Self-esteem isn’t everything; it’s just that there’s nothing without it.
This article is part of an 8 part series to help you develop more confidence in the pursuit of your goals. Here is a list of all articles within this series:
- Improving Self-Esteem
- Transform Your Self-Concept
- Boosting Self-Confidence
- Developing Self-Worth
- Building a Healthy Self-Image
- Pursuing the Ideal Self
- Fake it ‘Til You Make it!
- Developing Superhero Courage
Are You Suffering from Low Self-Esteem?
Are you lacking the self-confidence and self-belief you need to make your own way in this world? Is this destroying your spirit and preventing you from moving forward in the way you had once imagined?
There are many people who suffer through periods of low self-esteem, and often for many different reasons. If you are one of these people, then you probably recognize the fact that you tend to judge and/or evaluate yourself negatively. Moreover, you probably have a low personal value and opinion of yourself, or maybe a low appraisal and evaluation of your self-worth. In fact, low self-esteem might be making you feel somewhat useless, inferior, inadequate, incomplete and worthless. This is certainly no way to live.
The Symptoms and Habits of Low Self-Esteem
There are many symptoms and habits of low self-esteem. However, taken in isolation, these symptoms certainly do not indicate that you have self-esteem issues. Red flags should only be raised when several symptoms come bundled together and begin taking over your life.
Here is a list of the symptoms of low self-esteem you should look out for:
- Constantly striving for perfection.
- Having low or biased expectations of yourself.
- A tendency to exaggerate your problems.
- The habit of accentuating the negatives.
- Underestimating your personal ability.
- Ignoring the positives and potential opportunities.
- Being riddled with self-doubt.
- Constantly blaming and criticizing yourself.
- Lack of self-confidence in your ability to get things done.
- Inability to accept compliments.
- Unable to concentrate because of a lack of energy, which often results from inadequate sleep patterns.
- Hesitant and tense physiological movements.
- A tendency to avoid people and social situations in an attempt to steer clear of judgment, criticism, and the evaluations that other people might make about you.
- Often experiencing the emotions of loneliness, guilt, frustration, dejection, hopelessness, anxiety, anger, shame, worry, sadness and depression.
Experiencing one or more of these emotions from time-to-time isn’t a clear indication that you have self-esteem issues. However, if you tend to cycle through many of these emotions throughout your week, then it’s a clear indication that something is not right and that low self-esteem could be the underlying problem.
How is Low Self-Esteem Maintained?
It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly how every individual maintains low levels of self-esteem, however there are certain factors that come into play that can often lead you down the self-esteem spiral.
For starters, indulging in any of the low self-esteem habits discussed above will tend to keep you within a very poor state-of-mind that naturally positions you on the low end of the emotional spectrum. In fact, the more of these symptoms you have, the more you will struggle with your emotions.
In addition to these symptoms and habits, low self-esteem is often maintained because you have very restrictive personal assumptions and rules. What this means is that you make certain assumptions about things in a very negative way that provides you limited options moving forward. You also have a tendency to see the worst in every situation, which gives you very little hope for the future. On top of this, your rules and personal standards are very restrictive. You don’t expect much of yourself and as a result you tend to stay constricted within the confines of your comfort zone and never take the necessary risks to break out of emotional slumps.
Your restrictive rules for living your life are often built upon poor language choices that provide you with very little options moving forward. For instance, you often use words such as:
- If I don’t… then…
- I should never…
- I must… or else…
- I can’t…
- I should do this… but…
The words and phrases you use provide insight into the rules that tend to govern your life, decisions and actions. And it’s these rules that continue to drain your self-esteem.
You also tend to aggravate your self-esteem by making negative self-evaluations. Your evaluations are so poor and limiting that you are left with no hope for the future, and no hope of improving your current circumstances. You have a tendency to do this because it helps “ground” you and gives you a sense of control.
The Evolution of Self-Esteem Over Time
Self-esteem encompasses your personal attitudes, beliefs, emotions, biased self-opinions and expectations, as-well-as your behaviors, decisions and actions. It also encapsulates the unhelpful assumptions you tend to make, the rules you live by, and the negative self-evaluations that tend to rob you of any hope for the future. All of these factors that go into building or destroying your self-esteem have manifested in your life over time and are built upon certain events that have influenced your emotional growth over the years.
Low self-esteem often stems from negative life influences and/or experiences you have had over the course of many years going right back to early childhood. Your family, friends, peers, teachers, role models and society, all played an important part in the development of your self-esteem as you were growing up. They showed and taught you — directly and indirectly — how to best handle your emotions during difficult times, how to overcome obstacles, how to interpret the events and circumstances in your life, etc. Some of these lessons were helpful, however, if you’re experiencing low self-esteem at the moment, then it’s likely that other lessons you learned over this period were quite unhelpful, and now you have a set of ineffective emotional coping skills that are restricting you in a variety of ways.
There might have been significant moments of your life that left very deep emotional and psychological scars. For instance, prolonged illness, neglect, abuse, hardship and punishment can leave a lasting impression on your mind. And it is these things that are currently influencing how you process and interpret the world around you. You might have for instance found it very difficult to fit-in socially at school and/or at home while growing up. This has left a very deep emotional scar that you tend to hold onto in the present moment — directly affecting your levels of self-esteem.
Other reasons why you might be suffering from low self-esteem today could be because of a lack of attention, encouragement, warmth, praise or affection you received as a child. Maybe you simply failed to live up to other people’s expectations of you. Maybe they had very high personal standards and limiting rules that you found very difficult to live up to. This entire experience while growing up has made you feel somewhat incapable, incompetent, worthless, inadequate, inferior and useless. You have no self-belief and very low expectations of yourself and your ability.
Your low self-esteem can also be attributed to the observations you made as a child. As a child you would observe adults going about their daily lives. These adults experienced hardships, setbacks, and personal problems. How they dealt with these challenges was important, because the habits, behaviors and emotions they displayed during these moments has left a lasting impression on your mind. These adult mentors taught you how to handle life’s difficulties and how to cope with your emotions indirectly. And today, you are doing what you know — what you’ve been taught — for better or worse.
All this goes to show that your low levels of self-esteem aren’t entirely of your own making. In fact, you learned and picked up certain ways of doing things and responding to situations from other people. Your current levels of self-esteem and the coping mechanisms you use to work through your personal challenges are a result of many years of conditioning that you went through while growing up. But even though you might not be responsible for this conditioning, you are however responsible for your own life today. And if something is not working for you, then you must take responsibility for changing things for the better and reconditioning your mind in a more positive and empowering way that will help you to live the life you desire to create for yourself.
How to Improve Self-Esteem
There are certain things you can do that will naturally help you raise your self-esteem throughout the day. Many of these suggestions are very straightforward and simple to implement, while other suggestions might take a little more time and effort. Either way, there is no miracle cure here. You will need to commit and dedicate yourself to adopting new habits, behaviors and ways of thinking and doing things in order to reap the rewards in the long-run.
Take Care Emotionally
Raising your self-esteem begins with your emotional health. Your emotions are the foundational keys to your well-being and provide you with the stability you need to get through difficult moments of your life successfully. When you’re in control of your emotions, you will be much more capable of handling the challenges that life throws your way. However, this requires you focus on developing your emotional coping skills to prepare yourself for these difficult moments of your life.
It’s important you prepare yourself by learning how to manage stress, anxiety, fear, frustration, guilt, anger and worry in more effective and productive ways. These are emotions you are likely to confront throughout your day. These emotions can either control you, or you can learn to manage them in ways that will help empower and strengthen you during difficult moments of your life.
Developing these important emotional coping skills will likewise help you to take charge of your thoughts, behaviors and the decisions you make. This will provide you with more certainty and confidence moving forward, and as a result it will help raise your levels of self-esteem.
Take Credit for Your Successes
This is a very simple idea, however it can have a profoundly positive impact on raising your levels of self-esteem.
When you deflect credit for your successes, you are denying yourself the opportunity to gain something of value from the experience. And because there is no psychological reward, there is no emotional gratification, and this will have a tendency to keep you in a weak state-of-mind that provides you with no avenue for further emotional growth and development.
The moment you begin taking credit for your accomplishments, a whole new world of possibilities opens up for you. For starters you begin developing higher levels of self-belief and self-confidence. This has a tendency to improve your ability to make decisions, and the better decisions you make, the more confidence and self-belief you will have. Likewise, taking credit for your accomplishments will focus your mind on what’s working and on all the positive aspects of your accomplishments. Normally you might only spot the negatives, and this would only leave you feeling discouraged and unhappy.
Therefore, take credit for your successes, own them, and embrace your accomplishments. You have nothing to be ashamed or embarrassed about. Use it to build ongoing momentum that can help you to permanently raise your levels of self-esteem.
Focus on Solutions
Whenever things don’t go as expected and you’re tempted to get down on yourself, immediately switch on your solution-focused mindset. First, recognize the positives of the situation, and then look for ways you can make things better to improve your circumstances. Of course solutions might not always be immediately evident, however with a curious mind, and a desire to ask the right kinds of solution-focused questions, you will eventually find the answers you are after.
Of course, if you’re suffering from low self-esteem, it’s easy to exaggerate the negatives and minimize the positives of your situation. It’s also easy to underestimate your own ability, to doubt and criticize yourself, and to ignore the opportunities that may be present. On the other hand it’s difficult to see things in a positive light. In such instances, you might like to focus on reframing your circumstances in a different way, or simply asking someone else for their unique point-of-view or perspective. Other people might often see things very differently, and you can use their view of the situation to build the confidence you need to move forward in a positive way.
Here are some questions you might like to ask yourself that will help you shift your perspective about the situation:
What conclusions and/or assumptions am I making about this situation?
How am I exaggerating the negatives?
How am I minimizing the positives?
How else could I view this? How else could I think about this?
How could I view this situation in a more positive and empowering way?
How would another person view this situation? What would they tell me? Who could I ask?
What are the potential opportunities here?
What is there to feel good about and grateful for?
What positive action could I take right now to help me work through this successfully?
By focusing on what you want, as-well-as on potential solutions and opportunities, you are putting yourself in a primary position to find the answers you need that will help you move forward in a positive way.
Avoid Limiting Language
Raising your self-esteem requires you consciously take charge of your language. This includes your verbal language as well as your self-talk or the thoughts you tend to indulge in that make you feel absolutely miserable.
Focus on talking to yourself in a more positive and encouraging way. Yes, you might not have all the answers, or the confidence you need to get your desired outcome, just yet. The answers and confidence will come over time, however what’s most important here, is that you get yourself into a positive frame-of-mind. Do this by focusing on your strengths, on your positive qualities, and on the things that you are able to control and/or influence in the moment. Once you feel that you have some form of control over your circumstances, this will give you the confidence you need to move forward in a more positive way.
Create or Join a Support Network
There are many groups and support networks out there — both online and offline — with like-minded individuals who are going through the same challenges you are attempting to work through. They are there to support you, and you can be there to support them. Sometimes just by sharing your story and experience with a group of supportive individuals will help you find the confidence you need within yourself to move through difficult moments of your life.
Alternatively, you could join a sports team. Even if you’re not a sporty person, just getting involved in sporting activities can do wonders for your self-esteem. Sport provides a competitive, yet very supportive environment that can help build the foundations for your growth and development on a physical and emotional level.
Update Your Knowledge and Skills
Often a lack of self-belief is a clear indication that you simply don’t have the necessary skills, knowledge or experience required to excel in a certain area. For this very reason it’s important that you actually take the time to assess what kind of knowledge, skills or experience you might need moving forward that will help you improve your confidence within specific areas of your life. Ask yourself:
Where do I want to feel a little more confident?
What kind of knowledge might I need in this area of my life?
What types of skills might I need to develop?
What kind of experience might I need to gain?
How will I acquire this knowledge, learn the skills, and gain the necessary experience?
What small steps could I take daily that will help me move forward confidently in this area of my life?
Raising your self-esteem will take time, and it will take gradual daily steps. For this very reason it’s important you commit yourself to taking a long-term view of your journey. Your short-term results might be inconsistent, however if you remain focused on the bigger picture you will find the motivation you need to persevere through the short-term pain.
Spend Time Pampering Yourself
Take time for yourself. Take time to relax, to play, and to pamper yourself. Maybe you could get a massage, go to a spa, relax in a steam room, or enjoy a nice warm bath. Not only will these moments give you time to relax, but they will also provide you with an opportunity to reflect and gain some perspective about your life’s choices, decisions and actions. When you’re relaxed you will tend to think differently about circumstances, and this could potentially help you gain the perspective and confidence you need to make better decisions moving forward.
Creativity, Confidence and Passion
It is very possible that the reason why you are suffering from low self-esteem is simply because you are focusing on the wrong things. Maybe all you need is to tune-in to your passions and your life’s purpose. Maybe you simply need to tap into your talents and strengths. Or just maybe you need to focus on activities you are good at and enjoy partaking in.
Take time to have a think about some of the things you are passionate about. Have a think about the activities you enjoy, and consider your talents, strengths and your core values. Within these areas you will find the answers you need to build your life with purpose. Also, within these areas is where you will find your creative spirit.
Once you’re there, living with purpose, you will find the confidence within yourself to do things that otherwise seemed very difficult and problematic. You will finally have the self-esteem you need to make those tough decisions and to take the chances that will help you improve your life for the better.
Set Inspiring Goals
To live with purpose, you need to set inspiring goals that keep you motivated and excited. Ask yourself:
What’s something that inspires and motivates me to get out of bed in the morning?
How could I turn this passion into a concrete goal?
How will I go about pursuing this goal?
As you work towards your goal, keep track of your progress and thoughts within a journal. The act of putting your thoughts and problems down on paper will help you to more effectively work through any emotional challenges you might face along the way. In fact, use it as a tool for self-improvement and self-reflection.
Over time you will make progress, however it’s sometimes difficult to recognize this progress. This is where your journal comes in handy. Every week take some time to read over your thoughts, and reflect upon the progress you’ve made and the lessons you’ve learned along the way. This by itself could provide you with the boost you need to raise your levels of self-esteem moving forward.
Make Better Decisions
Raising your self-esteem essentially comes down to making better choices throughout the day. Instead of choosing to accentuate the negatives, you choose instead to focus on the positives. Instead of exaggerating your problems, you choose instead to look for solutions. It all comes down to the choices you make.
To improve your choices, take time to evaluate your behavior, thoughts and the emotions you tend to experience on a daily basis. Keep track of these things within your journal and periodically assess how your behaviors, thoughts and emotions are influencing the choices and decisions you make. The insights you gain from this exercise could help you make better choices in the future. And the better choices you make, the higher the levels of self-esteem you are likely to experience.
Time to Assimilate these Concepts
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Gain More Knowledge…
Here are some additional links and resources that will help you learn more about this topic:
- 3 Ways to Boost Your Self-Esteem Permanently @ Lifehack
- 4 Simple Ways to Improve Your Self-Esteem @ Mind Body Green
- 5 Ways to Train Your Brain to Boost Your Self-Esteem @ Entrepreneur
- 6 Tips to Improve Your Self-Esteem @ Psych Central
- 7 Keys to Increasing Your Self-Esteem @ Psychology Today
- 10 Tips for Raising Self-Esteem @ Psychology Today
- 11 Habits that Can Help Boost Your Self-Esteem @ Bustle
- A Powerful Way to Build Self-Esteem @ Pick the Brain
- How to Improve Self-Esteem: A Secret from Research @ The Week
- How to Improve Your Self-Esteem @ Huffington Post
- How to Improve Your Self-Esteem @ The Change Blog
- How to Raise Your Self-Esteem @ Psych Central