Self-esteem is basically your opinion about yourself. If you have a high self-esteem you will probably think very highly of yourself but if you have a low self-esteem you will probably be very critical and negative about yourself so ideally you want your self-esteem to sit somewhere nicely in the middle of the spectrum.
What is self-esteem?
Self-esteem is the way we think ourselves which then helps us to figure out our value. We can often be quite critical towards ourselves from time to time but if it’s a daily thing for you, then you could have a low self-esteem which can fuel a variety of different mental illnesses such as anxiety and depression.
What is a low self-esteem?
To have a low self-esteem can mean any of the follow:
– You are extremely critical of yourself
– You lack confidence
– You’re unable to express your needs
– You have an intense fear of failing
– You don’t believe or accept any compliments you receive
– You use negative words to describe yourself (such as fat, ugly, unlovable etc)
– You assume that luck plays a role in your achievements
– You ignore or downplay your positive qualities
– You ‘self-talk’ but you are always talking negatively towards yourself
– You judge yourself to be inferior to your peers
– You instantly blame yourself when things go wrong
– You focus more on your ‘failures’ than your achievements
– You feel angry, depressed, guilty, anxious, ashamed etc
What can cause a low self-esteem?
If you have a low self-esteem then you have probably consistently received overly negative or critical comments from family members, work colleagues, teachers, friends/peers and/or your partner (either past partners or a current one), but how you think, your age, any potential illnesses, disabilities, your job or any limitations you have can all play a big role in your self-esteem. So for example those who were bullied through school, went through toxic relationships or those who didn’t have the best parent figures, are more likely to suffer from a low self-esteem (which then can cause mental illnesses). But there can be other causes of low self-esteem such as;
– Poor academic performance whilst in education (which results in a lack of confidence)
– Ongoing stresses in your life (such as money worries or relationship problems)
– Ongoing medical problems (such as chronic pains, disabilities or serious illnesses)
– Mental illnesses
My low self-esteem started way back when I was a child after my first trauma which kick started the PTSD and anxiety, then after my dads death my low self-esteem went perfectly with my depression and then because of my age and because of the phase (and future phases) I was going through it remained low up until the past year or so. My low self-esteem had a big impact on my previous relationship and I really struggled with my confidence, especially with my body. Once the relationship had ended my self-esteem was still low but instead of lacking confidence, I lacked value so I searched for validation by going off the fucking rails which then influenced my mental breakdown, which all got me to this day where I can sometimes easily receive and give compliments, I know my self-worth, I never judge myself or others, I accept criticism but it does not define me and I’m able to give myself praise when I achieve something, no matter how big or small the achievement is or how significant it is to others, if I have achieved it then well done to me.
How does a low self-esteem impact your life?
Having a low self-esteem will cause you to see yourself and your life in a negative way which then reduces your quality of life because your overall outlook to almost everything is negative so it can impact:
– Your relationships. Having a low self-esteem whilst in a relationship will probably mean that you will tolerate all sorts of unreasonable behaviours from your partner because you believe that you must earn their love, trust and time in order to become good enough for them or to be loved by them. Alternatively, those with a low self-esteem can also be the bully in the relationship and either feel or act out in aggression.
– Perfectionism. You push yourself and you put so much pressure on yourself to make sure that everything you do is perfect. You become an over achiever in order to try and prove your worth to those who you might feel are inferior to you.
– Fear of trying. You have so much doubt about yourself and you are convinced that you will fail so you avoid challenges and trying altogether.
– Negative feelings. A consistent run of negative thoughts and self-critical thoughts in your head can lead (and will lead) to persistent feelings of sadness, anxiety, depression, anger, guilt, shame, worthlessness etc.
– Self-harming behaviours. If you have a low self-esteem you are at a higher risk of self-harming because of how you see yourself and your value to other. Those with low self-esteem have been found to be more likely to develop eating disorders and/or rely on drugs/alcohol as well as having a high suicide rate.
– Lack of self-care. You may lose all motivation to look after yourself or feel as though there is no point in doing so anyway.
How to build on your self-esteem.
If you are wanting to work on your self-esteem you have to consciously acknowledge that you will be challenging all the negativity that resides in you. By consciously making the decision to change your mindset and your lifestyle, you are already re-programming your brain to doubt the negatives you see, feel or think. Once you have done this you can then begin to build on your self-esteem by:
– Talking to yourself more positively. I know this one probably seems like a cliché but just treat yourself how you treat someone that you love, be kind and understanding and support yourself.
– Challenge the negatives. Find the evidence that proves these negative thoughts wrong, such as “Well I haven’t done this before so I don’t actually know if I will fail or not” or “I know how to improve for next time”. It can be hard at first to find the evidence against your negative beliefs so it might be helpful to get someone your trust to help you (I have written a bit more about evidence for and against which you can read here)
– Do not compare yourself to others. You are in your own lane, doing your own thing and living your own life.
– Acknowledge the positives. If someone gives you a compliment, don’t brush it off or dismiss it, just simply say “thank you”, if someone is giving you a compliment then make a note of what they are complimenting you on, don’t forget your strengths.
– Celebrate the smalls things in your life. Celebrate everything you achieve even if it’s just getting out of bed in the morning.
– Think about the things you can change, don’t worry about the things you can’t.
– Stop beating yourself up. Everyone has made and will make mistakes and we will all make thousands of mistakes in our lives but do you know what? Shit happens.
– Focus on the present moment.
– Create a positive journal. I used to have one where on each day I would write down something positive that happened or something that caused me to feel some sort of positive feeling. It genuinely was incredibly helpful for me as it helped me to realise that me or my life weren’t as negative as I believed. If you don’t want a journal you could even start with just saying one thing positive about yourself or your day instead.
– Appreciate your special qualities. You are unique and you should know that.
– Have fun! Enjoy your god damn life because trust me, it ain’t as bad as others.
– Exercise. I know it may seem like a lot of effort but exercise is incredibly beneficial on so many levels.
– Be assertive. Express your wants, needs and opinions, just make sure you do it in a respectful, direct and honest manner.
– Stop worrying. Why worry about the past? It’s in the past, you can’t change it. Why worry about the future? It’s in the future, you cannot predict what will happen. Stay in the present moment.
– Be around people that life your mood and have people that you trust to help you if you need it.
Building on low self-esteem is challenging to begin with (it does take daily practise) but it does become easier and eventually as your self-esteem increases it all just become natural to you. Once your self-esteem increases, your quality of life will seem amazing (even though it has always been amazing).
Remember to practise daily!
Sending so much love to you all,