What is Self-Esteem?
Self-esteem is the confidence and belief you have in yourself. It means being proud of whom you are, even with the mistakes you have made in the past. Positive self-esteem describes your overall sense of self-worth and the feeling of satisfaction you have in yourself and your own abilities.
People with positive self-esteem usually feel more in control of their lives and know their own strengths and limitations. They have the confidence in their ability to think and cope with the challenges of life and a recognition they are worthy of success and happiness.
A person with low self-esteem often feels unworthy, incapable, and incompetent. He or she may feel there is something innately wrong with them. When our self-esteem is low, we tend to see ourselves and our lives in a more negative and critical light. We are less able to take on the challenges life throws at us. Low self-esteem affects all aspects of our lives. It can create anxiety, stress, loneliness and increase the likelihood of depression. Low self-esteem can cause problems with our friendships or romantic relationships and seriously impede our academic and job performance. It can lead to an increased vulnerability to substance misuse.
For most people, self-esteem is based on one’s own view of their value or self-worth. A child who is raised in a highly critical home, experiences physical, sexual, or emotional abuse, is ignored, ridiculed, and/or teased, is more likely to grow up with a negative self image and low self-esteem.
A child who is listened to, is spoken to respectfully, and receives appropriate attention and affection and whose accomplishments are recognized and mistakes or failures acknowledged and accepted is more likely to grow up with confidence and a positive self-image.
How Do I Increase My Self-Esteem?
Increasing your self-esteem requires hard work to make real and tangible changes in your life, right now and from now on. Assuming personal responsibility for changing your life is instrumental to making positive change as opposed to blaming the world for a lack of change.
Accept the fact that sometimes you can’t and won’t feel good about yourself. Dr. David Burns, M.D., a world-renowned expert on cognitive behavioural therapy and mood disorders likens gaining self-esteem to climbing a ladder. You start from the ground floor and work your way up.
Try these strategies:
- Watch your internal dialogue and treat yourself with kindness and encouragement. Instead of saying things like, “I’m not good enough” or “I’m a failure” you can start to turn things around by saying, “I can beat this” and “I can become more confident by viewing myself in a more positive way.”
- Forgive yourself. Everyone makes mistakes. Don’t be afraid of failures. Take them in your stride and move on. Say to yourself that you will succeed next time. Never make the mistake of allowing your failures to overwhelm you. This will destroy your self-confidence. You must learn from your mistakes and be realistic about your abilities. People who try to over-reach often fall.
- Avoid ‘should’ and ‘must’ statements. ‘Should’ statements are a common negative thinking pattern that can contribute to feelings of fear and worry. These statements are used by the negative thinker as a way to take on a pessimistic view of their life. ‘Should’ statements generate a lot of unnecessary turmoil in daily life and cause us to feel pressured and resentful.
- Set aside time for self-care. It can be difficult to make time for yourself but making time to do things that make you feel relaxed and happy can improve your self-esteem as well as your productivity at work and at home. Find a hobby that makes you feel better physically and mentally. Some people find that yoga, bicycling, or running helps them find a calm and centered positivity.
- Surround yourself with positive people. If there are negative influences in your life that cause you to feel badly about yourself, try to minimalist or eliminate the time you spend with them. Include in your life instead people who are positive and support your positive self-thoughts.
The most important thing of all is that you have to believe in yourself. If you believe you can, then you will be able to.
“Nobody can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending.” Maria Robinson
Written by: Mary Ann Bechtold