Secrets of Self-Esteem, Part 1

* ©2013 by David D. Burns, MD

Do not copy, publish or reproduce without the written permission of Dr. Burns.

I’m going to start out with a few postings on the popular subject of how to boost your self-esteem and overcome feelings of worthlessness, inferiority, or inadequacy. These feelings are among the most important symptoms of depression, and most people fall into black holes from time to time when you begin to feel that you’re not as good as you should be.

Therapists are not immune from these feelings, either. In fact, when I give workshops for mental health professionals around the US and Canada, it seems that the vast majority of the therapists who attend have struggled with feelings of depression and anxiety. Cartoons often focus on the theme of therapists who are nuttier than their patients. There’s a lot of truth in that. Many people pursue a career as a psychotherapist primarily because of their own suffering, in the hopes of finding personal healing along the way. And there’s certainly no shame in that. In fact, therapists who have experience profound personal healing have much more to offer their patients than simply tools and techniques. They can say, “I know how painful your suffering is, because I’ve been there myself. And I also know how to show you the way out of the woods, so you can regain joy and self-esteem again.”

To get the ball rolling, I’m providing some information from a short interview I did on this topic for a Toronto newspaper recently. I pointed out that when you’re experiencing low self-esteem, the culprit is always your thoughts. You are giving yourself negative messages, like

  • “I should be better than I am,” or
  • “I shouldn’t have made that mistake,” or
  • “I’m inferior–there’s really nothing special about me.”

You may even tell yourself that you’re defective.

Although you probably believe these painful thoughts with all your heart, they are, in fact, distorted and illogical. You’re telling yourself things that aren’t really true. Depression is the world’s oldest con. You’re probably involved in All-or-Nothing Thinking, Mental Filtering, Discounting the Positive, Emotional Reasoning, Should Statements, and Self-Blame, to name just a few of the “cognitive distortions” that trigger depression and anxiety.

Here’s the good news–when you change the way you THINK you can change the way you FEEL. To find out how, check out one of my books, such as Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy or The Feeling Good Handbook. Numerous research studies have revealed that roughly two thirds of the people who read one of these books and do the exercises experience substantial, and even dramatic, improvements in mood and outlook within four weeks, even without antidepressants or therapy. These studies included individuals who were moderately to severely depressed.

What was equally startling was that the effects seemed to stick–long-term follow-up studies revealed that patients felt even better at their three-year follow-up evaluation.  So although these books are not panaceas that will cure all depression, they can certainly help. And it’s also good news that we now have powerful, fast-acting, drug-free treatments for depression and all of the anxiety disorders as well.

Most of us fall into black holes of self-doubt from time to time. Recovery from those feelings is one of the greatest feelings a human being can experience. I’d love to show you how to have this experience, too.

For more on overcoming depression and low self-esteem, stay tuned.

10 thoughts on “Secrets of Self-Esteem, Part 1

  1. Hi David,

    Nice writeup.

    Not sure though but, I like to believe that some of great athletes in competive sports like body building, Boxing, athletes might br using lot of shoulding to push them. If that is true how do they make it? Why aren’t they disturbed by that? Did you get a chance to work with such athletes. Thanks

    • If something is working for you, no need to change it. I work with people who are struggling with depression and anxiety, people who are asking for help. I’m not evangelizing or trying to save the world! david

  2. Can i fine this book in cd or audio anywhere I’m a difficult reader and I do better with audio books is there anyway I could have this book in a CD on an audio thank you 10 days to self esteem

  3. Just started reading your book, heard about it when I made the decision to start looking for techniques and tools to help my depression. I feel blessed and encouraged to have found it. I started reading the pages and became glued to the book I couldn’t put It down. funny, because an hr later I was washing the dishes and a distorted thought pattern started again, I was so excited because I could identify it right away and quickly stop going down the rabbit hole again. This is life changing, truly. Thank you for your work, it is invaluable and life saving!

    • Thanks, Jackie! Can I read your heartwarming comment on one of the upcoming Feeling Good Podcasts, with or without your real name? They are free, you can find them on my website, if interested! All the best, David

  4. Hey David. I am 49 and have suffered through bouts of moderate to severe depression since my teens. I found your book Feeling good in 1999 and it changed my life. I was actually able to lift myself out of severe depression into much milder depression by challenging my automatic thoughts. Yet I can’t seem on my own to get much better than mild depression and anxiety. I can’t seem to find anyone local that might help me branch out on the techniques to achieve even greater success. Anyway, thanks for all that you have done to bring these techniques to the masses. I can’t imagine how many people you have helped along the way. Just in my case alone the quality of life I lead is substantially better than if had I never found your publications. Also love the podcast.

    • Thanks, Argondawg, I appreciate your note! You might want to consider treatment with someone at the, such as Kevin Cornelius or Kyle Jones. You might consider teletherapy, or going to the FGI for a brief intensive with one of them. Just some thoughts! Warmly, david

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