Self-esteem is central to our well-being. It involves our deep-seated beliefs about our worth in the world. How we perceive ourselves and our value extends to every area of life, from how we perform in school to the relationships we build with others, and how we take care of ourselves. In this article we will take a look at factors that shape our self-esteem and practical strategies that can help you to boost your self-confidence.
What Shapes Our Self-Esteem?
From a young age, we start receiving messages that shape our self-image. Sometimes it’s from parents who are overly critical or make hurtful comments about our bodies. Other times, it is from peers that we internalise messages that we don’t quite belong or there is something flawed about us. In some cases, traumatic childhood events such as abuse or bullying contribute to feelings of worthlessness and low self-esteem.
There are numerous factors that can influence our sense of self-esteem over the years, including challenges with academics or in the workplace, the presence of physical or mental health conditions, financial problems and concerns about body image or appearance.
For more articles and information about self-esteem, visit BetterHelp.
Why Self-Esteem Matters
Self-esteem is essential to believing that we are worthy of happiness and meaningful connections with others. Having low self-esteem is linked with decreased quality of life, as well as increased risk for developing a mental disorder (such as depression or anxiety) or a substance use disorder. Due to the societal stigma around these conditions, having a mental disorder or substance use disorder can often further deplete one’s self-esteem.
On the other hand, individuals with healthy self-esteem often experience more fulfilment in their lives, largely because they believe they are ‘enough’ and deserve happiness. They tend to be more open to trying new and challenging things, setting healthy boundaries in relationships with others and offering themselves self-compassion when they make a mistake.
8 Strategies for Developing Healthy Self-Esteem
Make a list of your strengths and characteristics you appreciate about yourself. Take the time to jot down 5-10 things that you like about yourself. Maybe you are creative and talented in art, or a great listener others always feel comfortable coming to. You can also ask your friends or family members to contribute what they see in you as well. On days where you may be feeling down about yourself or doubtful of your abilities, you can reference the list as a reminder of all that you do well and how you contribute to the world in unique ways.
Challenge unhelpful thoughts. When you are faced with a negative thought such as ‘I’m not good enough’ or ‘I’m such a failure,’ combat this critical self-talk with self-acceptance and compassion. It can be helpful to come up with a mantra to repeat in these times such as ‘I am enough, just as I am’. It may be helpful to write down your self-esteem mantra and display it somewhere where you’ll see it regularly, like your desk or bathroom mirror.
Avoid comparing yourself to others. With the popularity of social media comes non-stop access to the ‘highlight reels’ of others, which may spur negative feelings about our own realities. It can be easy to compare our achievements, our bodies, or our relationships to those we follow on social media. Studies have found that more frequent Instagram use has been shown to fuel social comparison, leading to decreased self-esteem. To counter this, gain awareness over your daily and weekly use of social media, and how it may be impacting your mental state and thought patterns. Be intentional to unfollow accounts that spur negative thoughts about yourself, and instead follow accounts that inspire and encourage you in accepting yourself as you are.
Prioritise your well-being. Engaging in habits that support your physical health, such as following a nutritious diet, regular exercise, and prioritising adequate sleep can all have a positive impact on your mindset throughout the day. It also re-enforces that you are worthy of taking care of.
Set small goals and celebrate each success. If you are overwhelmed by everything on your plate and find yourself doubting your ability to get it all done- break it down into small tasks. Just focus on what is in front of you, day by day. Find ways to reward yourself as you hit each milestone, whether it’s your favourite snack or watching your favourite TV show. With each little success, you are reminding yourself that you are capable. Even if you doubt your abilities, you are proving to yourself once again that you CAN do difficult things.
Focus on building assertiveness skills. Maybe you find it difficult to say ‘no’ or assert yourself in certain relationships. While it’s certainly not comfortable (especially at first), think about one small step you could take towards building assertiveness. Perhaps it’s politely declining an invitation when you know you need time for yourself, or drawing a healthy boundary in one of your relationships. Practicing voicing your preferences and needs can have a significant impact on elevating feelings of self-worth.
Surround yourself with supportive people who build you up. The people we surround ourselves with can strongly influence how we feel about ourselves. Be mindful of who you are spending your time with, and how your interactions with certain people make you feel. If you notice that you are always feeling self-conscious or discouraged after being around a certain person or group, take steps to limit your interactions with them. Instead, focus on cultivating relationships that allow you to feel accepted and supported as you are, and build you up instead of tear you down.
Consider seeking professional support to address ongoing challenges with self-esteem. Developing healthy self-esteem can be a process. If you find that you continue to have challenges around low self-esteem, you might consider connecting with a therapist. They can help you to explore where you might have internalised harmful messages about your self-worth, and how to begin to re-write how you see yourself. Therapy is a helpful avenue for many individuals in developing a healthier view of themselves and their value in the world.
Marie Miguel Biography
Marie Miguel has been a writing and research expert for nearly a decade, covering a variety of health- related topics. Currently, she is contributing to the expansion and growth of a free online mental health resource with BetterHelp.com. With an interest and dedication to addressing stigmas associated with mental health, she continues to specifically target subjects related to anxiety and depression.