Steps for Building a Stronger You With Positive Self-Esteem

I’m not smart enough. I am not pretty enough. I can’t do it. Have you ever told yourself this?

Most of us probably have. However, if that’s something you’re telling yourself regularly, you might be suffering from low self-esteem.

Illustration of people cheering up

Unfortunately, living with low self-esteem can be detrimental to your mental health. Indeed, the negative perception of yourself and constant self-criticism can generate persistent negative feelings, leading to depression, anxiety, or even guilt.

On the other hand, high self-esteem can significantly contribute to success and happiness.

In fact, some studies have shown that higher self-esteem was linked to improved work and health and more successful relationships. And while self-esteem is not the only factor in feeling happy or being successful in your personal or work life, it certainly plays an important part.

This article aims at providing you with a better understanding of the self-esteem concept. It should also help you grasp why self-esteem is important and give you some pointers on how you can improve yours.

What is Self-Esteem?

According to the Cambridge dictionary, self-esteem is the ‘’belief and confidence in your own ability and value’’. In other words, self-esteem is how you feel or think about yourself.

You might have heard people talking about low or high self-esteem. If you have low self-esteem, it means that you’re excessively critical about yourself, may it be about your abilities, your appearance, or your emotions. On the other hand, if you have high self-esteem, it means you think highly of yourself and your abilities, intelligence, or appearance.

Self-esteem is particularly important because it significantly influences your choices and decisions. Now, we’re not born with self-esteem. Indeed, it comes from the influences and experiences you’ve been exposed to.

Why is Self-Esteem Important

Self-esteem is crucial for our overall well-being and success in life. It refers to our sense of worth and value as individuals, and it affects how we think, feel and behave. Having healthy self-esteem allows us to feel confident and capable, leading to a positive self-image and a more fulfilling life. On the other hand, low self-esteem can cause us to feel insecure and hold ourselves back, leading to negative thought patterns and potentially harmful behavior. Nurturing and maintaining positive self-esteem is essential for personal growth, healthy relationships, and achieving our goals and aspirations.

Three Main Self-Esteem Levels

Self-esteem can be classified into three main types: high, healthy and low.

High self-esteem

People with high self-esteem may be confident and assertive, however, can also be prone to arrogance, and a lack of empathy. There are three main points of high self-esteem:

  • Being too self-confident
  • Belief in perfectness
  • Lack of empathy
  • Prioritizing one's own needs and opinions above those of others.

If the level of self-esteem is too high, it can lead to negative social and personal outcomes. That is why it’s important to strive for a healthy level of self-understanding which involves recognizing and accepting both strengths and weaknesses.

Healthy self-esteem

With healthy self-esteem, people accept their strengths and weaknesses and have a positive self-image. It involves a balanced and realistic view of oneself, characterized by qualities such as:

  • Recognizing and accepting strengths and weaknesses
  • Having a strong sense of self
  • Being true to oneself, without trying to be someone one is not.

Having a healthy self-esteem enables individuals to navigate life's challenges with confidence, resilience and a positive outlook, leading to greater personal growth, fulfilling relationships and overall satisfaction in life.

Low self-esteem

Low self-esteem is always associated with feelings of inadequacy and worthlessness, and can have a significant impact on your overall well-being. The following three points can characterize it:

  • Negative self-image
  • Lack of self-confidence and holding you back from new experiences
  • Seeking for approval and validation from others.

Remember that achieving and maintaining positive self-esteem involves recognizing and accepting one's worth and focusing on personal strengths.

Factors that Can Influence Self-Esteem

While many factors can influence your self-esteem, we’ve listed below the main ones to help you identify how your self-concept might have been or might still be negatively impacted. This will give you the insights you need to work on improving it.

Your Childhood

Our childhood has a huge influence on who we become and on our self-esteem. Sure, people you came across as a child, whether teachers, doctors, or sports coaches, and the people you lived with, parents, or family members all impacted your life at the time. Yet, while this might seem irrelevant now, these influences have significantly contributed to shaping how you perceive yourself today. Put simply, people from your childhood have had an impact on your current self-esteem, may it be in a good or bad way.

As a result, it’s no surprise that people whose parents weren’t’ involved enough or, on the contrary, were overbearing have lower self-esteem than people who lived a balanced childhood supported by devoted parents who gave them the space they needed to think by themselves while still guiding them through life.

Friends and Family

As social creatures, we spend a lot of time with friends. Friends are people with whom you have things in common and who you enjoy spending time with. You create a deep connection with them, forge memories and even support them through their difficulties in life. Great friends can help you build your self-confidence, boost your self-image and contribute to your overall happiness and wellbeing.

But unfortunately, some friends can also turn a mutual bond into a toxic relationship by destroying (purposely or not) your self-confidence and self-esteem driven by jealousy or lack of empathy and self-awareness.

The same goes for family members. Besides, if you’re a parent or in a relationship, the inability to provide for your family can negatively impact your self-esteem, while working as a team with your partner can, on the other hand, raise your self-esteem.

The Media

This is a widespread issue; trying to level up with celebrities or public figures and facing the pressure to look and act like one, especially for teenagers and young adults. In fact, studies have shown that excessive use of social media in younger demographics can contribute to low self-esteem and lead to depression and anxiety.

Of course, social media isn’t the only culprit, as TV ads or TV Shows, print ads, and magazines also play a big role in our body image and how we perceive ourselves.

Indeed, we often compare ourselves to the ‘’perfect’’ image and polished looks commercials, films, magazines, and social media portray. And when we find ourselves unable to compete, our self-esteem decreases as our levels of frustration and disappointment with our bodies and ourselves rise.

Work and Work Environment

One-third of your life is spent at work, meaning you probably spend a lot of time with your colleagues. If that’s the case, they too can influence your self-esteem, whether positively or negatively. Besides, your position and your manager might also be contributing factors.

If you have a very challenging and stressful role and feel like you’re scrambling, you might suffer from low self-esteem. On the other hand, if you’re surrounded by encouraging colleagues, a supportive manager and feel like your projects are under control, you’ll be more likely to have high self-esteem.

How to Improve Self-Esteem

The great news is, there are many ways to improve your self-esteem, increasing your wellbeing and happiness.

Surround Yourself With Supportive People

As mentioned above, the people you surround yourself with have a considerable influence on how you feel about yourself.

Avoiding toxic or negative friends who tend to make you think about yourself negatively is paramount if you want to improve your self-esteem. On the other hand, having supportive friends who encourage you and make you feel happy is important as this will help you boost your self-esteem.

Help Others

Sure, surrounding yourself with positive and supportive people is a great way to increase your self-esteem and have a better image of yourself. However, helping others can also help you! Indeed, doing something for the community, getting involved with children, older individuals, or anyone in need, will make you feel good about yourself and improve your self-esteem.

Treat Yourself

If you live a fast-paced life, have many responsibilities at work or at home, it might be easy to get caught in the daily grind and forget to look after yourself. Treating yourself to a glass of champagne, a spa day, a video game session, or a Netflix TV show every now and then can really help you think more positively about yourself and life in general! Besides, scheduling some me-time (5 or 10 minutes) a day might be a great way to process negative emotions, shift your mindset and start seeing things more positively.

Everyone Makes Mistakes

We all struggle in our own ways, experience difficult situations through life, and make mistakes. That’s the definition of being human! Remember that whenever you feel like blaming yourself. Self-criticism can help us grow but only to a certain excess.

As a result, if you’ve made a mistake, acknowledge it, try and understand what you could have done differently and accept it is a necessary step for you to grow. You’ll do better next time and each time after that ;)

Boost Self-Esteem

Self-esteem is hard to cultivate and can be easily destroyed. Yet, if you follow the steps above and make a conscious effort to be kind to yourself, you can build your self-esteem and improve your wellbeing. Have you experienced low self-esteem before and managed to improve it? If that’s the case, we would love for you to share your experience in the comment section below so the community can benefit from your learnings :)