We've talked a lot about how low self-esteem holds us back from the things we want to achieve and deserve in life. It can deter us from going after what we want career-wise, negatively affect our health, and it can also be a repellent when it comes to attracting the right mate, or any mate at all! Self-esteem is based on how we view our capabilities, and how we value our worth as a person. People with high self-esteem tend to be confident, positive, and secure. Because they value themselves, they're more likely to be optimistic, interact with positive people, and have healthy and active lifestyles. When you have low self-esteem however, you're more likely to have negative views on life, engage in unhealthy habits (like smoking and overeating), and you also tend to attract others who either share your low self-esteem or who perpetuate your feelings of inferiority, because you believe you don't deserve any better.
Where does it come from?
Self-esteem, whether low or high, is usually formulated in childhood. Because a child's mind is not yet formed, they tend to formulate opinions of themselves based on what they're told, either by their parents, or their peers. If a parent is overly critical, or a child is bullied by their peers and made to feel inferior, chances are the child will adopt these negative views. This negativity can unfortunately be carried over into adulthood, as "recordings", that play over and over in the mind. Hearing, "You're stupid" as a child, becomes, "I'm stupid" as an adult, and so on.
How do we change it?
Changing low self-esteem comes from within. Often we look to external elements to make us feel better, (like a partner or material things), but this is a futile search. The whole problem began by adopting the views of others, so how could the solution be derived from the root of the problem?
Tips on Raising Self-Esteem
1. Self-parenting and cognitive therapy. The recordings in your head that tell you you're not good enough, attractive enough, smart enough, etc., are those of a sad child. Pay attention to anything negative you're saying to yourself throughout the day - write it down. You'll probably be surprised at how much negativity you unfairly perpetuate in yourself. The key is to replace these negative thoughts with positive ones: Changing "I'm so stupid sometimes", to, "I'm too hard on myself, I'm a good person" is an example.
2. Posture. People with low self-esteem tend to have stooped shoulders, and shallow breathing, and they look down often and avoid eye contact. Not only does this posture help others identify you as someone with low self-esteem (and make them not want to interact with you), but it creates muscle tension, makes you feel bad physically, and decreases the oxygen flow to the brain. Studies show a direct link between shallow breathing and depression. Stand up straight, breathe deeply and purposefully - you have a right to be on this earth just like anyone else! If someone is talking to you, look them in the eye - this is how humans connect. By trusting ourselves, we make it much easier for others to trust us in return.
3. Stop comparing yourself to others. You are your own person, with your talents, interests, and personality. Our goal as human beings is to find our inner strengths and contribute positively to the world. If you do adopt someone else's view of you, you've given away your power, and you are in essence, living a half-life that's not your own. Find your place. Pursue your dreams. If you don't know what they are yet - that's ok! Not everyone knows early on who they are - it's part of the challenge we all face so enjoy the journey!
4. Stop perpetuating negativity. Often when our self-esteem is low, we criticize others to make ourselves feel better. This does nothing but make others feel bad, and make you feel even worse about yourself because deep down you know how it feels to be treated that way. Remember you have a responsibility not to perpetuate the same behavior that caused you to feel this way in the first place!! It's exactly like physical or sexual abuse being passed down from family member to family member - you have to break the cycle!
5. Choose to be happy. Grieving over the past or worrying about the future is completely pointless. Recognize what you have right now and be grateful - it's important to reflect on how lucky we are. If there's something you want to change, then change it. If you can't change it, then accept it and work with it! And remember - lasting changes never happen overnight - you're a work in progress!