Advertising
Advertising

Last Updated on April 6, 2020

How to Build Self Esteem (A Guide to Realize Your Hidden Power)

How to Build Self Esteem (A Guide to Realize Your Hidden Power)

Self-esteem is a driving force behind our confidence, how we see and feel about ourselves, and encompasses our sense of value, significance, and self-worth.

Research has shown that over 80% of people struggle with varying levels of low self-esteem. Yet, having a solid sense of self-esteem has the chance to positively impact and powerfully transform every area of your life – from your relationships to your career, from your health and well-being, to your fulfillment and levels of success.

A deep feeling of self-esteem is something that needs to grow and be nurtured over time. In this article I will show you the things you can do right now to improve your self esteem. Then, you will realize your hidden potential and your self worth.

What is self-esteem

While the dictionary defines it as “confidence in one’s own worth or abilities; self-respect”, put simply, self-esteem is the overall sense or feeling you have about your own self-worth or self-value.

Self-confidence, on the other hand, is more about how you feel about your abilities and will vary from situation to situation. You can have great self-esteem (feeling good about yourself overall) but low self-confidence about a particular situation or event (e.g. public speaking). Or, maybe you’ve got great self-confidence in an area (e.g. a sport that you play) but low self-esteem overall.

A strong and solid sense of self-esteem comes from deep within. From a belief in your importance, your value and your worthiness.

Where does low self-esteem come from

Low self-esteem can stem from many areas. It is largely influenced by how other people see and treat us, and our relationships, which is why the influence of our parents has the most significant impact on our self-esteem.

  • An unhappy childhood – Those who grew up with critical, abusive or neglectful parents are more likely to face challenges with their own self-worth; while those who experienced acceptance, approval and affection are more likely to have a higher sense of self-value.
  • Traumatic experiences – Lower levels of self-esteem can also stem from bad experiences or traumatic events, such as something someone said to you or something someone did. Essentially, it can stem from anything that has brought up feelings of shame, guilt or lack of worth.
  • Experiences of failure – For some, lower self-esteem is connected to their success and accomplishments or lack thereof – including experiences of failure, not achieving goals or expectations.
  • Negative self-talk – Many ‘cases’ of low self-esteem are perpetuated by negative self-talk. This could be a story that you have created yourself or that someone else created for you long ago that you continue to believe.

Maybe for you, like for many others, low self-esteem is rooted in your feelings about your appearance or body image. It’s not just about how you look, it’s about how you feel about how you look. We are bombarded with messages from an early age about being too fat, too thin, too short, too tall, too much of anything really, or not enough of something else.

What happens when you lack self-esteem

Low self-esteem can lead to significant physical and mental health issues including anxiety, depression, eating disorders and addiction. In fact, research shows that adolescents who suffered from low self-esteem grew up to have more physical and mental problems, higher rates of criminal convictions, lower earnings and challenges with long-term unemployment.

On the flipside, a strong sense of self-esteem will help you experience greater health and well-being, better relationships, and higher levels of happiness, fulfillment and success. One study even correlated higher levels of self-esteem with higher earning potential.

Assess your own self-esteem

Individuals with low, or compromised self-esteem can see themselves as inadequate, incompetent and even unlovable. While they often know at a ‘conscious’ level these things aren’t true, they still feel that way deeply within. That’s what makes challenges with self-esteem so tricky. It’s often not about the reality of what is, but the perception of what someone feels.

Those with low self-esteem may appear socially withdrawn or quiet, negative, insecure, indecisive, unhappy or even angry. They are more likely to find themselves in unhealthy relationships, have a fear of failure and worry about what others think.

On the flipside, those with high self-esteem, more often than not, feel a strong sense of self-worth and value, feelings of confidence and acceptance. They tend to find themselves in healthy relationships (and ditch the bad ones), take care of themselves, and are more resilient when faced with setbacks, obstacles and failures. In general, they tend to stand up more for what they believe in and aren’t afraid to speak their minds.

Self-esteem can be measured on a scale of high to low: while too little has its obvious downsides, you can also have too much of a good thing. Those with an overly strong sense of self-esteem may appear ‘cocky’, narcissistic and self-important.

Advertising

This infographic has illustrated the differences between people with high self-esteem people and people with low self-esteem:[1]

    Finding the balance of a strong sense self of self-worth and humility is an important as we go through life.

    How to be build self-esteem (a step-by-step guide)

    Self-esteem issues essentially are found in the gap between who you presently ARE and who you think you SHOULD be. Paradoxically, most causes of low self-esteem stem from how others see or treat you, yet the solution to increasing your self-esteem is something that needs to come from the inside out, not from the outside in.

    Building your self-esteem is not an easy task. While I wish I could wave a magic wand for you, what I’ve learned is that building and nurturing your self-esteem takes time. But, it is a worthwhile investment. Once you’ve done the work, you’ll reap the many rewards and benefits for a lifetime.

    Below are some great strategies to start your journey.

    1. Get to the root cause, the real issue

    Identifying the real, root cause(s) for your low self-esteem is one of the most important things you can do to build it back up.

    We named many reasons above. Maybe one of them, in particular, resonated with you? Perhaps your parents said you were ‘never good enough’ or that you wouldn’t amount to anything. I work with clients all the time who share stories of their parents’ behavior and the significant impact it has had on their self esteem.

    Whatever experiences you may have had, and whatever the root issue might be for you, I strongly recommend you get someone to support you through the process to identify and deal with it. Find a counselor, therapist, coach or someone who is trained in helping uncover and address these traumas, past experiences and root issues. These folks have proven tools, tactics and strategies – and best of all, they help you experiment in a safe space.

    While you may be able to do a lot of work on your own, my experience is that if you don’t address the root cause, that feeling will creep back in over time. You can’t run away from the truth. You can’t band-aid over old wounds. You’ve got to get to the source. It won’t’ be easy, but if you want to build your self-esteem, it needs to be done.

    2. See yourself how others see you

    See yourself how others see you, and talk to yourself as others would talk to you. What do I mean by this? Think about the person who loves you the most in this world. Unconditionally.

    Now, take a moment, zoom out, and imagine you are standing in their shoes and watching through their eyes. Look from their perspective and see yourself as they see you. What do you notice about you? What would they say to you? What do they love about you? What do they see in you?

    3. Do your best

    “Do your best every day”

    — My Dad

    Advertising

    Simple advice is often the best advice. When you do your best and place your full effort into each and every day, you start to feel better about yourself.

    Now, your best might change from day to day – and some days, your best won’t be as good as it was the day before. That’s ok. It’s important to remind yourself that you are doing the best you can with what you have, right now – at that moment, on that day, in that situation, with that time frame, your level of skill or knowledge, you name it.

    When you know you’ve done your best, you have no regrets and nothing about which to feel bad or guilty. If you do your best and then someone criticizes you, it’s easier to brush off when you know you did the best you can.

    I ask my clients (and myself) this question all the time, whether they’re ruminating over something they’ve said, thinking about what they could have done better, or just disappointed about an outcome they had hoped to achieve. Did you do your best? If the answer is Yes, then there’s nothing more you can do – until next time.

    4. Engage in activities that satisfy you

    They key word here is satisfy. Find things that give you a deep sense of satisfaction, a feeling of fullness and purpose.

    Too often we engage in activities or relationships that leave us feeling self-conscious, empty or terrible about ourselves. It’s time to put more focus, time and effort to do those things that feel good for your body, mind and spirit; and to engage in things that make you feel whole and full.

    Identify what satisfies you mentally (e.g. solving a big problem or creating something new), emotionally (e.g. hanging out with friends or volunteering), physically (e.g. exercising, eating right or taking care of your body) and spiritually (e.g. meditation or going to your place of worship).

    When you engage in something that makes you feel good and even more importantly, makes you feel worthwhile, you will experience greater self-esteem.

    5. Identify who YOU are and be true to you

    Self-awareness and a little soul searching are critical to your success in life and your self-esteem. In some cases, lack of self-esteem stems from a lack of knowing who you truly are, and the value you bring. Many of us have spent so much time trying to fit in and please that we’ve completely lost our sense of self.

    Spend time getting to know yourself. Take time to identify who you are. Some things to think about include

    • identifying your strengths and talents
    • acknowledging your value and worth, uncovering your passions
    • understanding your values and what’s important to you
    • thinking about how you want to serve or contribute to the world
    • acknowledging your blind spots

    6. Accept yourself

    Make the decision to accept the imperfectly perfect you. Know that regardless of what you have been told, what has occurred, what wrong you have done or what challenges you have faced, you are enough. You are doing the best you can with what you have.

    We all want to be accepted for who we are. But first, we must accept ourselves.

    7. Stop compromising yourself

    When you let others push you around, put everyone else’s needs before your own, or cave in to what everyone else wants because you don’t want to rock the boat, it lowers your self-esteem. You are putting their needs ahead of yours and your mind thinks to itself, “I guess I’m not that important”. I worked with two different clients just last week on this very thing. They were both putting everyone else’s needs ahead of their own – and it was having a significant and negative impact on their health and well-being.

    Now, I’m not suggesting you shouldn’t take care of your kids and spouse, meet your work deadlines or be there for your friends. But you’ve also got to take care of you. We compromise ourselves to fit in, to be loved and to be acknowledged. But if you are constantly compromising yourself, you will never truly feel satisfied.

    Advertising

    “Never chase love, affection or attention. If it isn’t given freely by another person, it isn’t worth having”

    How often do you let what others think of you or need from you dictate your actions or decisions?

    Be strong. Be assertive. Stand up for yourself. It’s time to identify what you need. Identify what you want in, and for, your life.

    Decide what is important to you. Naming these thing will give you an ‘inner compass’ to guide you. Then, identify your boundaries and the non-negotiables in your life. What are you not willing to put up with anymore? Get clear on these things now, so when the time comes to push back, stand up or politely say ‘no’, you have the ‘back-up’ and inner guidance to do so.

    8. Look for the good

    We tend to find what we are looking for. Put simply, people tend to (often unconsciously) look for things that reinforce what they already believe to be true.

    The same goes for how you see yourself. If you believe you are worthless or unlovable, you will find data to back that belief up. However, if you believe you are worthwhile and beautiful or courageous and strong, you will soon find data to back that up instead.

    The challenge with those who suffer from low self-esteem is that they have gotten into a habit of finding what’s wrong. Often, there is a negative message lodged in their subconscious mind. In some cases, they’ve just gotten really good at seeing all their faults and shortcomings.

    The easiest way to change what you see? Change what you’re looking for. Catch yourself doing something right.

    Try this: grab a journal, and for the next 21 days–each and every day–write down 3 things you value, appreciate or like about yourself. This might include acknowledging your wins or successes, things you are proud of, or noticing what you feel good about. While it may feel challenging at first, you’ll soon start to rewire your brain to see more of what’s right and less of what’s wrong.

    9. Stop negative self-talk

    Much of your belief systems come from the negative ‘story’ you are telling yourself. Your mind believes what you tell it and if the story you are playing (over and over again) in your mind is one of the worthless mistakes you’ve made, that’s what you will continue to reinforce and strengthen in your belief systems.

    Tell yourself you are worthless and incapable; your mind will believe that. Tell yourself you are able and awesome; your mind will believe that, too.

    Catch the negative self-talk and replace it with positive self-talk today.

    10. Find your tribe

    Since so much of our self-esteem is influenced by our relationships and how others see and treat us, it’s even more critical that you surround yourself with healthy, uplifting, encouraging and supporting people.

    Now, I’m not saying you need to surround yourself with a bunch of Pollyannas who constantly throw sparkles and compliments your way. It has to be sincere and true.

    Advertising

    Find people who know the real you – people who can speak to the value you bring, your talents and worth; people who can be real with you, sharing the positive and the constructive in an uplifting way.

    Find your people. Find your tribe.

    11. Take chances

    Many great minds have shared that failure has been key to their success, the stepping stone to their greatness and the catalyst to their growth. You might have heard the stories about Michael Jordan being cut from his varsity basketball team, Oprah Winfrey being told she wasn’t ‘meant to be on TV’ and Steven Spielberg being rejected for film school not just once, but three times.

    Taking chances, experiencing failure and building resilience is key to increasing one’s self-esteem. After all, if you never take a chance, you will never know – and you’ll stay stuck in your story.

    Each time you overcome a small challenge or bounce back from a set-back, you build that muscle. People don’t regret failing, they regret not trying. The more you try, the more you put yourself out there – the stronger you and your self-worth will become.

    12. Find meaning and create goals

    As humans, we all need to learn, develop, grow and contribute. When you are suffering from low self-esteem, this can create a vicious cycle:

    You don’t feel great about yourself, so you don’t go out there and make stuff happen. Because you’re not being successful, you feel a lack of self-worth.

      It’s time to break the cycle.

      Take steps that allow you to become who you are truly capable of being. Perhaps this is about finding something that gives you meaning, or maybe it’s about the steps you need to take to get from where you are to where you want to be. For example, the act of helping others–contributing, volunteering and being kind–have shown to not only increases self-esteem, but also happiness, health and satisfaction.

      Start with something small and work your way up. Each small success will bring about greater confidence and ultimately, a stronger sense of self-esteem.

      Start your journey to increase self-esteem

      Let’s be honest, this is not an easy journey. It can be challenging, but the challenge is what builds depth, strength, character and resilience. If the reward is greater self-esteem, which leads to greater relationships, a better career, increased health and well being, more success, and a greater sense of self-worth, I’d say it’s worth it.

      While you live in a society where you are constantly bombarded with messages of not being enough and how you could be better, just remember this:

      You are awesome. You are deserving of love, happiness and success. You are worthy. You are imperfectly perfect. It’s not by chance that you have arrived here, on this planet, at this very time. You are not a mistake. And even if you feel inadequate, unlovable or unworthy, know that you are none of those things. You are enough! You may not be able to believe this just yet, but some part of you, deep down inside knows this to be true.

      Now, it’s time to take the steps above and realize it for yourself.

      Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

      Reference

      More by this author

      Tracy Kennedy

      Lifehack's Personal Development Expert, a results-driven coach dedicated to helping people achieve greater levels of happiness and success.

      off track Feeling off Track in Life? Here’s How to Stay True to Yourself how to stop being a perfectionist How to Stop Being a Perfectionist (Step-by-Step Guide) Effective Decision Making Process: How to Make Wise Decisions 10 Powerful Ways to Be More Confident How to Build Self Discipline to Excel in Life

      Trending in Mental Strength

      1 Feeling Like a Failure? 10 Simple Things to Help You Rise Again 2 What Motivates You to Succeed in Life and Keep Moving Forward? 3 I’m Stuck! 7 Steps to Take When You’re Feeling Stuck in Life 4 Feeling off Track in Life? Here’s How to Stay True to Yourself 5 The Secret of Success to Achieving Anything You Want Revealed

      Read Next

      Advertising
      Advertising
      Advertising

      Last Updated on September 24, 2020

      Feeling Like a Failure? 10 Simple Things to Help You Rise Again

      Feeling Like a Failure? 10 Simple Things to Help You Rise Again

      The idea of feeling like a failure grips us at our most vulnerable internal place—our inner sense of self-esteem and self-love. Although intuitively we know that in reaching high, we are guaranteed some degree of failure, when we fall short, that knowledge offers little or no consolation.

      When we fail at something, all too often we think globally rather than in temporary terms. We think that we not only failed, but that we are failures. Feelings of unworthiness drag us down, leading to missteps and setbacks, defining us rather than merely offering feedback and educating us with useful information moving forward.

      The good news is that we can build on our failures on the road to success.

      Even if we know that failure is surmountable, it does not change the way we feel about ourselves when we experience it. Failure can take a toll on our self-esteem and feelings of self-love, diminishing our sense of optimism about our future.

      So how can we feel better about ourselves? Below are 10 acts of self-love to try when you are feeling like a failure.

      1. Forgive Yourself

      The ability to forgive is perhaps the greatest gift we can give to ourselves to help us recover from our regrets and missteps.

      Instead of beating yourself up for not knowing what is so obvious now, see yourself as a work in progress and give yourself the gift of forgiveness. You can’t see into the future, so you can’t plan every step to perfection. Give yourself a break and allow room for mistakes.

      Advertising

      Try a loving-kindness meditation to prepare yourself for forgiveness. This will open your heart up to the possibility of accepting your mistakes.

      2. Practice Self-Compassion

      Self-compassion[1] is perhaps the most important element of self-esteem and resilience. It used to be thought that achievement and success—rising above the norm—was the road to high self-esteem.

      However, that road to self-esteem is far too conditional and assures that anyone at or below the norm is not as worthy or special. Self-compassion gives all people—high achievers as well as lower achievers—the assurance that they are worthy of love anyway, with no conditions.

      3. Stop Judging Yourself

      Suspending the labels you put on yourself is an act of self-love. Instead of calling yourself “a failure,” be more specific and less global[2].

      Feeling like a failure? Talk yourself up!

        Feeling like a failure does not have to define you and your worth. Change your self-talk from “I’m a failure” to “I could not get things to work out this time” or “I made some mistakes and will use this experience as stepping stones going forward.” Label the experience for what it is instead of labeling yourself based on one mistake.

        4. Turn Your Failures Into Goals

        Instead of saying “I failed at my marriage,” you can say “I had trouble communicating in my marriage and am learning to communicate better now.”

        Advertising

        The first statement is anchored in the past that cannot be changed, while the second has an eye to the future and is more empowering of what you can do now. If you can identify what caused your past failures, you can work to develop goals based on those shortcomings.

        5. Give Yourself a Hug

        Instead of letting your inner critic have full reign, how about just giving yourself a hug?

        Science has suggested that hugging increases production of oxytocin, one of the feel-good hormones, which may also help reduce stress and depression[3].

        We all need hugs sometimes—especially from ourselves! If this feels like too much, give yourself a mental hug by writing down five things you like or love about yourself. This will give you the same sense of warmth and acceptance.

        6. Imagine Yourself as a Young Child

        Keep in mind that no one thinks of children as worthless or unworthy of love or happiness. And the truth is that we possess the same worth that we had when we were born.

        Sometimes we need to look behind the scars and wounds to see that preciousness and innate worth is still inside of us.

        Thinking of yourself as a child may also shift your mind and allow you to offer more forgiveness. Try to realize that you are still like that child, growing as you move through life.

        Advertising

        7. Switch Your Mindset From Victim to Victor

        When you’re feeling like a failure, you see yourself as a victim of the past instead of focusing on your resilience and ability to spring back.

        After all, it’s not how many times we are beaten down and fail that matters. What really matters is how many times we get back up and try again, each time a bit wiser. Try to leave the victim mindset behind[4] and view yourself as a victor after overcoming failures to move on to something bigger and better.

        8. Become More Mindful

        Mindfulness is not just about meditating or breathing deeply and quietly in isolation. Rather, it is staying fully in the present in our daily lives with non-judgmental awareness in whatever you do.

        When you are mindful, you stay rooted in the present instead of looking back at your past missteps or feeling anxious about the future. As the saying goes, “Today is a gift, and that’s why they call it the present.”

        9. Calm Yourself with a Calming Box

        Sometimes we need something tangible to sooth us when we are feeling like a failure. As a therapist, I would sometimes have my clients create a self-soothing box to help them cope in stressful times.

        Using actual objects that serve to distract and self-soothe can provide soothing touchstones.

        A journal, a stress ball, or a polished stone to remind you of your self worth are all examples of things that can be placed inside a calming box and used to soothe you when you’re feeling down.

        Advertising

        10. Connect With Others

        When people feel like a failure, all too often they isolate themselves, closing themselves up instead of opening up to others, but this is a fast way to damage your mental health.

        Seeking social support is one of the best choices you can make when you feel like a failure. Getting another person’s perspective will help you stop the tunnel vision that distorts your self-view.

        Asking for help and having the courage to open yourself up instead of closing yourself down will pave the way not only for avoiding loneliness, but it will also deepen your connections with others.

        This short TED Talk with Robert Reffkin offers some tips on how to create stronger connections to enhance your life:

        Final Thoughts

        These 10 tips to stop feeling like a failure will serve as a springboard for a resilient and full life. Instead of focusing on the failure that comes with falling short, be proud that you dared to pursue your dreams with courage and enthusiasm.

        We must stop thinking in all-or-nothing, global ways, so that our mistakes and failures become stepping stones for success rather than millstones around our neck.

        Use failures to help you move closer and closer to success.

        More Tips for When You’re Feeling Like a Failure

        Featured photo credit: Ethan Sykes via unsplash.com

        Reference

        Read Next