Depression is often lurking in the shadows. When you are depressed, most often you think that you are worthless. The worse the depression, the more you feel this way. Fortunately, you are not alone!

A survey by Dr. Aaron Beck revealed that over 80 percent of depressed people expressed dislike for themselves. According to Dr. Beck, when you are depressed, you feel “The Four Ds”:

  • Defeated,
  • Defective,
  • Deserted, and
  • Deprived.

Also, most counselors find that depressed individuals see themselves as deficient in those qualities of life they most highly value: intelligence, achievement, popularity, attractiveness, health and strength. And almost all negative emotional reactions cause damage by contributing to feelings of low self-esteem. The way a therapist handles these feelings of inadequacy is crucial to the treatment, as your sense of worthlessness is a key to your depression.

How can you increase your sense of “worth”? You cannot earn it through what you do. Happiness is not obtained solely by your achievements. Self-worth based on accomplishments is “pseudo-esteem”; it’s simply not the real thing.

Cognitive therapy, as taught by Dr. Beck, refuses to buy into an individual’s sense of worthlessness. Instead, his techniques help people to understand and address those factors that contribute to low self-esteem.

Some Specific Methods for Boosting Self-Esteem

  1. Talk Back To That Internal Critic!! A first method to boosting self-esteem involves your internal self-critical dialogue that generates a sense of worthlessness. For example, thoughts such as “I’m no damn good” or “I’m inferior to other people” contribute to feeling bad about yourself. To overcome this self-defeating mental habit, three steps are needed:
    • Train yourself to recognize and write down the self-critical thoughts as they race through your mind;
    • Learn why these thoughts are distorted; and
    • Practice talking back to them so as to develop a more realistic self-evaluation system.
  2. Develop Mental Biofeedback. A second useful method to boosting self-esteem involves monitoring your negative thoughts. You can set aside 10 to 15 minutes each day and write down your negative thoughts. Initially, each time you do this, the number of thoughts increases. This occurs because you get better at identifying them. After about a week you reach a plateau, and then after three weeks the number of negative thoughts goes down. This indicates that your harmful thoughts are diminishing, and you are getting better.
  3. Cope, Don’t Mope. People often make the mistake of viewing their images in a global way, making moralistic and negative judgments. This approach tends to cloud the issues, creating confusion and despair, and can block our ability to deal with real problems that lie beneath these judgments. Once we get rid of our negative thoughts, we can define and cope with any real problems that exist.

Getting Help to Get Better

As shown here, there are a number of things you can do on your own to improve your self-esteem. It is often the case, however, that low self-esteem is one piece of a larger set of issues that may be quite challenging to address all on your own. People who find that they have a lot of difficulty seeing themselves realistically or addressing the underlying problems in their lives may benefit from the services of a mental health professional. A trained and experienced therapist can help you to identify and address the issues that underlie low self-esteem and set you on the road to feeling better.