5 ways to improve and strengthen your self-esteem
At work, in your relationship, in your family life, in your interpersonal relationships, low self-esteem will make your choices and decisions more or less successful. But in the long run, the consequences can be devastating. Unless we become aware of it and act on it, low self-esteem can negatively affect the course of our lives. More importantly, we risk passing on the roots of this illness to the next generation. The family is indeed the soil where self-esteem is born and developed.
We will explain here how to regain self-esteem and confidence. 5 strategies that, if practiced regularly, will help develop and maintain a good self-esteem and a more constructive attitude towards oneself. But first, where does self-esteem fit in your scale of values?
Values are the most powerful motivator and explain all your behaviors, whether conscious or not. Everyone has their own hierarchy of values, so we all make different choices. Self-esteem should necessarily be one of your important values. It is the path to self-realization and letting go. And it is also the consequence of respecting your other values.
Low self-esteem and poor choices go hand in hand.
Interpersonal conflicts are often the result of different value hierarchies, just as inner turmoil is the result of your difficulty in choosing between values of equal weight. If a situation leads you to violate an important value – including self-esteem, for example – you experience psychological suffering and a major imbalance. Although inconsistency, to some extent, is part of human nature, no one likes to feel uncomfortable or uneasy
Nor should anyone tolerate the chronic consequences of low self-esteem on their emotional life. Indeed, pleasure in all its forms is linked to your ability to love yourself as a human being. Every time you surrender, every time you stop resisting, every time your choices are in line with your values and your uniqueness, you experience intense personal satisfaction. Remember, for example, a choice that is truly driven by a deep need, whether it’s accepting or refusing a promotion, taking or leaving a life partner, or even planning a travel itinerary in great detail.
To feel good about yourself is to be proud of yourself, of your skills, of your achievements, but also of your potential, of your abilities: to be able to learn, to understand, to progress, to love and to be loved in return, to feel emotions of a higher order (justice, goodness, aesthetics…), to appreciate your talents and your choices.
In another article, we discussed the subtle differences between the feeling of competence – what you do – and identity – what you are.
These two concepts, although interrelated, are quite distinct and, if self-esteem is deeply rooted in your successes, your achievements, we must not neglect the respect for your person, your originality, your right to life and your emotions, whatever they are.
Key Idea #1
Self-esteem draws on love and compassion for yourself as much as, if not more than, recognition from others for your skills. While the latter is a valuable comfort, you don’t really have control over it. That’s why it’s essential to develop your self-esteem on your own.
Having a sense of self-worth means trusting yourself, believing in yourself enough to dare to say what you think, to do what you think you should do, and to accept the consequences with confidence. It means investing in meaningful goals, respecting your values and managing your time according to them. This is a whole program whose application often remains in the only intention without resulting in action.
How to regain self-esteem and confidence: 5 strategies
1- Feel the discomfort
Your emotions, your feelings and your thoughts are physically inscribed in your body. At any moment, your body provides you with clues, signals, of what is happening inside you. It is important to be aware of this, to welcome this wisdom and not to put aside these signs by telling yourself that you are surely mistaken about their meaning. There is an intelligence in these reactions of the body that you should respect.
It may happen, in fact, that you decide to ignore them because of a lack of confidence in your own sensations, thus ignoring a great richness that you share with the animal kingdom, namely instinct. Think of the time you forced yourself to stay with someone who threatened your self-esteem by telling you that you were the problem and that you were ill-disposed. In the end, the encounter was almost torture. You invalidated your feelings by making excuses for the other person, or worse, by giving up your power to them, and you realized later that you would have benefited from trusting yourself.
Emotion is sometimes more accurate and authentic than reason. It is the privileged way to access a deeper level. To have a good self-esteem is to rely on yourself and respect your instincts. It is allowing you to exercise your power, the power to end an unpleasant tête-à-tête for example, as in the situation described above.
Obviously, to create this new habit, you must first stop and become aware of your emotional state and decide to trust yourself.
2- Go with the flow
Being able to say no is a way to take care of yourself. It is not always easy, because you may fear criticism, manipulative remarks, both possible repercussions to expressing what you really want. You have to overcome the fear of rejection, disapproval and non-acceptance. This old conditioning is so strong that it almost suggests that not disliking is essential to your survival.
Yet, remember that time when you were pushed to the limit and had no choice but to assert yourself. What a feeling of power, what a satisfaction, what a release!
In the same way, it is unacceptable to allow yourself to be criticized because you have a particular emotion or feeling. All emotions are legitimate and valid. It is the behavior that can be questionable. You don’t have to be a conformist just to have peace. On the contrary, denying yourself the right to live your fear, anger or values is the best way to be in conflict with yourself. Adults with high self-esteem are able to express themselves freely, regardless of the reactions of others. They can also disagree when the situation requires them to set boundaries and keep their self-esteem intact.
When you feel you have to, you have the right to change your mind and, at any time, express your disagreement. Developing these attitudes takes courage. Again, hindsight is necessary to be aware of the occasions when you say yes when you should have said no.
You also need to assess the possible consequences of saying no and the benefits of saying yes to yourself. You need to love yourself enough to do it and, finally, savor the results. A good decision should always end the dithering of ambivalence and result in, if not great pleasure, at least definite satisfaction. And you must do this on a regular basis, perhaps starting with simple events, small decisions, or risk being labeled unstable.
Saying yes, without going beyond your limits
In the same vein, always saying yes to others can lead you to give beyond your capacity. Knowing your limit and feeling your need for self-preservation are the right ways to prevent depression and burnout and to stay sane. It is not selfish to spare your energy reserves. The desire to help others, to please them, to protect them, should never damage your personal integrity, your self-esteem.
The self-esteem person feels the need to be of service and to do his or her part, but never beyond a certain limit. For many people, knowing how to stop can be difficult because of their religious upbringing, their beliefs, their other values, their lack of consideration or sensitivity towards themselves. Yet, setting priorities and taking care of their energy would make them much more effective caregivers.
Metaphorically speaking, we could compare your physical, mental, spiritual and emotional self to a bank account. Before debiting any money, it is best to check your balance. It is also wise to make payments from time to time if you want to be of service to others. To do this, you must believe in the need to recharge, prioritize and reserve energy for yourself.
3- Ground yourself in the present moment
It is easier to become aware of your emotions and feelings when you are well anchored in the present moment rather than in memories of the past or anticipation of the future. Low self-esteem is also reflected in the inability to enjoy the here and now.
People with low self-esteem constantly doubt their choices, believe that their happiness is always missing, that they are never in the right place at the right time, that the grass is greener on the other side. They are often looking for what they already have, being unable to enjoy it, and never find it. They are then dissatisfied, unhappy and, in the end, they reinforce their low self-esteem.
They would do well to develop more supportive beliefs, including the belief that they are in the right place at the right time. This requires, of course, flexibility, i.e. the ability to face uncomfortable situations and to integrate them quickly by reinterpreting them in a different way. Self-esteem is an indication of this capacity to face changes, whether they are desired or not.
Key Idea #2
When you feel you must, you have the right to change your mind and, at any time, to express your disagreement. Developing these attitudes takes courage. Again, hindsight is necessary to be aware of those times when you say yes when you should have said no.
In the same vein, always saying yes to others can lead you to give beyond your capacity. It is not selfish to spare your energy reserves. The desire to help others, to please them, to protect them, should never result in damage to your personal integrity, to your self-esteem.
4- Self-esteem and relationships with others
Your ability to react appropriately in social situations, whatever they may be, is a good indicator of your self-esteem. There are certain rules that can guide you in this area. It is at times when you lack self-confidence that you allow others to encroach on your territory.
You give them too much leeway, regardless of your emotional understanding of the situation. You react much as you did as a child, out of fear, by agreeing with the other person, perhaps mistakenly believing that they have a more informed understanding of the problem or situation. In short, you invalidate your own discernment.
Some people have the gift of putting you down and, with them, you perceive yourself as less than you are. Others, on the contrary, make you feel good, value you, listen to you with interest and appreciate you for the sole reason that you exist. While in the company of the former, you doubt yourself, you enjoy being around the latter, you feel full of energy in their presence.
Why not allow yourself to choose the people you hang out with? Of course, it takes courage to cut ties with negative people, to protect yourself from them, especially if they are close to you.
Here it is important to make some distinctions, because appearances can be deceiving. If a true friend can sometimes, for your own good, not always be pleasant, it can also happen that someone is very sympathetic and that his or her attitude masks an intention that is less so.
Personal sensitivity and trusting yourself
Hence the importance of referring to your personal sensitivity and trusting yourself. Among the possible solutions: express yourself, ask questions in order to transform the relationship, or simply distance yourself physically or emotionally.
It also happens that you have to face reactions from others that are completely unintelligible, disproportionate, hysterical or senseless. Your old conditioning towards authority figures of the past may then come to the surface. You may, for example, feel guilty, feel the need to understand the other person, or even to help him or her, by spending an inordinate amount of energy. You may also, on the other hand, make things worse by playing into their hands.
It is more reasonable to recognize that some behaviours, such as those of alcoholics, violent people, fanatics or perfectionists, have very deep roots and that trying to help them requires professional help. It is clearly preferable, even if it is delicate, to detach yourself as quickly as possible from these situations, to respond rationally or not at all to provocations and not to feel concerned by such attitudes.
The choice of good relationships
In the same vein, choosing your friends and relationships requires a conscious effort. Connecting with others as an adult is more difficult than when you were a child. This is because your values are more stable, individualized and different. While some friendships are still possible and rewarding, others are less compatible with who you are and can have a negative impact on your self-esteem.
A friendship should never be a one-way street. Of course, it may be necessary from time to time to help, to listen, to be of service, even to manage a crisis. But always finding yourself practicing these exceptional relationship skills can only result in neglecting your own needs. Finally, you have to love yourself enough to choose to relate to people who are as psychologically healthy as you are in order to get energy and sharing from them. This means knowing your needs and values
Also, to a large extent, don’t take too much notice of other people’s opinions. You are, and this is human, concerned about what they may think of you. You can pretend otherwise in thought, but emotion is harder to deny. Criticism can hurt insidiously, and even more if you dwell on it. Again, you are a victim of multiple conditioning inherited from parenting, teachers, friends, group norms, society, even the media.
Before taking into account someone else’s opinion of you, you should ask yourself what effect it will have on you, on your successes and failures. It is much more beneficial for you to build on your self-confidence.
Key Idea #3
If you can learn from others, it should never be by allowing yourself to be hurt. The person who has your best interests at heart does not have to unload their own problems and frustrations on you. You have the power and, more importantly, the duty to yourself to choose between healthy and unhealthy criticism. The difference is how you feel about the other person’s intention.
The person with good self-esteem chooses someone who listens and cares about them and ignores those who harm their inner self. The more they do this, the more they reinforce their sense of self-worth.
5- Our self-esteem and our Protector
Finally, we invite you to a little awareness. It seems natural to you to give credit to others for their talents and creations or to praise this movie or that restaurant. But you are often uncomfortable talking about your own achievements. This is again a product of education where self-love is combined with pride.
And yet, it is a prerequisite for loving others. As you have learned to criticize yourself, you can learn to silence the voice of blame within you and, more importantly, you can develop the voice of your Protector. He loves you unconditionally, a bit like that good grandmother whom you adored because she supported you, reminded you of your talents, your qualities, your uniqueness.
Both the voice of the inner critic and that of the Protector are creations born of habit. You have the choice of developing one to see the other die out over time.
As you can see, it is possible to change conditionings and not remain a prisoner of your education. This metamorphosis will happen in most cases without the intervention of a therapist, if you are conscious, motivated and willing to take action. But there is no shame in getting help.
Key Idea #4
The better your self-esteem, the less vulnerable you are to manipulation. Here’s how to regain self-esteem and confidence with these eight tips.).
1. Trust yourself. Take into account your intuitions, your emotions and your physical and psychological discomforts. Your body has its own wisdom and signals of fatigue and stress.
2. Never give beyond your own capacity and keep some of your energy for yourself and for the unexpected.
3. Don’t give too much importance to the opinion of others, to their criticism, unless it comes from someone you respect and trust. Your values, even if they are different, are just as important and defensible as those of others.
4. Allow yourself to say No! at any time, to change your mind and to express your true feelings.
5. Avoid the company of people who question your values and make you feel less than you are.
6. Also avoid the company of people who are more dysfunctional than you. Surround yourself with pleasant, positive, happy people, people who make you feel good and who are credible to you.
7. Stop looking for explanations for other people’s attitudes and behaviors that don’t have any or have nothing to do with you. Focus on your goals and let the helping professionals do their work.
8. Be good to yourself. Reward yourself, congratulate yourself for your good deeds.
To go further, read these articles:
14 small steps to relieve stress and anxiety