Self-esteem is a person’s subjective assessment of their value as a person. It is a personal perception of one’s own values, their self-worth and their ability to achieve their goals.
Self esteem encompasses many emotional states including self-confidence, success, fear, sadness, joy, pride and shame, among others. Many who suffer from low self-esteem issues are not aware of this because they do not recognize the patterns or the feelings that are going on in their mind.
To be able to change a person’s self esteem one must first be able to recognize what is wrong in their self-evaluation. Once the problem is identified, you can then move on to address it by taking steps to change the negative self-evaluation.
Insidious Triggers Of Low Self Esteem
There are many situations in which people’s self-esteem can be negatively affected. These situations include, but are not limited to:
- Making judgments about people based on their appearance. Meaning, your judgment of people based on their appearance can be affected by their physical looks… This can impact your own esteem in a negative way if you rely too much on people’s physical looks to judge them as a person. To improve your self-esteem you have to acknowledge the fact that everyone is not what they appear to be and that looks can be deceiving, and with this understanding in mind look at yourself objectively and critically. In doing so, you will soon begin to realize that there’s more to a person than meets the eye, and that you – yourself – are not as bad as you initially thought (based on the superficial trait of judging people by their appearance).
- Thinking that you’ll not be successful or that you are not good enough to do something that you are actually good at… In order to develop a positive image of yourself, you need to work on your inner belief with the understanding that you can always do more and better.
- Being bad at, or unable to socialize… Being always alone could, in the long run, damage your self esteem.
- Constantly having negative thoughts… Negative thoughts are often very difficult to change when you have low self esteem. To better your image of your own worth in this case you must change your attitude and switch over to positive thinking. Yeah, I know that this is easier said than done (I, myself, am guilty of negative thoughts quite often), but you need to do it ASAP or else people will always think of you as a human wreck and will trample you whenever they get the chance.
- Constantly having doubts about anything and everything under the Sun… Doubts can affect a person’s self-esteem very badly if there’s many of them, and all the time. They can lead you to think that you are not good enough for things that you are actually good at, they can also lead you to doubting things that you are not sure of. To help combat the bad habit of constantly doubting things you could do what I do: stop for a moment (just put everything on hold for a second) and acknowledge the fact that no matter if something is true or not you have the option – as a superior being – to choose whether or not to be affected by it. Most of the time you will, obviously, choose not to be affected and thus, with enough practice, your thinking will begin to change for the better, and your self-esteem will switch sides, too.
- While not always the case, sometimes avoiding situations that you don’t like could potentially harm your self esteem… This is particularly true if you already have self esteem issues and you think that the situation you’re about to face will hurt / bother you in some way. If you have low self esteem this wrong assessment of a situation could, over time, lead you to avoiding all sorts of situations that you are not sure of. To combat this unconscious reaction you will need to make mental and behavioral efforts to become comfortable with any situation that you may face, even if at first you fail.
- Lacking confidence in your looks… One of the most common ways to damage your self esteem is by thinking that your physical appearance is unappealing. If you have an image problem about yourself you can bet that this will lead you to not feeling good about yourself, thus damaging your self esteem. I have had this exact same problem 20 years ago as a teenager, but now, that I’ve grown up and noticed how people’s physical appearance change (not for the better, obviously), I don’t care about it at all anymore. And you should do the same. Physical appearance is important in the sense that you should maintain yourself clean and decently dressed when you’re going out. But beyond this point, it’s only you who really cares about how you look, the other people don’t give a crap deep inside. And if they do, I usually don’t like such people and stay away from them because they are too pretentious or too difficult to deal with in the first place.
If you thought that, based on these triggers, low self esteem is bad (it is, though) chronic low self esteem is even worse than that, and can really ruin your life beyond recognition. Low self-esteem is bad as it is due to the numerous ill-effects it has on our mental health, but chronic low esteem is even worse than that.
Luckily, though there are ways to overcome this negative aspect of our lives.
In order to combat chronic low esteem naturally, and to build such confidence levels that we don’t even have to worry anymore that something we say might go down badly we will have to look at what science says about this subject.
So, what does science say?
While there is no simple ‘fix all’ for this problem, there are some powerful changes we can make to greatly boost our self esteem and feelings of self-worth, like for example…
Many of us (myself included) have a tendency of repeating criticisms in our mind. This is a somewhat automatic response that we often can’t help doing. Someone calls us stupid and 4 days later we still hear their voice saying it in our heads. And we, likewise, tend to forget when someone says something good about us.
A quick and easy fix for this is to try and focus a little more on the positives and the things that can boost our mood. Maybe try writing down all the things you’ve done well lately and all of the things you’ve accomplished in your life. Maybe write down the things you like about yourself or the things that people have said to you that are positive.
Maybe you’ve married the man/woman of your dreams, maybe you’ve bought a great house, maybe you’ve never been in debt, maybe you’ve got a six pack (if you’re a man), maybe you’ve held down a steady job for a long time. Or maybe someone once said that you are good looking, or maybe your boss has complimented you recently for something good you have done at work.
All these are examples of positive reminisce that you should replay in your mind so you can forget the negatives. This works just the same as CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) by helping you to focus more on the good and less on the bad.
Surround Yourself With Positivity
While it isn’t a great move to blame our failings on others, oftentimes it’s other people who are responsible for our low self-worth. This is true if we hang out with the wrong crowd – if our friends are prone to pointing out our flaws instead of building us up and raving about us (although, truth being told it’s not a friend’s job to make us better, but you get the idea.)
This is why you need to avoid toxic people in our lives. It is often the people who lack confidence who feel the need to damage ours because by making us feel small they makes themselves feel bigger. If you know negative and toxic people like this make a conscious attempt not to hang out with them any more. Likewise, you should spend more time with the positive people who love you and get the best of you out.
And if you do have to spend time with people who are damaging your esteem, what then? In that case just consider their motives for everything they say. Sometimes, if they criticize you, it could be because you have genuinely done something wrong. If that’s the case, you need to stop being so triggered. On the other hand, if they are jealous of you, or if they are just negative by nature you should not let this affect how you feel about yourself, and eventually still un-friend them if their negativity impacts your life too much. Ideally, you will want to try to turn their negativity into a positive attitude if they are such great friends overall, but do this in a polite manner that they are aware of, and agree with or else they might suspect you of doing bad things to them.
However, not everyone has the ability of turning pessimistic friends into optimistic ones, and if that’s not you then you should not even bother with this in the first place. It will take you years and lots of energy invested into a goal that is doomed to fail. It’s much better to just accept your friends as they are knowing that you are not perfect, either or, if they negatively influence your life too much then drop them as a friend. You know which situation is best for you, so I won’t insist.
Many of us have things that we don’t like about ourselves. But often, those things can be improved. And the sheer act of trying to improve can often be enough to give us a tremendous boost in self-worth.
So, if you don’t like the way you look, then consider the ways you can improve your style perhaps to look better. If you feel too ‘skinny’ then bulk up. If you feel overweight, then lose weight. If you think you are a little slow witted, then work on your repartee. If your math lets you down, go get lessons… although, this might not be such a good example because not everyone is good at everything, and not everyone should try to be good at everything anyway. Every person is born to do 1 or 2 things well, and suck at all others. And if math has never been your strong point, or you have never felt the call of numbers since you’ve been young then math is definitely not going to be your thing regardless of how many lessons you take or if your teachers are Euclid, Pythagoras, or Alan Turing. You could be better at something else (drawing, chemistry, literature, anything really, but not math, and that’s OK).
Find the Right Role Models
This has always been great advice, no matter if it’s come from your parents, or a criminal. It makes all of the difference in the world to have the opportunity of spending time in the right group of people and to look up to them.
Humans are constantly comparing themselves to others. And in fact, social comparison theory teaches us that this is one of the phenomena that controls our happiness the most. If you have a massive widescreen TV, then you will feel fairly happy. But if the neighbor has a wider screen TV, you feel less happy. If the neighbor has a smaller TV, you feel happier. Sure, this meaningless comparison don’t impress and affect everyone, but for most people they are impactful in one way or another.
In short, you assess your success by comparing yourself to others, but this is also how you (unconsciously) decide whether to be confident in yourself or not.
And here is the problem: we live in a world where images of wealthy, sexy, funny, intelligent celebrities with perfectly straight teeth are being shoved in our faces all the time. And we live in an age where social media is likewise full of images of people we know all leading seemingly perfect lives.
Normally, this is good because the more good example we see the more we want to replicate those successes, and the easier it will be eventually. We all want to make ourselves look happier and look more successful – so we only post images that make us look good and that make us look like we’re constantly on holiday, partying or doing incredible things.
We do the same thing, but the difference is that we know we have bad days where we’re sitting in front of the TV crying in our pajamas. We know that those holidays are few and far between.
We know that we normally look worse than in the people in those pictures (not than in reality, remember?). But we only see the good stuff from everyone else. As someone once put it: we essentially compare our own outtake reels with everyone else’s ‘best of’ montages. Plus celebrities.
Is it any wonder, then, that depression is rife? Especially when you combine this with the aforementioned poor nutrition? The fix: start comparing yourself to the right people. And that means finding role models to look up to who are similar to you.
Look for people who you can emulate, who inspire you, but who are not so different to you as to be completely incomparable. Look for people who are like the best version of you – rather than completely false manufactured images. Having something to aim for that is attainable and knowing what you want to be can help you feel MUCH more confident in yourself, and as a consequence, your self-esteem will improve, as well.