Self esteem. Most people don’t know how to build their self esteem and self confidence. And it’s tough, self esteem is kind of an abstract concept. Most people feel like they know what it is but they really don’t. It’s one of those ideals people constantly chase like- purpose, meaning, life, and goodness. Self esteem is probably the most valuable thing you can have and yet so many people don’t posses it.
So what is self esteem? And how do you build your self esteem?
Self esteem, by my definition, is a sense of confidence and belief in oneself that you are a person of value; a person worthy of respect and dignity. That you are a capable and independent person no matter what.
Let’s break down the concept further. What is esteem? What does it mean to hold someone in high esteem? Well, you’ll probably really respect that person, you won’t doubt them in moments when they give you advice and you might even want to be a bit like them. Self esteem is exactly that, but towards yourself.
A lot of people throw around that phrase but don’t really have it in themselves. Often times it’s confused with ego. But self esteem is different than ego. Ego is a version of ourselves that we imagine. Our sense of self. You can have an ego and no self esteem. You can also have self esteem and no ego. You can have both. But they are separate. Like I said, ego is the version of ourselves we imagine and self esteem is the complete respect and belief in oneself.
So what do you need to do in order to build a high self esteem? It’s not as easy as you think:
1) Avoid toxic people
This seems like a given but somehow toxic people tend to slither into our lives. They love to leech off the good energy of people with high self esteem and confidence. Usually in the form of a romantic interest. When you have high self esteem you tend to repel toxic partners (because you know better than to engage them) but when it’s low, the toxics will come in droves. It makes sense to avoid someone who devalues you, doesn’t respect you, pokes at your insecurities and overall is incompatible. Yet so many men and women end up with partners that thrive on keeping their lovers down and out.
By ending relationships that hurt how you see yourself, you are taking the next step to confidence and happiness. Because it’s impossible to be happy when someone you love is hurting you. It just doesn’t work if you want to build your self confidence.
2) Avoid situations that are emotionally harmful
This sort of ties in to topic # 1, if you’re avoiding toxic people you’re essentially avoiding situations that are harmful. But that’s not enough, there are tons of different situations you’ll need to avoid in order to maintain your sense of who you are and your value.
Somehow we’re also drawn to situations that seem either too good to be true or just give us too much hope. Disappointment is a huge reason why people lose their self-esteem. It could be something as easy as wanting a guy/girl to like you and finding out he wants your friend or standing next to your supermodel sister and feeling like the most monstrous person in the world when you’re actually really cute or dating a known player but still hoping you can change him. Or studying with the smartest kid in class, only to be left feeling dumb because you take too long to do the work. These sort of small not so serious situations will peck at your self-esteem and keep you from feeling as confident as you should be.
There’s also the issue with drama. I wish people were logical but we aren’t. We’re drawn to drama because it gives us a thrill or some sort of validation. It’s so important to avoid all drama and disappointment as much as possible and not put yourself in these emotionally charged situations because at the end of it all, the conflict will cause negativity towards yourself.
Think about the last big argument you got into…it wasn’t long until you started doubting yourself and wondering why you’re going through such a hard time. You started to question who you are and your value. The truth is, you can’t always avoid drama but, at the very least, you don’t have to seek it out.
3) Remember your strength
Sometimes when I’m feeling like life is impossible and too hard, I look back at what I’ve accomplished. I think of all the really hard shit I’ve gone through like my battle with achalasia or my unplanned pregnancy or the mold that infested our house. You see, I went through all that and it was stressful but I got through it.
Chances are there are challenges you’ve had to go through too. Remembering those obstacles in your life and drawing on that strength you had to get through them is a huge tool.
Looking at your past moments of perseverance and applying that to your future is one way to build your self esteem. Why shouldn’t you believe in yourself now when you’ve proven yourself capable time and time again? This is an easy way to build your confidence. It’s not really a fake it until you make it sort of self-esteem but more about giving yourself the credit you deserve.
4) Be your own cheerleader
It’s not always going to work out that someone will be rooting you on. In reality, there might be people in your life who are actively trying to tear you down.
Life is rarely perfect in that way and in these times you’ll need to know how to be your own cheerleader and believe in yourself when no one else does.
There was a girl in my high school that was always so negative. She had no knowledge on how to build self confidence. Every conversation I had with her was dreary and self-deprecating. She always complained about how nobody liked her, she was ugly, the teacher didn’t help her, her parents suck, etc. I tried to cheer her up and get her to think about the positives in her life but it never worked. After a while it was too draining and I had to distance myself. It just seemed like she enjoyed her own misery.
The point is to not expect others to lift you up but to do it on your own, even if you have to fake your own happiness for a little while. Self esteem isn’t something that can be built overnight but is something that’s built over time as you start to see yourself as worthy.
That friend, she had terrible self esteem and even though I was a friend who always was positive, it never helped. She needed to see all the positives in herself, for herself.
5) Accept who you are
Don’t be an apple wishing it was a pear, and don’t be a pear wishing it was an apple.
We all have things we wish we could change about ourselves but some of those things are unchangeable.
When I was younger, I used to wish I had lighter skin. Can you really change the color of your skin? Not unless you’re Michael Jackson.
My skin is the color of light milk chocolate and it’s a very nice complexion, but I lived in a neighborhood that was white and Italian so I wanted a fair complexion instead. Over time I learned to really love my skin, it hardly wrinkles and never gets sunburn. Imagine if I dwelled over my darker skin color, how unhappy I would have been?
For things you can’t change, you need to learn to live with it and love it. Your quirks, your imperfections, all of it. Accepting these things about yourself and even loving them will give you the mental room to feel positive about who you are and what you’re all about.
I think the main point here is that most people aren’t born with a ton of self esteem. I would describe it more like a muscle you need to flex to strengthen.
What benefits are there to build self confidence? Tons, actually! You can finally do all those things you wanted to do in your life but were uncertain you could accomplish. You can ask that cute guy/girl out and not feel like their approval means everything and you can start living on your own terms and no longer feel chained to your insecurities. A person with high self esteem has the ultimate freedom.
So take it one step at a time, little by little your self esteem with find you.
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