Monday, May 20, 2013

Building Your Self Esteem Part 3: Exploring Your Negative Traits

What’s holding you back from being all that you can be?  

Maybe it’s low self-esteem. 

Healthy self-esteem is the foundation of your life. Whether or not you succeed in reaching your goals depends on the level of your self-esteem. Feelings of low self-worth and low self-confidence can hold you back from having all the success that you desire because unconsciously you feel that you don’t deserve it.

This is because the hallmark of healthy self-esteem is feeling deserving of having the good things in life. Feeling deserving means you have an expectation that what you need and ask for will be provided. If you suspect that you don’t think you deserve that good job, promotion, or pay raise that you desire, then perhaps you’re not considering everything that you have going for you. 

In my blog posts over the last two months you looked at self-esteem in terms of your positive traits, the ones you take pride in and are reinforced for expressing. You also considered whether you could be overusing these positive traits and limiting your self-expression.

This month you’re going to be exploring negative traits, the ones you wish you didn’t have. From these traits your feelings of guilt and shame originate.  They are often referred to as triggers since, when your behavior is labeled as one of these, you feel triggered to respond defensively either outwardly in words or actions, or internally through self-criticism. 

To begin, select five of the negative traits in the box below which you believe describe you. 

Lazy, rigid, fearful, cold, confused, bland, timid, distracted, afraid, nervous, uncaring, stingy, sad, inconsiderate, inflexible, incompetent, disappointing, unconcerned, unsure, unpleasant, thoughtless, unimaginative, apathetic,  indecisive, disloyal, uncertain, uncommitted, rude, tactless, lethargic, indifferent, strict, ineffective, unfeeling, sluggish, unenthusiastic, unfaithful, fearless, lax, inflexible, unforgiving, unfriendly, boring, tightfisted, cruel, unhappy, unhealthy, pessimistic, dishonest, bold, dull, blunt, unimportant, cautious, indifferent, stupid, boring, stubborn, selfish, depressed, unfair, unkind, ignorant, illogical, lonely, unlovable, unloving, unlucky, petty, unmotivated, nervous, narrow-minded, disorganized, shy, dull, impatient, insensitive, subdued, negative, impractical, irrational, unrealistic, disrespectful, irresponsible, unaware, stern, hostile, constrained, cowardly, weak, untalented, quiet, hard, thoughtless, intolerant, untrustworthy, untruthful, unsympathetic.

·         First, where do these labels originate? Examine them one by one. For example, who first called you lazy, stubborn, or selfish? Chances are it was someone important in your life such as a parent, teacher, or other important adult. Who calls you thoughtless, rude, or indecisive now? 

·         A clue to where each label originated is to ask yourself how old you feel when someone calls you one of them, or when you feel like you are one of them. Chances are that is the age at which you began to feel shame over one of these traits. 

·         Do you work hard to be the opposite so that no one will label you? For example, do you work hard to be flexible – even when it isn’t in your best interests – so that you don’t run the risk of being labeled stubborn? Do you find it hard to relax because you don’t want to give anyone cause to see you as lazy?

·         Consider whether each of these labels is accurate and true from your personal perspective. Do you believe it in your heart? Isn’t stubborn just a negative way of saying you stick to your beliefs and don’t waver? And isn’t lazy simply a negative way of saying you take care of yourself by relaxing and taking time for yourself? 

By examining each of your triggers – and finding a positive way of viewing each one – you take the sting out of the shame you feel over them. Look upon this simple exercise as a small step towards a new, more confident YOU!

Ellen Diana is a psychologist, author of the Lucky Dreamer Tip Series, and co-author of the Charge up Your Life series of self-help books. She has 30 years’ experience working with children, adults, couples, and families in schools and in private practice in Scottsdale, Arizona. Helping women to evolve into their best selves through personal growth and self-awareness is a passion of hers. Ellen raised three successful children as a single parent and so has special interests in mentoring other women in transition and helping parents to raise resilient children. Contact Ellen at or through her website


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