Vibe check—how do you feel about yourself today? Self-esteem is how you perceive yourself overall and a critical factor that influences your general well-being and happiness. Our thoughts and perceptions are inextricably linked to how we see ourselves and the world around us.
Someone with high self-esteem will be better prepared to face daily ups and downs, form healthy bonds with others, and fulfill personal goals. Meanwhile, someone with low self-esteem will find these things much harder to accomplish and might struggle to achieve their objectives.
At SABEResPODER, we are passionate about providing tools and information to help you deal with difficult situations in order to feel better and lead a happy, fulfilling life. This guide will explain what self-esteem is and how you can improve it.
What Is Self-Esteem?
Self-esteem is someone’s general opinion of themselves. In other words, it’s the way you perceive yourself. This assessment can be either positive or negative.
No one is born with their self-esteem already established and defined. It’s something formed over time and that evolves through different life experiences.
A person with positive, high, or healthy self-esteem feels good and sees themselves as worthy of others’ respect. On the other hand, someone with negative or low self-esteem believes that their ideas and feelings have little value and that they must improve or change to be "better."
How is Self-Esteem Formed?
Self-esteem begins to develop in childhood and never stops evolving. This doesn’t happen voluntarily or spontaneously, but rather depends on each person’s life experiences.
There are many factors that influence self-esteem, including:
- Your thoughts and beliefs
- Childhood experiences and family environment
- Experiences at school
- Social interactions
- Level of emotional intelligence
- Romantic relationships
- Illness, injury, or disability
- Media exposure
Biased thinking and how it impacts self-esteem
The way we view ourselves and the world is strongly linked to our thoughts and perceptions. We interpret events through our own lens, and that interpretation can either be logical or illogical.
Logical thinking is based on rational and verifiable facts. For example, "I always pass my exams when I study for them. I didn’t study enough for the last exam, so I failed. If I study for the next exam, I’ll have a better chance of passing.” In contrast, illogical thoughts are formed from irrational or unrealistic connections. For example, "I failed, even though I studied for the exam. This means that I’m bad at studying and that I’ll fail every exam I take this year.”
Irrational thoughts play a central role in low self-esteem because they prevent us from interpreting or assessing a situation in an objective, coherent way. These thoughts are known as cognitive distortions or biases, of which there are many types. Recognizing them is critical to boosting your self-esteem and maintaining a more balanced view of yourself and the world around you. A few of the most common cognitive distortions are:
- Overgeneralization: A person develops a general rule based on an isolated event and applies it to future situations. "I failed the exam, so I know I'll fail all the others this year."
- Black or white thinking: This entails pushing things to "all or nothing" extremes. "I didn’t ace the exam, therefore I’m a failure."
- Catastrophic thinking: Thinking that a small accident or unfortunate event is the worst thing that could happen. “Failing this exam is the worst thing that’s happened to me all year, I’ll never get over it.”
- Mind reading: Assuming you know what someone else is thinking without any real evidence. "My mom must think I'm dumb because I didn’t get an A on the test."
Why Is It Important to Have Good Self-Esteem?
Self-esteem influences our personal development and directly impacts how we fit into society. A person with a positive self-perception will develop stronger autonomy, form personal bonds more easily, and communicate more effectively with others.
Self-esteem also has an influence on mental health. Having low self-esteem is not a mental health problem or disorder in itself. It can, however, lead to depression or anxiety, especially if low self-esteem persists over time.
What Are the Symptoms of Low Self-Esteem?
Someone with low or negative self-esteem usually exhibits the following:
- Believes their opinions, ideas, and feelings have little or no value
- Focuses excessively on their faults, weaknesses, and mistakes
- Downplays the importance of their achievements, virtues, and abilities
- Finds it difficult to accept compliments and words of affirmation
- Believes that other people are more successful and capable than they are
- Believes that everything they do is wrong, whether they’re at work, school, or home
How to Improve Your Self-Esteem
There are plenty of things you can do to boost your self-esteem. However, remember that some of these suggestions may work for some people but not for others. Start with techniques you’re comfortable with and avoid putting too much pressure on yourself. If it doesn't work, you can try something else. Here are some things you can do to boost your self-esteem:
Identify and work through your negative thoughts and beliefs
Low self-esteem is often a product of negative thoughts that aren’t grounded in reality. Recognizing and modifying them can be difficult, time-consuming, and may require the help of a specialist. That said, you can try it by yourself, too. To work on your negative thoughts, use the following exercises based on cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT):
- Identify which problem situations seem to lower your self-esteem and what thoughts pop up around them. These thoughts can be positive, negative, or neutral. They can be rational (based on reason or verifiable facts) or irrational (based on misconceptions).
- Confront your irrational or negative thoughts. Many of your perceptions of yourself and the world are formed by your personal opinions. Consider that other perspectives may exist, and ask yourself if yours is consistent with the facts or if another explanation is possible. Take note of cognitive biases we discussed earlier and whether you’re giving into any of them.
- Replace negative or incorrect thoughts with accurate and constructive thinking. To do this, try the following strategies:
- Forgive yourself. Making mistakes is human and doesn’t define you as a person. Mistakes are isolated incidents; avoid dwelling and consider them a learning experience.
- Avoid overusing phrases that begin with "have to do" or "should do." By eliminating or moderating these words, you can generate more realistic expectations.
- Focus on the positive. Think about the parts of your life that are working well. Consider the skills that you’ve used to cope with difficult situations in the past.
- Learn from your experiences. If you had a negative experience, what could you do differently next time to reach a more positive outcome?
Spend time with people who treat you well
The way others treat you can impact your self-esteem. Spending time with people who constantly attack or criticize you will almost certainly make you feel bad and lower your self-esteem. If you choose to spend time with people who appreciate, support, and compliment you, you’ll undoubtedly feel much better.
That's why it's important to choose friends who are good for you. If you’re currently hanging out with people who don’t make you feel good, consider distancing yourself from them. Don't waste your valuable time with people who don't treat you well.
Be kind to yourself
People are prone to being hard on themselves, using unkind words and blaming themselves. Learn to be gentle with yourself. To accomplish this, speak to yourself as if you were a child. With a small child, you’d soften your voice and be more patient and kind. Treat yourself the same way and try to go easy on yourself.
Do things you enjoy
Invest time in doing something that makes you happy. Think of things you enjoy doing or that make you feel good and set aside a time each week to do at least one.
Set achievable goals
Achieving your goals is satisfying. Think about things you’d like to do or learn and how you can accomplish them, then make an action plan with tangible steps. For example, if you want to learn to cook, consider what you need to get there. You can buy cookbooks, take classes, watch video tutorials, or ask a friend for help. There are many options from which to choose to reach your goal. But don't leave your plans up in the air! Pick one and stick to it.
Establish reasonable time frames for achieving your goals. If you want to achieve something in too short a time period, the resulting pressure of the situation may overwhelm you. If you set a goal that would take more than a year to achieve, break it down into smaller goals so you can see more concrete, tangible results along the way. This will keep you motivated and engaged, making it easier to see the plan through.
Keep in mind: Once you achieve your goals, remember to congratulate yourself. Think about how far you had to go to get there. Consider where you were before and where you are now. It’s important to recognize your personal victories and celebrate them.
Take care of your health
Your physical well-being is closely related to your emotional well-being. Don't neglect it! Try to prioritize the following:
- Getting an adequate amount of sleep
- Eating healthy
- Avoiding drugs and alcohol
- Spending time in outdoors in nature
Helping others is one of the best ways to nurture your own self-esteem and feel happier. Generosity brings a sense of comfort that is unmatched, and there are many ways you can help someone. No matter how small the action, good deeds always boost self-esteem. For example, you can assist a co-worker with a task, help organize a community event, volunteer, or pitch in with household chores.
Keep in mind: Helping someone else boosts your self-esteem and makes our society better.
If you feel that low self-esteem is affecting your work, relationships, motivation, or other parts of your life, consider going to therapy. It's okay to ask for help; you can't always overcome a difficult situation alone.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do I find myself?
Finding oneself requires genuine self-awareness and discovering one's purpose or life mission. It requires time and the following inner work:
- Distancing yourself from others’ expectations
- Determining your strengths and weaknesses
- Understanding that you can’t please everyone
What is self-love?
Accepting your feelings, physical appearance, personality, attitudes, and behaviors is all part of self-love. Although it may appear to be the same as self-esteem, there’s a subtle difference. Self-love is about a deep and genuine acceptance of yourself that transcends your surroundings and the opinions of others. Self-esteem, on the other hand, is constructed in part by your relationship to your environment and the acceptance of others.
You’re doing great. Keep it up!
With high self-esteem, you’ll be able to develop healthy relationships with others, work better, and connect with your community. Essentially, having high self-esteem allows you to live a happier and more fulfilled life.
We hope that by following this guide, you’ll be able to boost your self-esteem and discover more tools to help you become the best version of yourself. If you know someone who’s struggling with self-esteem, try sharing this advice!To find out more about this or similar topics, feel free to reach out to us via our chat. Remember that SABEResPODER!