How to (re)build your self-esteem so that you too can shine
Before we look at how to build self esteem, let's look at what it actually is.
Why? Quite simply, so that you 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 not be worried about (and drained by) trying to please other people just so that they won't reject you, you'll be 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 and have friends and hobbies outside of the relationship.
So you can see that knowing how to build self-esteem (your own, but that of your children too, of course) is really important!
(BTW, if you've happened to lose your confidence on account of the menopause, see my article on the perimenopause symptoms. I've even written an article about how your partner can help you through the menopause too!)
What a great site - full of common sense advice. I'm reading this a few days after a break up which I'm trying hard to make sense of and feeling a bit lost, so will put some of these excellent strategies into practise."
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:
- Biological: your genes, illness, disability and your lifestyle;
- Psychological: your childhood and adult experiences, the impact of any trauma, injury or shaming (which can be traumatic enough in itself), your lifestyle and your self-evaluation;
- Spiritual: shame or reverence, (limiting) beliefs, lifestyle;
- Social: 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 where exactly self-esteem is lacking or abundant. 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, with periodic ups and downs.
However, the good news is that, if you're unhappy with how you feel about yourself, you can change it!
I base that confidence on having counselled hundreds of people who have been able to make permanent changes to their lives. In this article, I'm hoping to help you do the same.
To help motivate you, let me explain the importance of self esteem first...
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. And 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).
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!
If you're suffering from low self-esteem, I hope you'll think all of the above things are worth aiming for because you are SO worth it! Remember, you're as unique as any star in the sky - there is absolutely no one like you.
A note of caution before you learn how to build self-esteem
An overly high sense of self-esteem can be a narcissistic trait. It can lead to overconfidence, poor decision making and increased risk-taking.
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
You're searching for how to build self-esteem, so I suspect you may well recognise some of the following signs and symptoms...
Having been confronted with this list, I'm sure it will come as no surprise to you that you may be depressed. And its important that you begin to deal with that depression right away too. See my article on treating depression without medication.
If you're not sure you're suffering from depression, see my depression test.
No one can make you feel inferior without your consent."
What causes low self-esteem?
There is a whole host of reasons why you may have developed low self-esteem...
All of these (and many more besides) can offer an explanation as to why you don't have a good self-image right now.
But 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!
Fake it 'til 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
For starters, let's look at your sensitivity from a more positive angle. Through your own experience, once you're less wrapped up in what others might think of you:
- 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.
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 for 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 and on social media 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.
When you want to learn how to build self-esteem, know that 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.
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?"
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 details that contradict 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.
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.
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 or your mobile/laptop 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.
Everyone fails sometimes, and it isn't the end of the world. There are always lessons to be learnt from mistakes and setbacks - so make sure you're prepared to look for and learn from them.
Here are some further tips...
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 are the two of you having relationship problems? In that case you could do with some good relationship advice, be that from a trusted person in your own surroundings or a professional licensed counsellor.
Or is he/she particularly critical of you, or perhaps even abusive?
I'm afraid in that case your relationship will hamper your progress in trying to build your self-esteem. I'd like you to hop over to my article on the signs of an abusive relationship or signs of emotional abuse.
I've given you some tips and advice now on how to build self-esteem. It's up to you now to make a start and really commit to taking some steps to the new you - every day!
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!
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