Before we talk about improving low self esteem, we must first take a look at what self esteem actually means. In psychology, the term self-esteem means a person’s overall sense of self-worth or personal value.
As human beings, we each have the ability to not only be aware of ourselves, but to measure our worth based on the things we do. This capacity to judge and place value is at its core a good thing, but it can lead to issues with self-esteem.
Self-esteem is often seen as a personality trait, and can involve a range of notions about one’s self based on factors such as appearance, beliefs, emotions and behaviours. It’s a basic human need and vital for survival, motivation and healthy or normal development, as well as inner self-respect. But external factors can also influence self-esteem.
The effects of others on self esteem
While genetic factors can shape your overall personality, it’s often the experiences we have that form the basis for self esteem. Those who continuously receive overly critical or negative comments from family members, partners, friends, caregivers and employers will likely experience problems with low self esteem.
Low self esteem is having a generally negative overall opinion of yourself, and the self assessment that you don’t bring enough value to this world. These deep-seated negative beliefs are often mistaken as facts or truths about who you are as a person and low self esteem can have a damaging impact on life as a whole. Low self-esteem, whether influenced by others or the result of your own private thoughts, can:
- Create anxiety, stress and increased likelihood of depression
- Fuel loneliness and an unwillingness to experience new things
- Cause problems with friendships and romantic relationships
- Effect academic and job performance
- Lead to self-medication such as drug and alcohol abuse.
These negative consequences in themselves reinforce a negative image, taking you into a downward spiral that includes feelings of emptiness and self-destructive behaviour.
Boosting low self esteem
Having low self esteem isn’t something you have to live with. Just because you can’t see the great things in yourself right now, it doesn’t mean you won’t in the near future. There are plenty of ways to boost your self esteem. You can:
1. Refute the inner critic
One of the first things you need to do to boost your self esteem is challenge the negative messages of your critical inner voice. The best way to do this is to speak the truth. Let’s say, for example, that you left out a bit of the presentation you’ve been working on. Your inner critic will be saying things like, “I can’t believe I left out the part on digital messaging. I’m such an idiot. Who am I fooling taking on this role; I clearly can’t do it right.”
To challenge, tell it how it really is…”I worked really hard on that presentation and it’s frustrating that I forgot to talk about digital messaging. Still, that was just one part of the presentation and the rest seemed to go well. I think the takeaway messages were still relevant.”
2. Be logical
Often, those with low self esteem make illogical leaps that when you think about it, don’t make much sense. Let’s say you are walking down the street and you see a man frowning in your direction. Your inner critic might suggest “he’s frowning at me because he thinks I’m weird. He clearly doesn’t like me.”
To challenge, you can be logical and realise that he could be frowning at any number of things. “Perhaps he’s had a bad day at work and is frowning as he recaps his last meeting?” or “Perhaps he has a headache after the kids kept him awake the night before?” His frown could have nothing to do with you so rather than jump to conclusions, ask if he’s alright. He might appreciate someone to talk to.
3. Practice self compassion
Practicing self compassion means treating yourself with the same empathy you would show others. When a friend is feeling low you don’t always analyse their every move – instead, you’re just there for them. If you can listen judgement free to others, why not quit analysing yourself? Yes, acknowledge that things are different and not how you want things to be, but recognise your humanness and accept that we all make mistakes. Recognising that mistakes are an inevitable part of human life will help you be compassionate to both yourself and others.
4. Celebrate the small stuff
You got up this morning. Tick. You ate a healthy breakfast. Winning. You arrived to work five minutes early. Champion. Acknowledge your small successes each day and eventually you’ll tip the scales to a more positive you.
5. Stop comparing
It’s human nature to compare your own strengths to other strengths around you, but to compare your worth against others is another story. Being good at something doesn’t make you a superior being, it simply means that you’ve found your niche. Instead of focusing your attention on what others can do that you can’t, find thing that YOU are good at. If you’re not sure what that might be, consider learning something new.
6. Realise perfection is impossible
It’s great to want to do things well, but if you’re constantly striving for perfection you will continually set yourself up for disappointment. The quest for perfection is one of the fastest routes to unhappiness and the fact is, if you’re not able to fail, you cannot ever truly reach success.
7. Know what’s in your power to change
There’s no point stressing over the things that aren’t in your control, so only concern yourself with what you can change. According to Catherine Goldberg, there are really just seven things that you are completely in control of: your breath, your self talk, your gratitude, your body language, your fitness, your diet and your sleep. Everything else is irrelevant.
8. Schedule time for fun
The more time you spend doing the things you love, the more likely you are to have positive thoughts. Schedule time for fun and relaxation every day and surround yourself with the people you love most. Find a group of people that make you feel good about yourself and avoid people and activities that trigger your negative thinking.
9. Identify your negative core beliefs
Look at the various clues and information you have that may uncover your negative core beliefs. Jot down the effects of negative life experiences and reflect on biased expectations. Consider the sorts of criticisms you make of yourself and where they might come from. You can then work on your negative core beliefs one at a time, starting with the one of greatest concern.
10. Get help
Sometimes low self esteem can feel so painful and difficult to overcome that help from a counsellor or psychologist is needed. If you feel inadequate, powerless, isolated or ashamed, contact CFHP today. Talking to a professional is sometimes the fastest and most effective way to gain a stronger sense of yourself. Working with CFHP you can learn to be more assertive, confident, and self aware. We can help you identify specific activities to boost your confidence, and teach you how to set more realistic, achievable goals. Contact our psychologists now for assistance.