All of us tend to have doubts about ourselves. We may be unsure of what we are doing with our lives, how we are progressing and what we are doing to achieve our big goals. Some amount of self-doubt and an ability to examine your life is healthy, but too much of either can leave you feeling low and demotivated. Learning how to build self-esteem is an important skill that can contribute towards your life and mental health.
Your self-esteem is the opinion you hold of yourself and your achievements. For most of us, our perception of ourselves tends to vary, depending on our mood. If you suffer from poor self-esteem, you may feel like you’re unable to chase after what you want or have other motivational and self-image issues. Luckily, the level of self-esteem is not set in stone and there are measures you can take to learn how to boost self-esteem.
Understand self-image before you learn how to build self-esteem
Self-esteem refers to the way you value yourself and is closely linked with the way you think about yourself. If you know how to boost self-esteem, you’re likely to be happier and more content with your life. You tend to value your accomplishments and like who you are and what you do.
Low self-esteem comes from a constant dissatisfaction with one’s life and is closely tied in with body image. If you find that you criticize yourself often, then you might be suffering from low self-esteem.
The good news is that just as our self-image can be refined and improved all the time, there are a number of steps that will teach you to how to boost self-esteem.
Signs of low self-esteem
Low self-esteem can manifest itself in a number of ways, but it revolves around how you talk to yourself. Some symptoms of low self-esteem may be obvious to everyone around you while others are more subtle. Look out for the following symptoms as you go about learning how to build self-esteem and confidence:
- Being overly critical of yourself
- Thinking others are more superior to you
- Having negative thoughts and using negative words to define yourself
- Believing that luck is the most crucial factor in success and feeling that you sorely lack the same
- Blaming yourself for all your failures and having difficulty accepting credit for your successes
- Having difficulty accepting and believing compliments from others
- Ignoring or downplaying your strengths and positive characteristics
- Engage in negative self-talk repeatedly
- Ruminating on past mistakes and failures
- Constantly feeling depressed, anxious or angry
The benefits of learning how to build self-esteem
As you take measures to learn how to boost self-esteem and confidence, you will notice a number of changes across all spheres of your life. Some of these are:
- Better relationships and fewer conflicts with loved ones and other people
- Ability to accept criticism in a healthy manner and work it to your advantage
- Feeling increasingly comfortable in your own body
- Improved mental and physical resilience to abuse and stress
- Dropping unhealthy lifestyle habits such as excessive drinking, binge eating and drug intake
- Fewer instances of negative thought patterns which contribute to sadness, anger, guilt or depression
- Greater confidence about your strengths and abilities and more faith in being able to take on challenges
- Reduced tendency to indulge in destructive behaviors such as self-harm, emotional eating, suicidal thinking and drug abuse
- Less self-consciousness and better social skills
The difference between self-esteem and self-confidence
While the terms self-confidence and self-esteem are often used interchangeably, they are not exactly the same. Knowing how to boost self-esteem for yourself is easier when you understand the difference.
Self-esteem refers to the value you place on yourself and how much you appreciate yourself. When you think about how to build self esteem you must consider this: My self esteem is boosted by my achievements but does not depend on them.
Here’s an example to show the fine line of difference: Ted has a healthy sense of self-esteem and manages his own business. When he runs into financial troubles, he has faith in his ability to overcome the tough times and focuses on what he can do to improve the situation. David runs a similar business and has enjoyed success for some time. When he runs into problems, it shakes his confidence so much that he feels overwhelmed and unable to cope. He spends time ruing his luck and focusing on all the mistakes he made, pushing himself into a deeper spiral of doubt and regret.
Self-confidence is the value you place on your ability to achieve something. Because it depends largely on external factors, it tends to be less stable than self-esteem.
The two are closely related. Being confident helps you tackle problems and steer your life in the direction you want, and as you do this, you will develop better self-esteem. Learning how to build self esteem is important because it fuels you on good days but is more vital to your mental health on bad days.
It is also easy to confuse the two. A person with high self-esteem tends to be confident, but this is not always the case. Some people may use certain behaviours – a loud voice, taking the lead in conversations, extrovert qualities – to mimic confidence but may actually have low self-esteem. On the other hand, the quietest person in the room may have the highest self-esteem and does not need to display confidence to feel it.
As you go about learning how to boost self-esteem you will realize the difference between the two and how to work on them.
Practical tips to learn how to boost self-esteem
When learning how to build self-esteem it is important to work on your own deep-rooted beliefs. Most of us experience low levels of self-esteem at some points in our lives, but the effect should only be temporary. If you have persistent low levels of confidence, it can leave you feeling paralyzed and unable to make choices.
To learn how to boost self-esteem, consider the following tips and guidelines:
- Make a list of all your strengths and brainstorm ways to leverage them.
- Celebrate every win, no matter how small so that building self esteem becomes a way of life rather than something you have to remind yourself to do.
- Drop the need for perfection and simply try to be a better version of yourself. Understand that perfection is unattainable and that underneath the desire for perfection lies either the fear of failure or the need for overcompensation.
- Exercise on a regular basis to boost motivation and learn how to build self-esteem by improving confidence levels. A workout is known to increase endorphins, the body’s feel-good hormones and is the best way to develop a better relationship with your body. If you’ve never exercised before, consider signing up a personal trainer to help develop a routine that makes you feel strong and powerful.
- Ditch the negative thinking and pessimistic thought patterns by using strategies for building self esteem and cultivating different perspectives.
- Accept your mistakes but do not feel guilt about them. Once you understand that we all make mistakes, you’re more likely to use them as stepping stones rather than stumbling blocks.
- You are the sum of all the people you interact with. Choose to spend time with those who inspire or encourage you and stay away from those who bring you down or make you doubt yourself.
- Learn to be a little selfish and engage in activities that you enjoy. When you do things you enjoy, you are likely to be more positive and this goes a long way in building self esteem.
- Focus on the things you can change and learn to let go of all that you cannot. Focus on things that are out of your control can cripple you and make you feel like you have no power. Instead look for things that you can change and bring back a sense of control in your life
- Help others to help yourself, volunteer at organizations and local events to help others feel better while doing the same for yourself
- A fool-proof way to destroy self-esteem is to compare yourself to others. Try to spend less time looking at the lives and successes of others and instead redirect your energies towards your own goals and achievements. Do not stack them up against others because we are all on different paths.
- Change the narrative of that little voice inside your head. Train it to be more positive and kind. Consider how you would talk to your best friend or your favourite family member if they were doubting themselves or going through a rough patch – this is how you should talk to yourself too.
If these tips are not working, you might consider the following:
- Signing up for courses on self-development
- Browsing the internet for further information
- Seeking medical help from your doctor
- Confiding in a loved one about your poor self-esteem
- Seeing a trained therapist about your mental health concerns
- Consuming books on self-development
What causes low self-esteem?
It is always easier to work on how to build self-esteem when you understand what causes it to be low. The causes of poor self-esteem may be different from one person to another but here are some of the most common causes of low self-esteem:
- A stressful life event such as debilitating financial issues, death of a loved one or a breakup
- Chronic medical issues such as ongoing pain, debilitating illnesses and physical disabilities
- A traumatic childhood which can leave you with deep-seated emotional or mental health issues
- Being in a physically or mentally abusive relationship with a partner or a family member
- A history of poor performance at work, school or other social environments which has led to an erosion of belief in one’s abilities
- Serious medical concerns such as depression, bipolarity or anxiety disorders
If your self-confidence has been shattered by the death of a loved one or a break-up, you may need counselling to help you overcome the shock and trauma. If your low self-esteem has been triggered by financial concerns or work issues, you may need to address these concerns and take control before you can begin to feel better.
Most of us suffer from mild to moderate cases of low self-esteem which can be managed and improved on our own. Some people may take time to overcome the issues above and will learn how to build self-esteem as they gain more control over their lives.
However if your issue seems chronic and you have a constant sense of low motivation, self-hatred and depression, you can get help to deal with it. Persistent low self-esteem not only destroys the quality of your life but can have a negative impact on your health and wellbeing. If you think you need a professional opinion, you can start by talking to your GP or reach out to a counselor online or at the local community health centre.