3 Things We Forget When Building Self-Esteem

October 3, 2019 Britt Mahrer

While we would all love to build our self-esteem as quickly and effectively as we can, sometimes the process feels daunting. When we get lost in the expectations of self-esteem and forget some of the realities that go along with it, we can feel lost. Here are three things to remind yourself about building self-esteem:

  1. Self-esteem is not linear. When I was a child stuck on long car trips, I used to daydream about having a magical road that would unfold between me and my destination, rising above the city like a silver arch and delivering me to my endpoint in the shortest time possible. But the reality is that cars follow the streets–though we attempt to get to our destination as quickly as possible, there are still the twists and turns of the road. In other words, we have to deal with the realities of life. This is something we must also take into account when building self-esteem. Though we would love to fix our eyes on the horizon and move straight towards it, there are going to be detours. This is why it is important to learn how to "zoom out" and see the long game. We must learn to remind ourselves that a non-linear path is not an incorrect one, but merely a natural part of navigating life. 
  2. It doesn't feel how we think it will. When we think about building self-esteem, we often have a vision in our minds of what it will feel like when we "achieve" it. Perhaps we picture ourselves physically different, more emotionally positive, or just generally better. But these projections, while great at showing us what areas we want to focus on are not representative of the actual ways we may experience our self-esteem growing. Too often, we can get locked on an exact outcome instead of focusing on a process and seeing where it leads us. For example, let's say a person wants to become more in shape. That person may picture him or herself with a different body, and begin to work out. So far, so good. Yet as this person becomes more active, this person's body may grow muscle, elongate in certain places, and shorten in others. In other words, this person's vision of a bathing-suit-model physique may not be what his or her body looks like, even when at its fittest form. Just like physical changes, when we make emotional changes, we can fall into the habit of picturing an outcome that isn't in our genetics. It doesn't mean we can't find the changes we seek–they can just look different than we think they will. 
  3. No one can tell us how to do it. I encounter this one a lot as a therapist, and it still affects me every time. A client will sit down, explain his or her goals, then expectantly wait for me to say how to achieve those goals. Though I deeply wish I could, the truth is that nobody can change us–we are the only ones capable of doing this. (My job as a therapist is not to change clients, but to help them explore what thoughts and beliefs they can adopt/release in order to find their own formula for change.) While there are a lot of books and programs that may make suggestions on how to approach change, in the end we are the only ones who can actually instigate the change itself. 

Keep these three things in mind as you continue your journey towards building self-esteem, and trust that you will get there in exactly as long as it needs to take you.

APA Reference
Mahrer, B. (2019, October 3). 3 Things We Forget When Building Self-Esteem, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, June 17 from

Author: Britt Mahrer

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