The most terrifying thing is to accept oneself completely. - Carl Jung

We've all been there - moments when we lack confidence and don't feel great about ourselves. However, when low self-esteem becomes a long-lasting challenge, it can profoundly impact our mental well-being and daily life.

What is Self-Esteem?

Self-esteem is our personal evaluation of ourselves. With healthy self-esteem, we typically have a positive outlook on ourselves and life in general, enabling us to handle life's various ups and downs more effectively. On the other hand, when our self-esteem is low, we perceive ourselves and our lives more negatively and critically, making us less equipped to tackle life's challenges.

Roots of Low Self-Esteem

Low self-esteem often takes root in childhood. Teachers, friends, siblings, parents, and even the media send us both positive and negative messages about ourselves. Unfortunately, the notion that we're not good enough tends to linger.

Struggling to meet others' expectations or even our own can contribute to low self-esteem. Stressful events, such as severe illness or bereavement, can also negatively affect our self-worth. Personality factors play a role, too, with some people more susceptible to negative thinking or setting impossibly high standards for themselves.

The Impact of Low Self-Esteem

If low self-esteem plagues you, you might withdraw from social situations, stop trying new things, or avoid challenges. While avoiding difficult situations may provide short-term relief, it can backfire in the long run by reinforcing doubts and fears. Consequently, you might learn the unhelpful rule that avoidance is the only way to cope.

Living with low self-esteem can damage your mental health, leading to issues like depression and anxiety. Additionally, it may prompt unhelpful habits, such as smoking or excessive drinking, as coping mechanisms.

Building Healthy Self-Esteem

To enhance your self-esteem, you need to recognize and challenge your negative self-beliefs. For example, you might tell yourself that you're "too stupid" for a new job or that "nobody cares" about you. Begin by jotting down these negative thoughts on paper or in a diary, and consider when you first started having them.

Next, write down evidence that disputes these negative beliefs, such as "I'm great at solving puzzles" or "My friend checks in on me regularly." List other positive aspects about yourself, like "I'm a fantastic listener" or "I'm a creative problem solver." Remember to include kind words others have said about you.

Aim for at least five positive items on your list and update it regularly. Keep your list visible to remind yourself of your worth constantly. Remember, there is always time to develop new ways of seeing ourselves and embracing a more fulfilling life.

Additional Strategies to Enhance Self-Esteem

Here are more simple techniques to help you feel better about yourself:

  1. Acknowledge your strengths: We all excel in something, whether it's cooking, dancing, problem-solving, or being a supportive friend. Engaging in activities we're good at can boost our mood.
  2. Foster positive relationships: If certain individuals bring you down, try spending less time with them or express how their words or actions affect you. Cultivate connections with positive people who appreciate and uplift you.
  3. Practice self-compassion: Treat yourself kindly during self-critical moments. Consider what you'd say to a friend in a similar situation - we often provide better advice to others than to ourselves.
  4. Develop assertiveness: Assertiveness involves respecting others' opinions and needs while expecting the same in return. Observe and learn from assertive people to let your true self shine.
  5. Embrace the power of "no": Individuals with low self-esteem often feel compelled to say yes to others, even when they don't genuinely want to. This can lead to feeling overburdened, resentful, angry, and depressed. In most cases, saying no won't harm relationships. Persist in saying no in various ways until the message is clear.

Challenge yourself:

Everyone feels nervous or scared at times, but those with healthy self-esteem don't let these emotions prevent them from trying new things or taking on challenges. Set a goal, such as joining a fitness class or attending a social event. Achieving your goals will help boost your self-esteem.

Seeking Help for Low Self-Esteem

Counselling can provide invaluable support. A registered clinical counsellor will provide a safe space for self-exploration and assist in identifying the root causes of self-doubt and self-criticism. Through their guidance, individuals learn to challenge negative thoughts, cultivate self-compassion, and embrace their strengths, leading to a healthier self-image and a more fulfilling life.

In summary, low self-esteem can have significant effects on our mental health and daily lives. By identifying and challenging negative self-beliefs, acknowledging our strengths, fostering positive relationships, practicing self-compassion, and learning to be assertive, we can work toward building healthy self-esteem. Remember, it's never too late to develop new ways of seeing ourselves and embracing a more fulfilling life.

Here's a recap of the steps and strategies to boost your self-esteem:

  • Understand self-esteem and its importance.
  • Identify the causes of your low self-esteem.
  • Recognize the impact of low self-esteem on your life.
  • Challenge your negative self-beliefs by writing them down and disputing them with evidence.
  • Create a list of positive attributes and compliments from others to remind yourself of your worth.
  • Acknowledge your strengths and engage in activities you excel in.
  • Build positive relationships with supportive people.
  • Practice self-compassion, treating yourself kindly during self-critical moments.
  • Develop assertiveness and learn from those who exhibit it.
  • Embrace the power of "no" to avoid becoming overburdened.
  • Set and achieve personal goals to increase your self-esteem.
  • Seek professional help if necessary.

By incorporating these steps and strategies into your daily life, you'll be well on your way to cultivating healthy self-esteem and enjoying a more fulfilling, happier life. Remember, self-esteem is not a fixed attribute - it's something that can be nurtured and developed over time. Don't be afraid to seek support from friends, family, or professionals as you embark on this journey to boost your self-worth and embrace the person you truly are.