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Last Updated on April 17, 2018

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.

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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

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    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.

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    “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.

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    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.

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      Last Updated on March 14, 2019

      7 Questions to Ask in a Job Interview That Will Impress the Interviewer

      7 Questions to Ask in a Job Interview That Will Impress the Interviewer

      Recruiters might hold thousands of interviews in their careers and a lot of them are reporting the same thing—that most candidates play it safe with the questions they ask, or have no questions to ask in a job interview at all.

      For job applicants, this approach is crazy! This is a job that you’re going to dedicate a lot of hours to and that might have a huge impact on your future career. Don’t throw away the chance to figure out if the position is perfect for you.

      Here are 7 killer questions to ask in a job interview that will both impress your counterpart and give you some really useful insights into whether this job will be a dream … or a nightmare.

      1. What are some challenges I might come up against this role?

      A lesser candidate might ask, “what does a typical day look like in this role?” While this is a perfectly reasonable question to ask in an interview, focusing on potential challenges takes you much further because it indicates that you already are visualizing yourself in the role.

      It’s impressive because it shows that you are not afraid of challenges, and you are prepared to strategize a game plan upfront to make sure you succeed if you get the job.

      It can also open up a conversation about how you’ve solved problems in the past which can be a reassuring exercise for both you and the hiring manager.

      How it helps you:

      If you ask the interviewer to describe a typical day, you may get a vibrant picture of all the lovely things you’ll get to do in this job and all the lovely people you’ll get to do them with.

      Asking about potential roadblocks means you hear the other side of the story—dysfunctional teams, internal politics, difficult clients, bootstrap budgets and so on. This can help you decide if you’re up for the challenge or whether, for the sake of your sanity, you should respectfully decline the job offer.

      2. What are the qualities of really successful people in this role?

      Employers don’t want to hire someone who goes through the motions; they want to hire someone who will excel.

      Asking this question shows that you care about success, too. How could they not hire you with a dragon-slayer attitude like that?

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      How it helps you:

      Interviewers hire people who are great people to work with, but the definition of “great people” differs from person to person.

      Does this company hire and promote people with a specific attitude, approach, worth ethic or communication style? Are the most successful people in this role strong extroverts who love to talk and socialize when you are studious and reserved? Does the company reward those who work insane hours when you’re happiest in a more relaxed environment?

      If so, then this may not be the right match for you.

      Whatever the answer is, you can decide whether you have what it takes for the manager to be happy with your performance in this role. And if the interviewer has no idea what success looks like for this position, this is a sign to proceed with extreme caution.

      3. From the research I did on your company, I noticed the culture really supports XYZ. Can you tell me more about that element of the culture and how it impacts this job role?

      Of course, you could just ask “what is the culture like here? ” but then you would miss a great opportunity to show that you’ve done your research!

      Interviewers give BIG bonus point to those who read up and pay attention, and you’ve just pointed out that (a) you’re diligent in your research (b) you care about the company culture and (c) you’re committed to finding a great cultural fit.

      How it helps you:

      This question is so useful because it lets you pick an element of the culture that you really care about and that will have the most impact on whether you are happy with the organization.

      For example, if training and development is important to you, then you need to know what’s on offer so you don’t end up in a dead-end job with no learning opportunities.

      Companies often talk a good talk, and their press releases may be full of shiny CSR initiatives and all the headline-grabbing diversity programs they’re putting in place. This is your opportunity to look under the hood and see if the company lives its values on the ground.

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      A company that says it is committed to doing the right thing by customers should not judge success by the number of up-sells an employee makes, for instance. Look for consistency, so you aren’t in for a culture shock after you start.

      4. What is the promotion path for this role, and how would my performance on that path be measured?

      To be clear, you are not asking when you will get promoted. Don’t go there—it’s presumptuous, and it indicates that you think you are better than the role you have applied for.

      A career-minded candidate, on the other hand, usually has a plan that she’s working towards. This question shows you have a great drive toward growth and advancement and an intention to stick with the company beyond your current state.

      How it helps you:

      One word: hierarchy.

      All organizations have levels of work and authority—executives, upper managers, line managers, the workforce, and so on. Understanding the hierarchical structure gives you power, because you can decide if you can work within it and are capable of climbing through its ranks, or whether it will be endlessly frustrating to you.

      In a traditional pyramid hierarchy, for example, the people at the bottom tend to have very little autonomy to make decisions. This gets better as you rise up through the pyramid, but even middle managers have little power to create policy; they are more concerned with enforcing the rules the top leaders make.

      If having a high degree of autonomy and accountability is important to you, you may do better in a flat hierarchy where work teams can design their own way of achieving the corporate goals.

      5. What’s the most important thing the successful candidate could accomplish in their first 3 months/6 months/year?

      Of all the questions to ask in a job interview, this one is impressive because it shows that you identify with and want to be a successful performer, and not just an average one.

      Here, you’re drilling down into what the company needs, and needs quite urgently, proving that you’re all about adding value to the organization and not just about what’s in it for you.

      How it helps you:

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      Most job descriptions come with 8, 10 or 12 different job responsibilities and a lot of them with be boilerplate or responsibilities that someone in HR thinks are associated with this role. This question gives you a better sense of which responsibilities are the most important—and they may not be what initially attracted you to the role.

      If you like the idea of training juniors, for example, but success is judged purely on your sales figures, then is this really the job you thought you were applying for?

      This question will also give you an idea of what kind of learning curve you’re expected to have and whether you’ll get any ramp-up time before getting down to business. If you’re the type of person who likes to jump right in and get things done, for instance, you may not be thrilled to hear that you’re going to spend the first three months shadowing a peer.

      6. What do you like about working here?

      This simple question is all about building rapport with the interviewer. People like to talk about themselves, and the interviewer will be flattered that you’re interested in her opinions.

      Hopefully, you’ll find some great connection points that the two of you share. What similar things drive you head into the office each day? How will you fit into the culture?

      How it helps you:

      You can learn a lot from this question. Someone who genuinely enjoys his job will be able to list several things they like, and their answers will sound passionate and sincere. If not….well, you might consider that a red flag.

      Since you potentially can learn a lot about the company culture from this question, it’s a good idea to figure out upfront what’s important to you. Maybe you’re looking for a hands-off boss who values independent thought and creativity? Maybe you work better in environments that move at a rapid, exciting pace?

      Whatever’s important to you, listen carefully and see if you can find any common ground.

      7. Based on this interview, do you have any questions or concerns about my qualifications for the role?

      What a great closing question to ask in a job interview! It shows that you’re not afraid of feedback—in fact, you are inviting it. Not being able to take criticism is a red flag for employers, who need to know that you’ll act on any “coaching moments” with a good heart.

      As a bonus, asking this question shows that you are really interested in the position and wish to clear up anything that may be holding the company back from hiring you.

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      How it helps you:

      What a devious beast this question is! On the surface, it looks straightforward, but it’s actually giving you four key pieces of information.

      First, is the manager capable of giving you feedback when put on the spot like this? Some managers are scared of giving feedback, or don’t think it’s important enough to bother outside of a formal performance appraisal. Do you want to work for a boss like that? How will you improve if no one is telling you what you did wrong?

      Second, can the manager give feedback in a constructive way without being too pillowy or too confrontational? It’s unfair to expect the interviewer to have figured out your preferred way of receiving feedback in the space of an interview, but if she come back with a machine-gun fire of shortcomings or one of those corporate feedback “sandwiches” (the doozy slipped between two slices of compliment), then you need to ask yourself, can you work with someone who gives feedback like that?

      Third, you get to learn the things the hiring manager is concerned about before you leave the interview. This gives you the chance to make a final, tailored sales pitch so you can convince the interviewer that she should not be worried about those things.

      Fourth, you get to learn the things the hiring manager is concerned about period. If turnover is keeping him up at night, then your frequent job hopping might get a lot of additional scrutiny. If he’s facing some issues with conflict or communication, then he might raise concerns regarding your performance in this area.

      Listen carefully: the concerns that are being raised about you might actually be a proxy for problems in the wider organization.

      Making Your Interview Work for You

      Interviews are a two-way street. While it is important to differentiate yourself from every other candidate, understand that convincing the interviewer you’re the right person for the role goes hand-in-hand with figuring out if the job is the right fit for you.

      Would you feel happy in a work environment where the people, priorities, culture and management style were completely at odds with the way you work? Didn’t think so!

      More Resources About Job Interviews

      Featured photo credit: Amy Hirschi via unsplash.com

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