Having good self esteem is incredibly important. We all know how important self esteem is to our happiness and we know we need to like ourselves and have faith in ourselves in order to have the courage to move forward and achieve things in life; but at the same time it also goes further than that – and in fact it can even effect the confidence and happiness of others. If you have low self esteem then you will find that you take it out on other people – either through just being in a low mood, or through telling other people they can't achieve things because that's what you believe. You'll be less willing to compliment other people if you have low self esteem yourself as you will find that it makes you feel worse about yourself. If you have high self esteem on the other hand then it will be contagious, you'll be constantly optimistic and in a good mood and you'll be able to dish out heartfelt praise wherever you see fit.
However unfortunately improving self esteem can sometimes be harder than it sounds. In fact it tends to be a self-perpetuating problem wherein the worse your esteem is, the worse it becomes as you genuinely believe yourself to be not as good at things/as worthwhile a person and so you under-perform as a result – thus then confirming again what you already thought you knew (that you weren't worthwhile). It takes some serious steps then to break out of these thought patterns and to start making positive changes to your self esteem. Here we'll look at how to start making a change.
Realise you can change: A big problem for many people is that they simply don't realise that they can change and they believe that they are just that kind of person. They might say 'that's who I am' when you ask them why they don't believe in themselves – almost actually acknowledging that it is not a logical feeling they have. If you realise that you can change, then you can start taking positive steps.
Find role models: Role models are very useful for boosting our self esteem as they show us how to get more of what we want out of life. Find a role model that is not too far removed from yourself and that you can associate with – then you will find that you get confidence from knowing you are more like them. If they have weaknesses similar to your own and still manage to achieve great things in life then this will show you how you can do the same and make you feel better about your own shortcomings.
Find what's important to you: We have low self esteem when we feel we can't achieve something, or some aspect of our personality/ability is lacking. However this will only really matter if it's important to us. For instance if you know that you can't do maths but it's not important to you, then it won't drastically damage your self esteem. So if you find that you have low self esteem because of your people skills, ask yourself if that really matters? If you have lots of good friends and a great social life – and it's not important for your job – then why should it? Instead, find the few things that really do matter to you – perhaps it's your intelligence, perhaps it's your looks or perhaps it's your kindness. You'll probably find that where it matters, you have what it takes, and if not then at least you know what to work on.
Recognise other people's weaknesses: Normally low self esteem is at least partly a comparison where you feel that you don't measure up well to other people. However the irony is that in most cases those people think exactly the same thing about you and probably think that you are superior to them. It's important then to look at other people realistically and not to put them on a pedestal.
Realise it doesn't matter: You also need to recognise that in most cases, your weaknesses and drawbacks really don't matter. These are what make you human, make you more sympathetic, give you something to work on and more. In many cases it's just funny and listening to any stand-up comic will make you quickly realise that we all go through the same things. So next time you notice yourself tripping over the doorstep and making an idiot of yourself in front of the guy/girl you fancy just make a joke out of it. It's a funny story for later and it really doesn't matter – certainly at some point in their life that guy or girl has done the same thing. Own your weaknesses and be proud of them!
Use positive affirmations: Positive affirmations are a technique used in CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) in order to make us change our negative thinking patterns. Normally the idea is that if we have low self esteem then this is largely a result of us thinking negative things: 'I'll never do it', 'I'm good for nothing', 'what's the point'... etc. Over time these thoughts become habitual and you actually convince yourself that those things are true. With positive affirmations then you make a positive attempt to repeat things to yourself that are positive and that will boost your self esteem such as 'I can do anything I set my mind to' or something more casual like 'I am brilliant at public speaking' and this way these will eventually become your default thoughts and your self esteem will increase. Pick some mantras to repeat that address your particular issues and repeat them first thing in the morning and last thing at night around twenty times. Throughout the day repeat them casually and in situations where they are relevant.
Think over your successes: Naturally we have a tendency to re-live our failures and mistakes. Perhaps it's because they have the most emotional 'charge' compared to other memories, or perhaps because our brains are trying to show us how to fix our mistakes. Either way though, this is depressing and bad for our self esteem. Instead then, make sure you take time out to think about all the things you've done well in your life – perhaps it's your grades, perhaps it's your job, perhaps you are well liked by lots of friends, perhaps you've won specific awards, or maybe you're just a proud Mother or Father. Likewise at the end of every day think about all the things you did well – then allow yourself to bask in the smug glow.
Socialise with positive/confident people: You should also ensure that you surround yourself with people who aren't going to damage your self esteem. As mentioned our confidence – either high or low – is contagious and those who have low self esteem tend to be more critical of others and to drag them down. If you find that your friends or colleagues are doing this, then stop socialising with them and seek out the company of those friends and family members who are saying positive things and who support you in your goals and intentions.
Analyse criticism: Sometimes you can't avoid hanging out with negative people though – if they are your work colleagues for instance, or they are your employers even. In this situation then it is necessary to learn a different defence – which is simply to give no weight to their criticisms. Think about why they're really saying those things and you'll likely find it's because they themselves have no self worth. At the same time ask why you would take the criticisms of someone like them so seriously and how they would even know what you were capable of or what your reasons were for behaving the way you do. Let your results speak for themselves.
Put yourself out there: To prove to yourself that you can do things, and to improve your ability to do them (and to deal with future unrelated challenges better), you should make sure to put yourself in uncomfortable situations from time to time and to push yourself and your limits. For those whose confidence is based around interacting with other people for instance, who are perhaps very shy, an important way to boost your self worth is to force yourself into awkward or nervous social situations – such as parties where you don't know many people, or public speaking situations. At the same time a job in the public eye can be a great way to come away feeling you are more capable at interacting with a wide range of different people in a formal setting.
Improve yourself: Of course sometimes your low self esteem might be useful for exposing some of your weaknesses. While you shouldn't let it damage your self-worth as a whole, you should nevertheless take heed of the areas that need improving. If you find that one of your skills is lacking then – simply work on improving it. You'll find that you get more confident in those areas as a result and that your self esteem as a whole rises in accordance.