What things to say to a colleague who is struggling with low self-esteem?

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How do you feel about yourself? Do you like yourself? How do you feel about your achievements? Are you doing okay and able to manage your work-life balance? Or like so many, you feel unworthy, low, and somehow bad at your core? If you feel any of them, you are definitely not alone. Everyday work and other responsibilities can make it very challenging to keep our self-worth healthy.

Self-esteem means “Individuals subjective evaluation of their own worth. Self-esteem is an attractive psychological construct as it predicts certain outcomes such as academic achievements, happiness, satisfaction in relationship or marriage, criminal behaviour, and many other aspects of life.

Low self-esteem makes a person feel incompetent and inadequate about self. Challenging life experiences and hard choices can be the triggering factor to low self-esteem. Examples include:

  • Being bullied
  • Any form of abuse
  • Experiencing prejudice, discrimination, or stigma
  • Losing job or challenge finding a new one
  • Problems while studying or at work
  • Ongoing everyday stress
  • Relationships, separation, or divorce
  • Anxiety about physical experiences
  • Low financial condition
  • Over responsibility, etc.

Low self-esteem impacts a person internally and externally. Here are the ways in which it can be seen:

Internal symptoms of low self-esteem:
  • Feeling worthless, unloved, or unwanted
  • Obsessive fear of failure
  • Extreme negative self-talk and thinking patterns
  • Having imposter syndrome or feeling like don’t belong anywhere
  • Feeling achievements are by chance and they don’t deserve it
  • Extreme level of self-doubt
External symptoms of low self-esteem:
  • People pleasing
  • Conflict avoidance
  • Lack of personal boundaries
  • Trouble learning new things
  • Disempowering body language
  • Social withdrawal
  • Social anxiety

As self-esteem is affecting different aspects of life, social media too has highlighted it by involving in projects like “Dove’s #NoLikesNeeded campaign and Tess Holiday’s ground-breaking #EffYourBeautyStandards do so much for paving a positive foundation for healthy self-esteem. In spite of this, there is still an inordinate number of people whose lives are tainted by low self-esteem issues.

Here are some things to say that will help a colleague struggling with low self-esteem:
  • Engage in Positive image talks:
  • No bad thoughts! No bad words! No negative conversations! Involve in uplifting them by talking positively and making them see the unseen parts of themselves.
  • Tell them you love them:
  • Expressing to them their importance in your life and how much they mean to you can make a big positive difference.
  • Express Gratitude:
  • Sharing an honest response, being supportive, and appreciating their hard work and efforts at work brings positive change in self-perception.
  • Encourage self-care:
  • Motivating a person to engage in self-care activities like bubble bath, movie night, going out for dinner, getting hair spa, going for a walk, hitting the gym, doing something they like, having a good sleep, etc makes a person feel active and boosts their self-esteem.
  • Compliment them:
  • Compliment a person on small achievements and success like completing tasks on time, performing outstandingly at work, making it to the office. This encourages and brings at least a small change in their self-esteem.
  • Practice positive self-affirmations:
  • Affirmations are positive statements that help to overcome low self-esteem and challenge negative thoughts. Help them to engage in practicing affirmations on specific situation/topic that has impacted low self-esteem.
  • Help them acknowledge:
  • Being with them and helping them to acknowledge the incident that broke their self-esteem is the first step towards healing. Acknowledging helps a person be more resilient.

Statements that help in boosting colleague’s self-esteem and become their internal voice to push themselves out from the dark are:
  • You are capable.
  • You can do hard things.
  • You got this.
  • I know this is hard but don’t think you’re alone.
  • I believe in you.
  • You can do hard things
  • No matter what happens, I am there with you always.
  • Let’s try to do the task together.
  • You have done this before you can do it now as well.
  • You are strong and you will get through this.
  • This will make you more resilient.
  • You are worthy of love and acceptance.

A quote by Sheri L. Dew wonderfully states “Noble and great, courageous and determined, faithful and fearless, this is who you are and you have always been. And understanding it can change your life because this knowledge carries a confidence that cannot be duplicated any other way”

Lastly, seek professional help if the impact of low self-esteem is harming your mental health to the core and it’s getting out of control. You can also visit your nearest mental health clinic to seek help or have a 1 on 1 chat with the mental health consultants.

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Heena Shethia
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