Photo by Annie Spratt

Building Healthy Self-Esteem

By Susan Finley, Ed.D., NCC

“It’s the repetition of affirmations that leads to belief. And once that belief becomes a deep conviction, things begin to happen.” – Muhammad Ali

Self-Esteem begins to form in early childhood. It is shaped by our thoughts, relationships, and life experiences. Understanding self-esteem and the benefits of cultivating healthy self-esteem is the first step on the road to recovery from substance use and addiction.

Factors that can influence self-esteem include:

  • Your own thoughts and perceptions
  • How other people react to you
  • Experiences at school, work and in the community
  • Illness, disability or injury
  • Culture
  • Religion
  • Role and status in society

How Self Esteem is Formed: As a child, thoughts about yourself are formed from the messages you’ve been given and believed from influential people in your life. These beliefs are what we call dominant thought patterns. They operate on automatic, like a habit, and are the thoughts that trigger (consciously or unconsciously) your feelings and reactions to the circumstances of your life.

Thought Patterns Can Be Changed: When you begin to notice what you are thinking and feeling, you can practice using new thoughts and behaviors. With practice, your new thoughts will become your dominant thoughts, replacing old destructive and maladaptive patterns. Change begins when old behavior/thought patterns are replaced with new behavior/outlook.

Traits of a Healthy Self Esteem:

  • Assertive in expressing your needs and opinions
  • Confident in your ability to make decisions
  • Able to form secure and honest relationships — and less likely to stay in unhealthy ones
  • Realistic in your expectations and less likely to be overcritical of yourself and others
  • More resilient and better able to weather stress and setbacks
  • Less likely to experience feelings such as hopelessness, worthlessness, guilt, and shame
  • Less likely to develop mental health conditions, such as eating disorders, addictions, depression, and anxiety

If your self-esteem is not where you’d like it to be, do not be discouraged. The cultivation of healthy self-esteem can be influenced by honing in on characteristics derived from adversity, such as assertiveness and resilience. Many individuals who have struggled with substance use already have these traits and can draw upon them for strength while working through the difficult process of recovery.

Assertiveness, defined as the quality of being self-assured and confident without being aggressive, is a learned skill and mode of communication.

Resilience, defined as the ability to become strong, healthy, or successful again after something bad happens. Resilience literally means to return to its original shape after an object has been pulled, stretched, pressed, bent, etc. Past negative experiences can actually serve as your greatest asset when building a new life free from drug and alcohol use.

Photo by Mikail Duran

Susan Finley, Ed.D., NCC is an educator, published researcher, and social media consultant. She is a National Certified Counselor (NCC), Distance Credentialed Counselor (DCC) (e-therapy) and Suicide Prevention Instructor (QPR) under the National Board for Certified Counselors.

How to Contact Passages Addiction Treatment Centers:

Call Passages Addiction Treatment Centers today if you or a loved one is battling an addiction to drugs and alcohol. Our admissions department is available 24/7 and can be reached directly by calling our toll-free number at (888) 397-0112. We look forward to speaking with you soon.

Passages, Where Addiction Ends and Life Begins™

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