Building Self Esteem

Low self-esteem affects your social life, among other things. When you have a low opinion of yourself, you can become painfully self-conscious, feeling worried that others will also judge you. For this reason, many people with low self-esteem will go to efforts to distance themselves from social situations, which –- in the long run –- can worsen low self-esteem. Here’s how having low self-esteem can get in the way of socializing and what you can do about it.
"Be yourself." "You do you." "Listen to your heart." The messages behind authenticity are beautiful ones: you are the center of your world and you are the only voice that matters. But while such phrases are inspiring, we live in a world that bombards us with beliefs, opinions and general emotional noise. This creates a dilemma that many of us struggle with–how do I think like myself when everyone and everything is trying to tell me how to think?
Overcoming rumination is important because rumination is when you dwell on negative thoughts. Unlike introspection, which involves a curious and healthy exploration of thoughts and events, rumination is repetitive and self-destructive. Ruminating thoughts tend to focus on personal regrets, mistakes, and embarrassments, which feed into a negative self-image. While introspection can lead to insight and personal development, rumination keeps you stuck, trapped in a cycle of self-criticism.
If I could talk to the teenage version of myself about authenticity, I know what I would say. I would tell her the very things she is afraid make her "weird" are actually the things that make her awesome. I would tell her to stop wasting energy being afraid of judgment, and to put that energy towards enjoying the things that make her happy.
When discussing the process of building self-esteem, we often focus on the journey from low self-esteem to healthy self-esteem. But something that often gets left out in this conversation is the danger of building too much self-esteem. Yes, it is possible to have self-esteem that is so high that it causes issues in your life.
Failure. It's not a nice word, is it? For many of us, we see failure as a glaring red stop sign. "Go no further," failure tells us, "You are not good enough to succeed." But did you know Walt Disney's first animation company was dissolved within six months? That J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter was rejected by 12 publishers? For both, failure was not a stopping point–they continued to try until they found success. How did they keep believing in themselves, instead of seeing failure as a message they couldn't succeed? They separated their work from their self-worth.
How do we define our personal values? In my post last week, "What Is Self-Worth", I explored the topic of self-worth. When we are living with low self-esteem, we often struggle to find self-worth. This comes from believing we are unable to succeed at the things we value personally. But where do these values come from? How do we decide what is important to us?
Developing skills helps improve low self-esteem, and it's worth it to try. You see, when you have a healthy level of self-esteem, you are able to realize what your capacities are. You understand what you are capable of doing – and who you are capable of being. But if you suffer from low self-esteem, this kind of perspective becomes obscured. You struggle to see exactly what you are capable of. Low self-esteem can lead to extremely negative views, like how you aren’t capable of doing anything right, achieving anything positive, or progressing in any shape or form.
What is self-worth? How does self-worth show in our actions? I recently met two students who had both received a B+ on a test. While the first was practically jumping with joy, the second was more subdued. When I asked the latter if she felt the same excitement as her peer, she responded, "I can't stop thinking about how many questions I missed. I'm an idiot." Though both earned the same grade, one saw it as a sign of her worth, while the other saw it as a sign of worthlessness. This led me to think about, how do we define self-worth? What is it that makes one person believe they are worthy, while another that they are worthless?
We must learn to say "no" because one of the ways that we lose self-respect is when we constantly say "yes" to people. We say yes even though we desperately want to say no. There are multiple reasons why we might do this. We might not want to seem rude. We might want to maintain our self-image as a people pleaser or as someone who is easy-going, agreeable, fun, and open to everything. But by saying yes all the time, we will inevitably act against your our desires and interests. By learning to say no instead, we can build self-esteem. Learning to say no can be a powerful way of respecting yourself.