Level III (skills): The most straight-forward way of overcoming
feelings of inadequacy is to be adequate! For most of us, that means
acquiring new skills, especially if we want to become highly competent.
Example: if making conversations is hard for you, there are many
skills that would be helpful, e.g. reading and learning various
viewpoints about interesting topics of conversation, practicing in
fantasy different ways of expressing those views, learning more about
being persuasive, etc. In some cases, it may be more practical to
become highly competent in another area, not your weakness. For
instance, the poor conversationalist could become an excellent writer
and build his/her self-esteem in that way. Many ego-building skills are
available in chapter 13.
Level IV (mental): Self-efficacy and confidence in changing
behavior or fears were discussed in chapters 4 and 5. In this chapter,
we refer repeatedly to feelings of helplessness which could be
counteracted with faith in self-help (or an external source of help).
And, we have seen how Rational-Emotive and Cognitive therapies
address the self-pity involved in "awfulizing" when things go wrong
and you feel low. Building self-efficacy and a positive self-concept are
dealt with by methods #1 & #9 in chapter 14.
There are several good popular books for increasing self
acceptance; read some (Dyer, 1976; Ellis & Harper, 1975; Greenburg
& Jacobs, 1976; Jampolsky, 1979, 1985; Newman & Berkowitz, 1974).
Be sure to review methods #1, #3, and #4 in chapter 14. Many people
are saddened by their physical appearance, always wanting to look
better; Cash (1995) offers practical advice specifically for the 35% of
us who don't like our bodies.
Level V (unconscious): Like Sooty Sarah, it might help to
understand the source of one's low self-appraisal, not so one can hate
the source but so one can see that self-criticism is your choice and is
not needed. Driscoll (1982) gives several reasons for self-criticism: (l)
to motivate ourselves to do better, (2) to keep ourselves humble, (3)
to avoid doing something challenging, (4) to avoid disappointments,
i.e. when you fear failure, (5) to discourage others from criticizing us,
(6) to encourage others to admit their faults too, (7) to avoid
responsibility--"don't expect much from me," (8) to imply we have
superior standards by saying our behavior was beneath us, not
reflective of our true abilities, (9) to get sympathy and reassurance,
(10) to express other feelings indirectly, such as anger or guilt or a
need to be in a subordinate position within the family. It takes a keen,
careful observer to detect these motives.
If there are reasons to believe you are too self-critical, avoiding
success, or seeking failure, surely understanding your underlying
needs and false assumptions (usually the need to hurt yourself or
others) would be helpful. Talk to a friend or a counselor about what
might be "going on inside you." See references above, especially under