Self-esteem is the lens through which we perceive and measure our own value, worth, and abilities. It controls how we feel about ourselves. However, it’s not always an accurate perception or measurement.
When your self-esteem is too high or too low, it can have a drastic impact on your overall well-being. It can make us anxious or completely overconfident in our abilities, causing us to either not try anything new or to fall short of our goals and promises. Understanding how to improve self-esteem is therefore essential.
Self-esteem touches our careers, our relationships, our confidence, and almost every other part of our life. Self-esteem, however, is not set in stone. Understanding more about it, what impact it is having in your life, and how to improve self-esteem is the first step to making positive changes.
What Is Self-Esteem?
Self-esteem encapsulates how we view and feel about ourselves. Having too high or too low self-esteem indicates a tendency to either overestimate or underestimate our own worth, abilities, and value, rather than viewing it accurately.
Self-esteem is determined by a myriad of different elements, including our thoughts, relationships, and experiences. In turn, it also has as wide an effect on our lives.
What Does Low Self-Esteem Look Like?
Low self-esteem can present in many different ways, both seen and unseen. It’s a permeating negative view of oneself. People with low self-esteem tend to focus on their own shortcomings and mistakes.
It can often make one feel like they have little control over their own lives. They may even attribute their own successes to something outside of themselves, like luck, rather than believing their own strengths earned their success.
If you have low self-esteem, you may believe that others are better than you and doubt yourself constantly. Low self-esteem can breed anxiety and cause you to think that you aren’t capable of doing certain things. Learning how to improve your self-esteem will make you more confident in trying out new things and believing that you can achieve success in them.
When relating to others, low self-esteem can cause you to value other people’s needs above your own, struggle to set boundaries, express your own needs, and have difficulty saying no. You may find yourself thinking people think badly of you or they’re angry at you when they don’t or aren’t.
How to Build Self-Esteem?
Monitor your self-talk
Your self-talk is the little voice in your head. That little voice tends to be quite negative for someone who has low self-esteem. It’s largely influenced by our subconscious beliefs, and we’re often largely unaware of how negative it is.
This is beautifully illustrated in this simple social experiment. Here we see that most people would never say the things they constantly say to themselves to someone else.
Improving your self-talk requires becoming aware of your thoughts and monitoring them. Here are a few simple ways to start monitoring your self-talk:
- Write down the negative thoughts you have.
- Repeat the thought to yourself when it pops into your head and ask yourself if it’s really true and whether there’s real evidence of it.
- Consider whether you would have that thought about someone else when they’ve experienced or done the same thing.
Consider your circumstances
The people and circumstances we surround ourselves with play a big part in maintaining, improving, or worsening our self-esteem.
Consider all the people in your life: your friends, your coworkers, your partner, and your family. Now, think about how you feel when you’re around them:
- Do they make you feel like you can freely be yourself?
- Do they encourage you to try out new things?
- Do they acknowledge your strengths and successes?
- Do they respect your boundaries?
- Do they criticize you?
- Do they purposefully make you feel like they’re better than you are?
- Do you feel as though you need to walk on eggshells around them?
These are important questions to ask yourself to understand what type of impact the people in your life are having on your self-esteem. If you answered yes to any of the last three, you need to consider whether they are indeed the right people to have in your life. If you said yes to the first three, those people are more likely to help you improve your self-esteem.
Similarly, understanding the impact of the environments you find yourself in is also important. Consider your home, your workplace, or your school, and anywhere else you spend a lot of time:
- Do you feel safe?
- Do you feel as though you can be yourself freely?
- How do the people there make you feel?
- Do you feel judged or on edge while you’re there?
We can’t always control where we need to spend our time. Asking yourself these questions still provides you valuable insight, even if you have to continue being in those environments. It helps you understand how they influence how you think of yourself.
Once you identify that a certain environment is unhealthy, it can assist you in becoming aware that you are not necessarily the reason why something isn’t going well. How to improve your self-esteem often centers around becoming more aware of your own strengths and weaknesses and what is influencing your view of yourself externally.
Pay attention to your strengths
Whether you have high or low self-esteem, as people, we all have a negativity bias. In simple terms, this means that people have a tendency to think about, remember, and discuss negative events and experiences more than positive ones.
When you have low self-esteem, this is amplified when it comes to your own mistakes, shortcomings, and negative experiences. It’s important to focus on acknowledging your own strengths and positive actions too. These are some simple ways to do this:
- Make a list of all the things you like about yourself.
- Ask friends (who you trust and feel safe with) to tell you what their favorite things about you are.
- Every day, think about one thing you accomplished that day.
- Make a reverse gap list where you look at yourself from two years ago and celebrate everything that’s improved.
Self-esteem is shaped by all our experiences and beliefs. Research shows that self-esteem often remains at a similar level throughout our lives unless something drastic happens or there is a concerted effort to change it.
Our mental well-being is often something we think we have to be able to overcome on our own, but that’s not always possible. And even when it is, you don’t always have to take the difficult route of doing it all by yourself.
Self-esteem is deeply rooted in our unconscious minds, and it can be challenging to work on. Therapy can allow you to understand and process the underlying beliefs and emotions that are at the root of your low self-esteem.
Whether it’s face-to-face or online counseling, it can help you identify where your self-esteem is causing patterns of behavior and problematic behavior in your day-to-day life.
Especially if you have low self-esteem, therapy may seem intimidating. That’s why therapy is not a one-size-fits-all solution. Not all types or modules of therapy work for everyone. Today, there are options that can ensure you get the benefits of therapy in a way that you’re comfortable with.
With online therapy, you can choose between texts, audio calls, and video calls, and you can even do it completely anonymously. Online therapy is a great option if you have disabilities or simply prefer to structure your therapy experience exactly the way you are comfortable with.
You Can Build Up Your Self-Esteem
Understanding how to build self-esteem can be challenging because it’s caused by and affects so many different aspects of life. Once you understand it a bit more, you can start to work on improving it.
How you view yourself and your overall worth, your relationships, your career, your anxiety, and your confidence all start to improve when your self-esteem does. Monitoring your self-talk, considering your circumstances, paying attention to your strengths, and online therapy are all great tools to start your shift to a positive lens in your life.