Archive for July, 2011

What increases and decreases someone’s self-esteem?

Everybody wants it. The amount you have changes hour to hour, day to day. How you get it depends on two factors: how you think others view you, and the perceived control you have over your life. When you don’t have it, you’re not happy. When you have it, you feel great. What is it? Self-esteem.

How much do you know about this illusive, have-to-have-it-for-happiness quality? Some recent research findings might surprise you.

Getting in trouble with your boss will not necessarily lower your self-esteem. If you’re a person who doesn’t care about what others think and tend to do what you please, your boss’s criticism won’t faze your self-esteem one iota. On the other hand, if you’re a pleaser and your boss is unhappy with your performance, expect your self-esteem to take a tumble. Too many tumbles and you may find yourself heading for a depression.

Most people tend to exaggerate their abilities and as a result boost their self-esteem. Because people have a need to see themselves as successful, they have learned to overestimate their abilities and underestimate their shortcomings. Call it our ability to figure out a way to feel good about ourselves.

People who have low self-esteem often report feeling a high level of stress, as well as depression. Modern society greatly emphasizes personal achievement. When a person doesn’t measure up, he often blames himself, with bad feelings the result.

People who are loved and admired as well as successful will almost always have high self-esteem. High self-esteem involves a favorable evaluation of self. When one is loved and admired, it’s easy to view oneself in a favorable light.

Self-esteem may vary greatly hour to hour but it tends to remain pretty much the same through the years. It’s easy to understand how landing a big sale will boost one’s self-esteem one hour and a fight with a friend will lower it the next, but why self-esteem remains somewhat constant year to year no one knows. Maybe we’ll find that self-esteem is also linked to our genetic makeup.

People with high self-esteem expect to succeed in whatever they undertake. Perhaps this is so because the high self-esteemers already have a number of successes under their belt. So why wouldn’t they be optimistic that the success pattern will continue? If you want to raise your self-esteem, all you have to do is compare yourself to one who is doing worse than you. Most people use the mechanism of downward comparisons to boost their own self-esteem. Looking around for someone who is worse off or has less talent is a universal practice to maintain one’s own self-esteem.

People with high self-esteem usually cope better with failure. Research has shown that when people with high self-esteem fail, they defend harder and blame others more, thus keeping their self-esteem intact.

People with low self-esteem have a more difficult time taking risks than those in the high self-esteem category. People with low self-esteem will guard against further erosion of their self-esteem, thus the lack of risk taking.

When a person acts unethically or immorally, he or she will downplay the consequences of the bad behavior to maintain self-esteem. People are masters at deluding themselves and believing that their behavior isn’t really all that bad.

Self-esteem has a high impact on happiness. The more self-esteem one has, the more happiness one experiences. Perhaps this is why we delude ourselves about our talents and abilities, how much we’re loved and admired, and how our immoral and unethical behavior affects others.

Doris Wild Helmering, “The Neighborhood Counselor”

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Stop thinking about making changes in your life, and start doing something about it.
Today is the Day to Change Your Life .

Maybe your complaint is, “We rarely do anything as a family.” Pack up the children and head for the zoo. You can take four hours out to do something together. If one or two family members can’t go, take those who can.

If you say, “We never get together with friends,” call another family and meet them at the park with a bucket of fried chicken. It will take all of an hour to get everyone ready and pick up the chicken.

Need to move to a bigger or smaller house? Look at the real estate ads and go for a drive. Maybe stop at a few open houses. It’s a beginning.

Do you spend all your time working, cleaning, paying bills? Set a time — one o’clock, two o’clock, and at that hour no matter what, get out of the house. Go to a movie, go for a bike ride, go to a driving range.

If you’re having a family get-together and you think you do all the work, ask others to help out.

If you keep saying, “We need to visit Aunt Lucy,” get your calendar and set a date. Don’t put it off.

Dislike your messy garage each time you pull your car in? Take one hour today and start cleaning it. It’s amazing how much you can accomplish in an hour.

Drink too much on Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays? Decide how many drinks you’ll allow yourself and stick to your limit.

If you have frequently thought, “Jim and I should be out there walking,” go for it. Throw on those walking shoes and get moving. If Jim says no, go anyway. Maybe your teenager or neighbor will join you on your walk.

How many times have you said, “I’ve got to get back on track with my exercise program.?” This is the day. Dust off that treadmill or stationary bike and start your program the minute you finish reading this blog.

Sometimes the most difficult part of change is getting the courage up to start the process.

Doris Wild Helmering, “The Neighborhood Counselor”

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How to react when your child accomplishes something.

Show pleasure in your child’s success. Smile, laugh, clap your hands, give her a hug, invite him to take a bow. When children are praised for a job well done, they’re likely to try hard to present to you another job well done.

Doris Wild Helmering, “The Neighborhood Counselor”

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No one escapes life without pain and disappointment. This is the first noble truth Buddha taught. Life is pain. Life is suffering.

I look around me. Every person I know has had pain — physical pain and emotional pain. The death of a child. A chronic illness. Loss of a mate. Loss of a parent. Affairs. Lost jobs. Divorce. Problems with friends. Financial problems. Betrayals. Law-suits. A difficult child. Alcohol problems. Issues with drugs. Car accidents. Broken bones. Cancer. Infertility. In-law problems. Problems with aging parents. I could fill several books with my friends’ sufferings and ten more with some of the sufferings my clients have had to endure.

Life doesn’t provide us with only big hurts; it also gives us plenty of little thumps and bumps along the way. For example: A child won’t cooperate and do his homework; the toilet stops up; the electrician doesn’t come when you’ve taken off work; your fourteen-year-old “borrows” the family car; your mother is overly critical; a mate rejects you sexually; the refrigerator breaks down; the hot water heater goes out; a friend burns a hole in your furniture and pretends she didn’t do it. This is life.

Some months, some years are better. I sometimes think, “This is good. Everything is fine, only a little suffering these last few months.”

When pain comes into your life, how do you deal with it? Do you get angry? Cry? Withdraw and feel depressed? Put one foot in front of the other and keep on marching? Focus on something new? Obsess and think, “Why me?” and “It’s not fair.” Do you look for insight in reading and talking with others? Do you ask God for help? Do you work with a therapist? Do you push the sadness away by refusing to think about it?

How you deal with your pain is what makes the difference. How you deal with it is what makes you greater or lesser. It makes you the person you are and can become.

Doris Wild Helmering, “The Neighborhood Counselor”

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How does someone cope who is in chronic pain?

Amanda has had a constant headache for over twenty years. Every day she’s in pain. She started having headaches in the early eighties. By the late eighties, they were daily occurrences. In the beginning Amanda attributed her headaches to stress. She had three teenagers, a busy preschooler, and a demanding full-time job as a graphic designer. She took a lot of over-the-counter medication and tried to ignore her aching head.

“In the morning when I opened my eyes there was pain,” she said. “On the way to the shower I’d be taking my medication. I’d think, `I’ll get in the shower, and my headache will get better.’ “Then I’d think, `I’ll eat something and it will get better.’

“I’d get to work and think, `I’ll get a cup of coffee and it will get better.’

“I’d then say to myself, `It’s not getting better. But maybe after I eat lunch.’

“Finally I couldn’t ignore my headaches any longer.”

Amanda’s internist sent her to biofeedback sessions with a psychotherapist and to a psychiatrist. “The psychiatrist tried some of this medication, and more of that, and less of this,” she said. “Nothing worked.

”She went to a university pain management program. There Amanda worked with a physical therapist who helped her with upper-back exercises, thinking the problem was muscular. The pain specialists also had her go to an aerobics class three times a week. Nothing worked.

She had sinus surgery because her sinus cavity was misshapen and the doctors thought perhaps that was causing the problem. “My sinus surgery was the most painful experience I’ve ever had,” she related. “Worse, it didn’t help the headaches.

“I went to several eye doctors to make sure the problem wasn’t visual. I saw my dentist for the possibility of temporomandibular joint dysfunction. I had two MRIs and a CAT scan.

“I went to a special headache clinic. They put me on a tyramine-free diet and presently regulate my medication. But I still have the constant pain.

“Sometimes I think if a doctor told me to get up on the table and bark like a dog, I’d do it.

“I’ve had acupuncture. I’ve seen allergists, chiropractors, a reflexologist, a hypnotherapist, and several massage therapists. I’ve even visited a psychic. I’ve used relaxation techniques. I’ve had medication in every category that is prescribed for headaches. I’ve counseled with my minister. I’m now attending a therapy group to keep me from getting discouraged.

”Fourteen years ago Amanda had to take a permanent leave of absence from her job which she loves.

When I asked Amanda how she deals with the pain, she started crying. Along with her tears, she half laughed and said, “Well, I cry. The only problem with crying is that it makes my head hurt more.

”She said, “I go to bed with an icepack. I read books on headaches. I do neck-stretching exercises. I pray about one hundred times a day saying, `Please, God, take this pain, I’ve had enough.’ I get mad at my headache and push myself to do housework or take my daughter to gymnastics. I take hot showers that beat on my head. My family gives me head and neck massages. At this point I’m willing to do anything that seems reasonable. I’m waiting for the miracle.

”I’ve known Amanda for thirty years, before she was married, had her baby, got her first design job. I love Amanda. Sometimes in a childish way I say, “Okay, God, I’ll take Amanda’s headache today. Give her a day off.”

But that’s not the way it works. We can’t take another person’s pain. But we can stand by her and give comfort and support. We can pray for her. We can make dinners, sit and hold her hand, give her a foot rub, read the Bible with her, and search the Internet to see if there is any new treatment for her illness. Sometimes our efforts can take the edge off her pain. In the end, however, everyone must face his or her own pain.

Doris Wild Helmering, “Mother of Reason”

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