Low self-esteem: Slay the two headed monster

by | Jan 25, 2023

Self-esteem is the driving force behind everything we do. When it bottoms out, so do we. And the life-altering episodes can go on forever. Low self-esteem? Slay the two headed monster.

Our self-worth is never defined by negative feedback or unpleasant experiences.

Last week I posted Low self-esteem: Beware the two headed monster.

In that piece I described how the two headed monster works, as well as how to neutralize it.

Not long after posting, it hit me that the article needed more in terms of what to do about low self-esteem.

So here in part two, if you will, we’re going to remedy that by talking about self-affirmation.

What is self-affirmation?

Self-affirmation (SA) is a psych theory created by social psychologist Dr. Claude Steele in the late-1980s.

According to SA, each of us, at our core, are motivated to sustain, support, and strengthen our perception of self-integrity.

Self-integrity?

Okay, self-integrity is thinking and behaving in a good and moral manner in accordance with the expectations and demands of one’s culture.

Sustaining a feeling of adequacy is a huge part of the equation.

Get out of the present

So what happens when our self-integrity takes a hit? Makes sense we’d do all we can – within the present setting – to somehow restore a measure of self-esteem.

SA has something else in mind.

When self-integrity is threatened, it’s time to hustle out of that present setting and find a sphere of operation unrelated to the threat.

And it has to be one in which we can acknowledge and take advantage of a personal competency.

The power of self-affirmations

This is where self-affirmations come into play. Here, I’ll give you a personal example…

I love Chipur – the subject matter, writing, helping people – the whole works. And, okay, I think I’m pretty good at it – competent.

Now, when I’m in a situation that’s threatening my self-integrity, I don’t hang around and try to pound home the notion that I’m a good guy.

Instead, I leave the setting and head to another sphere of operation – most often Chipur. There I can write, research, handle a comment, chat with a reader – whatever.

Fact is, I’m grateful to have Chipur to turn to.

One of my self-affirmations

In that situation, here’s a self-affirmation I’m likely to use…

“Okay, you got knocked on your fanny by that one. Let’s get out of here. We’ll head over to Chipur and see what we can see. Yeah, well deserved.”

Self-affirmations don’t have to be that long. But, as you may know, I’m rarely at a loss for words.

Reasonable and healthy management

what is self-affirmation

“Go slowly, Uncle Bill, I’m taking notes. Now, reminds us of who we are…”

See, it’s self-affirmations that enable us to manage threats to our self-integrity in a reasonable and healthy manner. That means we don’t need to turn to defense mechanisms, such as distorted perceptions of reality.

It all serves to amp up open-mindedness and flexibility when we’re dealing with issues that may be difficult for us to accept.

SA – a conscious and willful personal intervention – provides a means of enhancing self-management by helping us move away from our traditional habits of reaction.

Simply, SA reminds us of who we are, allowing us to better tolerate threats to self.

Do self-affirmations really work?

Well, it all sounds great, doesn’t it. But do self-affirmations really work?

Psychologist Dr. Lisa Legault and colleagues conducted a SA study a number of years ago. The results revealed it can indeed minimize anxiety, stress, and the defensive thoughts and behaviors associated with threats to self-integrity.

The team hypothesized that since SA makes us more open to threats and distressing feedback, it likely makes us more attentive and emotionally receptive to errors we may make.

Putting it to the test

To test their hypothesis, the team decided to measure a brain response known as error-related negativity (ERN) – a pronounced wave of electrical activity in the brain that occurs within 100 milliseconds of making an error on a task (stunning, isn’t it?).

So they wired up 38 participants in the lab and went to work. And what do you know, the results showed their supposition to be correct.

Self-affirmation improved the participants’ task performance.

Dr. Legault’s summary…

These findings are important because they suggest one of the first ways in which the brain mediates the effects of self-affirmation.

Practitioners who are interested in using self-affirmation as an intervention tactic in academic and social programming might be interested to know that the strategy produces measurable neurophysiological effects.

And there you have it.

As we close, always keep this in mind. Our self-worth is never defined by negative feedback or unpleasant experiences.

Slay the two headed monster

No doubt in my mind that self-esteem is the driving force behind everything we do. I mean, think about what happens in your world when it bottoms out.

But we don’t have to tolerate those endless life-altering episodes. Not when we can slay the two headed monster.

Be sure to read what we’ll call part one: Low self-esteem: Beware the two headed monster

And bunches of Chipur mood and anxiety info and inspiration articles are looking for company. Jump on those titles.

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