How I learned to build my self-esteem

Having always focused on the negatives, Cliodhna talks about change the way she sees herself and her experiences

Written by Cliodhna Gannon


For years I’ve wished I could change. I thought that if I could be a better person everything would fall into place. I put my focus on everything I was doing wrong. I refused to look at anything positive I could contribute to people’s lives. This very quickly led me down a dangerous and self-destructive path. I was putting huge pressure on myself in all areas of my life. Not only did I want to achieve great results academically, but I also kept telling myself I was a useless friend, a worthless daughter and a terrible sister. It became draining and exhausting.

How my low self-esteem impacted me

I would punish myself any time I felt I had messed up. This took many different forms. When I was younger, I faced an awful lot of bullying as well as some trauma at home. As a result, I used to always think I was the problem and I was the one to blame. Not only did this affect me, it affected the relationships I had with people. I refused to date as I felt the second they knew the “real” me, they would turn against me. I never accepted the true positive things my friends and people close to me would tell me as I felt I was abusive and making them say those things. As a result, I ended up pushing a lot of people away as they did not fit with my negative self-image.

Learning from my experiences

Looking back I have learned to make changes for myself so that I can feel positive, healthy and happy. I did this by addressing how I thought about myself. I decided to make a conscious effort to start looking at things I did well, instead of focusing solely on the mistakes I made. I actively listened to positive affirmations about myself. If there was anything I was concerned I was doing, I started discussing these with my family and friends and really tried to listen when they reassured me if the things I was thinking weren’t true. I went to counselling to get help with suicidal thoughts and learn how to stop punishing myself every time I made a mistake. I learned that the things that happened to me were not as a result of who I was, or who I am today. They hurt me but they don’t define me. I used to think they did because I focused on the negative. I can see now that I am not a problem or a burden, and never was. It was the circumstances I was faced with and experiencing at the time.

I changed my focus. I decided that it was not me as a person that was at fault. I realised I was focusing on the wrong things. Instead of putting my perception in balance, I decided everything I did was never good enough. Now, I focus on all the good things I have in my life, where I live, the people I live with, the friends I have, the good qualities I have and the values I share with so many wonderful people. I now focus on what makes me passionate and brings me joy.

Important lessons I’ve learned

We all mess up but by focusing solely on those mistakes, it damages our entire being and who we are. It stops us allowing ourselves to mess up and then we never learn. By punishing myself every day I never allowed myself to learn, I would just make the same mistakes over and over.

There are so many good things we all have to offer, it’s just about ensuring that we say kind things to ourselves, stop beating ourselves up over our mistakes and accept that we are human.

Positive self-care I’ve learned

Something that is really helpful and beneficial to me, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic is getting out of the house and exercising, I also find it’s helpful to say positive qualities and attributes to myself in the morning and before I go to bed. I have also adjusted my life to ensure that the people I have around me contribute positive stuff to my life. We can all be toxic to one another at times but so long as we try to be there for our friends and family we can have a positive impact on ourselves and people around us.

I think it’s important to focus on the reality, not what’s only in your head and if you’re struggling please reach out to someone. You are worth so much and there are so many people who care about you, you just need to keep fighting and keep helping yourself. Never be afraid to ask for help!

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