Exploring Self Esteem
Part of our Real Chemistry series – connection, wellbeing and chemsex recovery.
This page introduces information about self-esteem. Many men we support tell us that their chems use is linked to how positively or negatively they think of themselves. After you have read through the information there are some exercises for you to work through, thinking about ways to improve your self-esteem by re-framing some of the thoughts and actions that contribute to you feeling bad about yourself. You may find it helpful to have a notebook to use as you work through the exercises, or you could use the function on a phone or tablet.
Your Self Esteem
Take some time to think about, and reflect on the following themes and questions:
How was your self-esteem impacted when using chems and engaging in chemsex? What issues around self confidence & self worth arose at this time?
How were feelings of low self-esteem managed during this time? Has your self-esteem improved since you have made changes around your chem use? If so, how?
Our Internal Voice
The Internal voice can often ‘contaminate’ our more rational, adult thinking, and our thinking can become unhelpful to the way we think and feel about ourselves.
This Internal voice holds all of the positive/negative messages we have internalised about ourselves, some from our own parents, some from society about who we are. The way we feel about our sexuality and gender identity may also be impacted by these messages. Other messages may have been internalised from situations where we may have been judged/or faced judgement from others about our choices or reactions to external events.
The Critical & Nurturing Internal Voices
The Internal voice has two sides to it that you may recognise.
The Critical voice is the voice that impacts negatively on our self-esteem, reduces our confidence, and can sometimes lead to an impact on our mental health. Sometimes we may hear this voice as someone we know such as an ex-partner, of a figure of perceived authority.
In contrast, the Nurturing voice is the voice that impacts positively on our self-esteem, builds our confidence, and helps to improve our mental health. This can sometimes be by someone who showed care for us and had our best interests at heart such as an actual parent, or some other parental figure.
Critical & Nurturing Examples
To give you some examples of the difference between the Critical & Nurturing voices that may help you identify them in your own thinking:
Critical voice message: You’re a failure, you can’t do it, people don’t like you, you always make bad choices.
Nurturing voice message: You can be successful, you can do it, people really like you, you always make the best choice for you.
Our Critical Voice & Unhelpful Thinking
Our Critical voice relies on lots of different forms of unhelpful thinking. Some examples are:
Black or white thinking - when there are only two options, and we are unable to see the many other choices that are available to us.
Disqualifying the Positive - whereby we are unable to hold the positive as being true.
Catastrophizing - When our thinking ONLY leads us to worst case scenarios.
Mind Reading - When we believe we know what others’ are thinking without any real evidence.
Should Statements - When we ‘should’ all over ourselves, rather than thinking about what we may want to do to take steps on improving our wellbeing and mental health.
Some questions and themes for you to think about and reflect on are:
Can you relate to these types of unhelpful thinking? If so, then how are they unhelpful to you?
Are there other ways that our thinking is unhelpful that you have experienced?
How can developing self-compassion support us in developing our Nurturing voice?
Changing the Critical Voice
Changing the Critical voice means changing the voice into something more rational, and Nurturing.
Some examples of this process are:
Critical Voice: You’re a failure.
Nurturing voice: Even though I sometimes feel like a failure, I know that I have succeeded many times in the past, such as the time when….
Critical voice: You can’t do it.
Nurturing Voice: I won’t know if I can’t do it until I try. In the past I have done…. even though I thought I wouldn’t be able to do it at the time.
- Thinking of the examples of unhelpful thinking listed above:
Do any of these relate to the way you think?
If so, then how are they unhelpful to you?
Are there other ways that your thinking is unhelpful that you have experienced?
- Developing your Nurturing voice
What is self-compassion?
How can you develop self-compassion to help you think and behave differently?
- Change these critical messages into something more nurturing.
Critical Voice –. People don’t like you…
Nurturing voice –
Critical voice - You always make the wrong choices…
Nurturing Voice –
4. Can you think of any critical messages you tell yourself and turn them into something more nurturing.
Critical Voice –.
Nurturing voice –
Critical voice -
Nurturing Voice –