How to (re)build your self-esteem so that you too can shine

Author: Elly Prior | First published: 27-05-2012 | Modified: 24-10-2017

Before we look at how to build self esteem, let's look at what it actually is.

Why? Quite simply, you need to know what you're aiming for when you start working on improving your self-esteem.

This is a relationship site, so why am I focusing on self-esteem, self-respect and self-confidence?

Well, if you can love yourself and aren't worried about (and drained by) trying to please everyone just so that they won't reject you, you're far more likely to build healthy relationships.

You'll be much more likely to find a suitable partner. Rather than being dependent on him or her, the two of you are more likely to be interdependent. You'll be happy to allow each other the freedom to develop, have friends and hobbies - independent of the relationship.

So you can see - it's very important for you to know how to build self-esteem (your own, but that of your children too of course!).

Feel/be number 1Having high self-esteem is not the same as thinking of yourself as no. 1

What is self-esteem?

Here's what you need to know before you commit to improving your self-esteem...

Self-respect is made up of two components:

One part is your self-evaluation - how much you think you're worthy of that fabulous job, that wonderful partner, that great opportunity or more generally of happiness itself.

The second part consists of your emotional response when you think about yourself. You may for example have a sense of accomplishment and pride, or you may feel shame and embarrassment followed by self-loathing.

There are four aspects that potentially contribute to - or detract from - your self-esteem:

  1. Biological: your genes, illness, disability and your lifestyle
  2. Psychological: your childhood and adult experiences, any trauma or shaming (which can be traumatic enough in itself), your lifestyle, the impact of injury, trauma or disability, your self-evaluation
  3. Spiritual: shame or reverence, (limiting) beliefs, lifestyle
  4. Social aspects: your social connections and the feedback you receive from the people around you, your social competence, your lifestyle

These factors cannot be separated to figure out what exactly self-esteem is. It's the interplay between these four factors that dictates how much self-respect you have. So, there's no easy formula!

Most psychologists think that your self-esteem is fixed (trait), with periodic ups and downs.

However, the really good news is that whatever the state of your self-esteem now, if you're unhappy with how you feel about yourself you can change it - without a doubt!

I personally believe you can make the changes that will allow you to feel loads better - and I base that confidence on having counselled hundreds of people who have been able to make permanent changes to their lives.

Advice about building your self-esteem and stopping that self-loathing will follow below. But first, I just want to tell you about the power of hypnosis. The right hypnosis download can absolutely do wonders for you. Have a look at my page Hypnosis Online FAQ.

You now know the answer to the question "What is self-esteem?". So, let's move on to the next step: the importance of self esteem.

What are the benefits of high self-esteem?

Healthy self-esteem can have a really positive ripple effect. Being around a happy, energetic and positive person is uplifting. That's why I want to help you build yours!

Here's a list of some of the things you might notice about someone with high self-esteem. When you cast your eyes over this list, you'll notice that people with higher self-esteem have more emotional 'spare capacity'. They can share their resources to the benefit of others (but do also read the note of caution though).

15 Signs of healthy self-esteem

When you're building your self-esteem, you'll begin to notice any of the following:

  1. You're more likely to build healthy relationships, and to generously love another person, because you can love yourself 
  2. You're unlikely to feel devastated by criticism and negative feedback
  3. You aim high, reach your goals and cope well with setbacks
  4. You have little trouble defending yourself, but are also happy to reconsider your opinion if you're proven wrong
  5. You're more likely to enjoy your own company
  6. You have more self-confidence
  7. You won't be terrified by having to come out of your comfort zone and gain a greater sense of achievement by stretching yourself
  8. You're more likely to attract friends as people are naturally attracted to someone with a positive outlook
  9. You're less likely to suffer from depression as you 'manage' life's setbacks better
  10. You're less likely to suffer from anxiety, but if you do - you'll have learned to manage it well
  11. You enjoy a healthy degree of control and volition
  12. You create and are offered plenty of opportunities for love, friendship and laughter
  13. You're all-round more resilient
  14. You don't expect or wait for someone else to 'make' you feel good about yourself 
  15. You work hard and play hard, making the best of your circumstances wherever you are

These signs of positive self-esteem show just how important it is for the health and well-being of an individual, a family and a community!

On the other hand if you have low self-esteem - isn't all that worth aiming for? You are SO worth it. Remember, you're as unique as the stars - there is absolutely no one like you.

(Mind you... psychopaths tend to have high self-esteem too, so it really isn't all good news!)

Are you phased by the list and the importance of self-esteem?

Please don't be - you can always talk it over with an online counsellor, who can help you on your way to success. For further information see my page on how to connect with a licensed therapist, anonymous if you wish and without a need to commit.

A note of caution before you learn how to build self-esteem

An overly high sense of self-esteem causes people to become over-confident, leading to poor decision making and increased risk-taking. Narcissistic people have too much of it as well.  

If you evaluate yourself in too positive a light, you're less likely to have patience with - and empathy for - others. This is definitely not what we're aiming for.

The trouble with low self-esteem

If you're suffering from low self-esteem or an inferiority complex and you're searching for how to build self-esteem, you may recognise some of the following signs and symptoms.

13 Signs of low self-esteem

  1. You worry a great deal
  2. You are more cautious
  3. You would rather not move out of your comfort zone
  4. You avoid upsetting anyone
  5. You constantly look for other people's approval and do whatever it takes to avoid rejection
  6. You fear being ridiculed
  7. You fake illness to get attention and avoid challenging events/tasks
  8. You suffer from social anxiety and have a whole range of 'excuses' at the ready if you can't avoid being invited 
  9. You have a negative outlook - your glass is half-empty
  10. You're more likely to suffer from depression and/or anxiety
  11. You're more likely to suffer from addictions
  12. You're likely to run a constant stream of negative self-talk
  13. You're likely to suffer from insecurity and get stuck in dysfunctional relationships with repeated troubled endings

This list of low self-esteem signs is enough to depress you on its own. So I'm sure it comes as no surprise that if you have a low opinion of yourself you're also at risk of depression.  

That is because you're not meeting your essential emotional needs in balance.

No one can make you feel inferior without your consent."


Eleanor Roosevelt

If you're still not sure your self-respect and confidence could do with a boost, do connect with an online counsellor. It's one of the best ways to start turning your life around. For further information and to connect with a professional counsellor, see my page on online counselling.

What causes low self-esteem?

I really wouldn't want you to focus too much on what might have gone wrong for you. You've probably been doing that too much anyway.

However, by identifying what might have been underlying your poor self-esteem and lack of confidence, you'll give yourself an opportunity to do something about it. I'll come back to that later.

There are a whole host of reasons why you may have developed low self-esteem...

10 Possible reasons why you may have a low opinion of yourself

  1. You were very anxious right from childhood, even if you grew up in a warm, loving family and had no trouble in school
  2. You had a parent who suffered with anxiety, and who was unable to give you the freedom to explore the world without constantly pointing out all of its dangers
  3. You were criticised, chastised and/or bullied a lot in school, at home, by friends or at work
  4. You grew up in a dysfunctional family - with conflict the order of the day. You could never be sure what would happen next, and you'd never know how people would behave towards you. One minute they might be loving and kind, and the next they'd be out of control, angry or even vicious and violent
  5. You're creative and you use the 'reality generator' in your brain to run constant disastrous scenarios - no wonder you have become anxious and lack self-confidence!
  6. You've made mistakes in your life and are living with a great deal of guilt
  7. You were shamed by your family or community on religious grounds
  8. You compare yourself unfavourably with someone else in particular - the 'other' woman or man after your partner's infidelity, a sibling, a colleague - or with other people in general
  9. You have a poor body image, you've fallen prey to self-loathing due to being 'different' in some way.
  10. Perhaps you have a weight problem (there are effective Natural Weight Loss Hypnosis Downloads for that.)

All of these (and many more besides) can offer an explanation as to why you don't have a good self-image right now.

I really want to reassure you that none of this has to mean that you'll suffer with low self-esteem for the rest of your life! You have every chance to turn your life around by increasing your self confidence and raising your self-esteem.

Fake it until you make it?

Here's the most wonderfully inspiring video of Amy Cuddy's presentation for TEDTALK, with the best tips on improving your self-esteem through body-language:

How to effectively improve your self esteem

First of all when we're talking about how to improve self-esteem, the list above also points to your potential strengths!

Why and how? Here's what I so hope will give you a bit of a boost towards working on improving your self-esteem:

When you have healthy self-esteem...

  • you can probably walk into a room and very quickly sense when there's discord (because you're not so wrapped up in yourself)
  • you'll spot the person that isn't doing or feeling okay
  • you may have more empathy
  • you may be less fazed if things go wrong, because you've probably dealt with worse

It all depends on how you interpret events and experiences, and you can learn to do this differently and more positively.

A note of caution...

Just before we carry on, I really want you to be sure that you're not overcompensating for your low self-regard by boosting it with any the following:

  • Cutting yourself off from the pain of others, or...
  • Over-identifying with the pain of others and making it your drama
  • Becoming controlling: if you've grown up in an unpredictable family, you may just decide - probably unconsciously - that you're never going to let that happen again and that you're always going to be in control
  • Hiding your lack of confidence by acting over-confident all of the time. It might indeed occasionally be a good strategy, but if you do it too often it becomes self-defeating
  • Making others feel small, so that you can feel better about yourself

The link between gratitude and self-esteem

Dr Christine Carter explains in this short video how gratitude improves self-esteem and makes for happier relationships...

The best way to boost your self-esteem

Here's my list of tips on how to build your self-esteem and overcome your insecurities:

12 Effective self-esteem boosters

  1. Challenge your (negative) thinking! Listen to your self-talk and ask yourself: would you say that to your best friend? How would he/she feel after that barrage of negativity for just 15 minutes? You're your own best friend - present 24/7 - so don't bully yourself! Self-hypnosis is really effective in dealing with this problem.
  2. Accept your flaws - they make you unique. When you're out and about, spot other people's flaws in the way they look, speak and behave. You'll soon realise that between all of us, we exhibit a huge range of imperfections! Those 'perfect' people on TV aren't real. Welcome to an imperfect world :-)  See The Power of Self-Compassion further down
  3. Stop comparing yourself with other people. There are always going to be people who are better educated, have more money, are better at maths, are better looking, have bigger houses etc. One of the worst things you can do is to compare yourself with others. Nothing is more undermining of your self-esteem than thinking of someone who seems, in one respect or another, somehow superior to you. It only feeds into your inferiority complex.
  4. Stop undermining yourself. I also say this to my clients (with children) who find it difficult to be kind to themselves: "Do you really want to undermine the mother/father of your children?" One of the best ways to improve your self-esteem is to use self-hypnosis - it's superbly user-friendly and cost-effective.
  5. Stop overthinking stuff. The more emotional we are as human beings, the more limited our logical thinking. So, when you're feeling down or depressed you're much more likely to over-analyse stuff, run disastrous scenarios in your mind, become over-emotional, filter out important detail that contradicts what you believe and generally distort reality.
  6. Remind yourself that your thoughts and feelings are not the truth - they are your personal interpretation of a situation and a response for which you are responsible. Only you can change this.
  7. Feel the fear and do it anyway. Whatever you're afraid of, decide you're going to tackle it step-by-step. Overcoming your fears will hugely improve the way you see yourself and, as a result, increase your self-confidence. It doesn't matter how small each step is - as long as you make frequent, regular progress.
  8. Become good at something you really care about - it only takes action and time! You may not even have to leave the house for it. The more competent you are in a certain area the more confident you'll feel, and the more enthusiasm you'll exude when talking to others. Start with like-minded people - that'll help you to polish your social skills.
  9. Think carefully about who you spend your time with. It may feel comfortable and familiar to be around other people with low self-esteem. However, they may be the very people who will undermine your progress when you've set yourself the goal of improving your self-esteem. I really wouldn't want you to ditch loyal friends - I just want you to be aware of the kind of company you need most to reach your goal. Be prepared to make some new friends.
  10. Remind yourself of three things you're grateful for before you go to sleep. Sounds silly? Well, research shows what a positive impact gratefulness has on well-being*. Reminding yourself of what has gone well that day will help you to go to sleep on a positive note.
  11. Swap watching TV for spending time on a hobby, studying, joining a group, doing some voluntary work, helping a friend or helping someone in need in your community. Any one of these is likely to help you to improve your self-esteem - because of their potential meaning to you and because you're taking action.
  12. Accept 'failure' as a motivator

Here are some further tips...

Other people who 'failed'...

Oprah Winfrey was demoted, because she was 'not set for television'.

Walt Disney was fired from a newspaper for having no imagination and no good ideas.

Finally

This wouldn't be my site without a little note about your relationship, too :-) Is your partner supportive of you? Do you feel they're 'holding your hand' when you challenge yourself, or seek to accomplish new things? Or is he/she particularly critical of you, or perhaps even abusive? If the latter, then I'm afraid this relationship isn't good for you right now. It'll stand in the way of your success in your goal to improve your sense of self.

Make a promise to yourself that you'll consciously devote some time, regularly, to building your self-esteem. You can do it, you are worth it, and the rewards you'll reap with a little bit of effort will help you keep the momentum going!

New! Rate this article (anonymously)...

I really hope this article is of help to you. :-)

I frequently update my articles based on feedback, therefore I really value your vote. If you think I've missed something, please do let me know in the comment section below.

Thank you so much in anticipation. :-)

Related articles

Natural Depression Treatments - for more self-esteem boosters
Common Relationship Problems
Human Givens - Essential Emotional Needs
Depression in Men
Tips to Relieve Stress

References

*Emmons, R. Why Gratitude is Good. Greater Good, 16 November 2010, via Greater Good.

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