life. Right? Exactly. Okay, but now imagine you and I and everyone else were really different parts of one whole. I’m like the tail and you’re like the ears and others are different parts. We all share ONE life just like the rabbit’s parts do. Is my life worth more than yours? Is someone else’s life worth less than yours? Of course not. Each of us MUST “esteem our lives” exactly the same…..because there’s only ONE life….and it’s ours. Put another way, you and I have the same human worth as the richest, smartest, most accomplished person on the planet. Stop and think about that for a moment. If that was true, you’d always have the highest possible self-esteem. You’d never feel bad about being smaller or poorer or less capable than anyone…..ever. Same for everybody too. Gee. It’d sure be nice if the world was like that. But it isn’t. Is it? It is. And anyone can be taught to see this Truth as well. Yes it takes time and effort to pull back the veil and see it. Even so, it’s there for all of us right now. But that’s another story for another day. Ciao Jonathan. John Duffield

    • Jonathan March 21, 2011 Reply

      John, I am seeing this amazing image in my mind. As I look closer I see that it’s a very rare and valuable book. Now I can see the title, it says: Illustrations that Speak Straight to the Heart by John Duffield. I have read some of its pages and give it my highest recommendation . Oh, for anyone who is interested, if you can’t locate that book then here is another gem from John that is more readily available. It’s called A Cry For Help. It also get my highest recommendation!

  7. Tammy Matthews April 11, 2011 Reply

    I so agree with this. Your past situations and their outcomes determine who you feel you are and what you feel you’re worth.
    If things have gone badly you decide that the pain is not worth even trying.
    If things have gone well we have the strength to stand back up, dust ourselves off and try again.
    If we can learn to let go of those limiting beliefs we can open a whole new world of life for ourselves.

    • Jonathan April 11, 2011 Reply

      Hi Tammy and welcome to Advanced Life Skills. I think one of the greatest threats of limiting beliefs is the fact that they usually operate under the radar of our conscious awareness. Because of this, we look for other ways to explain our behavior. The process of discovering our limiting beliefs, bringing them out into the open, and then dismantling them is one of the most empowering things we can do. I know it sounds abstract for most people, but again, that’s because they are unaware of their existence. That’s really what the first part of TRUE SELF is all about.

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