Self-Esteem after Stroke

Updated:Nov 22,2016

Excerpted from "You're Great! . . . and Getting Better!" by Susan Harrill, Stroke Connection July/August 2003 (Last science update March 2013)

man doing yardworkYour experience with stroke may have altered how you view yourself. You may be feeling discouraged and down. You have a choice to feel positively or negatively about yourself.

Just as you can rehabilitate your body after a stroke, you can raise your self-esteem (how you feel and think about yourself). You can choose to nurture yourself, affirm yourself with positive statements and change those thoughts that are unrealistic and limiting. Then you can begin to develop to your full potential.

High self-esteem is a quiet, comfortable feeling of total acceptance and love for yourself as you are. It is respecting and valuing yourself as a human being, honestly seeing your good and not-so-good qualities. It is taking care of and nurturing yourself so you can become all that you are capable of being.

Steps to Improve Your Self-Esteem

Start with the following exercises. They are equally helpful for stroke survivors and caregivers.

Go at your own pace. Once you choose to nurture yourself, you are on your way to inner fitness, greater self-awareness and higher self-esteem.

  • Keep a Journal. Writing down your thoughts, feelings and reactions to people and situations lowers your stress level and balances you. It is a good way to solve problems and to get to know yourself better. Write for 20 minutes a day for a few weeks. Don’t worry about spelling and grammar.
  • Become aware of your true needs and wants. Begin choosing to meet those needs that you can.
  • Change your negative self-talk. Everyone has a voice inside their head that is continually commenting. Negative, critical, hurting comments need to change. Begin listening to what you say about yourself and then talk back to negative self-talk with the truth. Affirm yourself every day.
  • Visualize what you want to create in your life. Picture what you want. For example, picture yourself feeling confident in a new situation or progressing in rehab.
  • Take time to be alone daily. It is important to take time everyday just to think, read, journal, pray, meditate. Make yourself a priority.
  • Nurture yourself. Take care of yourself physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually.

The Acorn Analogy

  • Deep inside you know how to be you, as an acorn knows how to be a mighty oak.
  • The acorn does the best it can do at each stage of growth along its life path.
  • Even if the early start was less than perfect, the eager oak accelerates its desire to grow every time that it has nurturing from nature: sunlight, rainwater and soil nutrients.
  • You are like the acorn, doing your best under the conditions in which you are growing.
  • Add a little awareness, acceptance, self-respect and nurturing, then watch yourself grow towards your full-potential self!

Thought Restructuring: Changing Negative Self-Talk

“If you think you can, you’re right. If you think you can’t, you’re right.”
Henry Ford

Change your thoughts and you can change how you feel, which influences the choices you make. Thoughts form your belief system, the structure upon which you view the world. Many of your beliefs were adopted as a child and are not always accurate. Some of the things you believe may be false and be limiting your experience of life.

To feel better about yourself, your relationship and your life requires a deep look at your inner structure to determine which beliefs need upgrading. Some of you may find it is easy to make shifts in your thinking. It usually takes time, however, to assimilate updated beliefs, even when you know they are beneficial.

For example, you may believe you must be totally competent and almost perfect in all that you undertake. Mistakes are shameful and to be avoided at all costs. This is an example of a limited guiding belief. You can update this limiting belief by saying, “I will do my best, correct my mistakes and learn from them.”

How you feel about yourself is completely within your control. You can work on your self-esteem every day by being aware of how you talk to yourself. Take the time to nurture yourself.

Suzanne Harrill is a Counselor in Houston, Texas. You can find more information about improving self-esteem on Suzanne Harrill's Web site.

This content was last reviewed on 03/18/2013.