Self esteem, “self-love, self-respect, self-worth. There is a reason they all start with self. You cannot find them within anyone else.”
This quote of how highly you regard yourself is one of life’s universal truths. But, what is self esteem really? How do you know what it looks like? How is it cultivated? How is it strengthened? If you are curious about the answers to these questions, you have come to the right place. Keep reading.
Self esteem is defined as “a confidence and satisfaction in oneself; self respect,” according to Merriam-Webster.com.
Dictionary.com defines self esteem as a “realistic respect for or favorable impression of oneself; self-respect
Self worth is defined, “a sense of one’s own value as a human being; self esteem according to Merriam-Webster, and according to dictionary.com, self worth is defined as “the sense of one’s own value or worth as a person; self-esteem; self-respect.”
According to Thesaurus.com, synonyms for self esteem and self worth are self satisfaction, self confidence, self respect and self regard. For the purposes of this article, these terms are used interchangeably.
It is one thing to know what self esteem means, and it is a whole other thing to build it and enhance it.
Key components of self esteem
There are many views on the components of self esteem, but Well and Wealthy likes this simple one by Dr. Nathaniel Branden, a psychotherapist. He breaks down self-esteem in two parts:
- “Self-efficacy – confidence in one’s ability to think, learn, choose, and make appropriate decisions; and
- Self-respect – confidence in one’s right to be happy and in the belief that achievement, success, friendship, respect, love, and fulfillment are appropriate to us.”
At the core of self esteem is confidence–confidence to make solid decisions and pursue endeavors based on one’s sound thinking, ability to learn, and choices. Also, at the center of self worth is the belief that pursuing authentic friendships, love, and fulfillment are worthy of your efforts to find happiness. Likewise, the process of setting goals and accomplishing them are worthwhile endeavors in the pursuit of joy.
Inherent in your own worth or abilities from the descriptions of self efficacy and self respect is action. Self esteem is built from within and from those who took care of you in the early years of your childhood.
Not everyone had nurturing parents and caregivers, who helped to build a solid level of self confidence. Many reading this had human influences during their early years that set them up with a low self-esteem. If you relate to this, you can still construct good self confidence, so keep reading…
Self esteem is important to fulfillment and happiness. Indeed, it influences the quality of decisions you make, the conditions of your relationships, and holistic health wealth, which from Well and Wealthy’s perspective comprises of 8 areas.
Feelings of self worth tend to fluctuate during the first 2 to 3 decades of life with it being lowest in childhood, generally increasing through the teen years and then stabilizing as you get older.
What healthy self worth and low self esteem look like
Individuals with a healthy self confidence view themselves positively and have a good relationship with themselves. You know who you are, what you do well, and what you don’t. You see yourself as having the potential to learn new things and work successfully through challenges, whether or not they were planned for.
Having good self-esteem through difficult situations in life also helps. With positive self regard, you are likely to have more optimism about the outcome of tough situations. There is a sense of confidence that you can face adversity and make it through on the other side of the difficulty being okay.
On the flip side, individuals with low self worth tend to doubt themselves, their potential, and what they can achieve. They don’t like to try new things or go through new, unfamiliar experiences because they lack trust in their abilities. It is not worth it to set ambitious goals because there is little belief that they can accomplish them. Also, feelings of being unlovable and of unworthiness are common.
In close and/or romantic relationships, individuals with low self esteem are either avoiding them all together or having excessive emotional or psychological reliance on the other person.
Likewise, encountering hard times for individuals with low self esteem are debilitating. These events are likely to exacerbate already-existing consequences of low confidence, which include poor emotional, physical, and mental health. Anxiety, stress, loneliness, and increased likelihood of depression and of unhealthy habits, such as alcohol abuse or drug use. are also prevalent.
It is very common for those with anxiety to struggle with low self esteem. Negative and unproductive thought habits, such as cognitive distortions like “all or nothing” thinking, and physical symptoms, such as anxiety tremors, are also frequent among those who suffer from low self esteem.
Anxiety and beliefs of unworthiness also show up in relationships in the form of anxious attachment, which is an excessive reliance on another person. A person with anxious attachment does not feel secure without the target of their co-dependence.
Six ways to improve self esteem
Increasing your self confidence takes consistent effort and action over time. It won’t change overnight, but dramatic changes can result within a period of weeks. Here are self love habits to increase your self esteem.
Challenge negative beliefs. A first step to improve your self regard is to question your negative beliefs and thoughts. To do this effectively, spend a few minutes writing down your negative thoughts. Then, write a new thought that neutralizes or contradicts the negative thought.
To make it easy, consider drawing a table with three columns and 10-20 rows. Name the far-left column “Negative thought/belief,” then the middle column “Contradicting evidence.” Finally, call the far-right column, “New belief.”
To demonstrate how to complete the table, let’s use the common negative belief, “I’m stupid.” This is what you would write in the far left-hand first column. However, if you earned good grades in school or your last performance review at work was good, then this is “contradicting evidence.” This is what you would enter this in the middle column. Finally, write a new belief in the last column starting with, “I am smart because my last performance review at work was good.”
Another common negative thought is “I am not good enough.” In the table, you would write:
- “I am not good enough,” in the left-hand column,
- In middle column, ”I have people in my life who love me,” as the contradicting evidence.
- In the right-hand column as the “New belief,” jot down “I AM good enough because I have people around me who love me.”
Disrupt negative thoughts as they occur. Another benefit of doing the “challenging negative beliefs” exercise is that you are increasing your awareness of negative thoughts. You are bringing the negative self talk, also referred to an your inner critic, from the unconscious into your conscious mind.
Expanding the consciousness of your negative thoughts enables you to develop the ability to disrupt them as they occur. One of the ways to do this is by asking yourself, “Is it true?” in the moment they occur.
To demonstrate, during a break-up of a romantic relationship, you might judge yourself by thinking, “I am unlovable.” By asking yourself, “is it true?,” you quickly realize that it is not true because you have people in your life who love you.
Get grateful. Research shows that practicing gratitude improves self esteem. There are several ways to develop the habit of gratitude:
To begin this simple step, write down 5 things that you are grateful for every day and state why in a gratitude journal. To demonstrate, start with this phrase. “I am grateful for [insert thing] because [insert reason]…”
For example, “I am grateful for my health because I get to run and play my favorite sport with my friends [or children, if you are a parent].”
Another way to develop a discipline of gratitude is to hold your hand over your heart and breathe in and out deeply through your nose counting slowly to 4. Repeat this a few times. On the fourth cycle, say to yourself what you are grateful for as you inhale. Then, as you exhale, state why. Go through this process 3 times to identify 3 things in your life that you are grateful for.
These practices take 2-3 minutes a day. They are small actions that create big wins for your self esteem.
Through the intentional noticing of your life’s blessings, people you love, and positive situations, you are able to develop a stronger self perception and inner peace. This enhanced outlook over time acts as a positive reinforcement of your own self esteem.
Instill positive beliefs in your subconscious. We already discussed ways to lessen the impact of negative thoughts and beliefs to combat low self esteem. Another way to enhance positive self regard is to instill positive beliefs within your subconscious mind.
Saying positive affirmations is the best way to achieve this. Other Well and Wealthy articles discuss the benefits of these esteemed statements, and we have separate blogs on how to:
- Use affirmations for boosting your inner beauty
- Shut down the inner critic and negative self-talk by using a mix of these 22 affirmations
- Enhance work confidence and performance through utilizing some of these 33 affirmations.
- Reduce depression through these 33 affirmations.
The reason why affirmations work is because the mind processes concepts in pictures. Affirmations activate the same places in the brain that react to situations of pleasure, such as eating a delicious dessert. These areas, also referred to as reward centers, connect with brain activity involving processing information about yourself. Using powerful positive affirmations increases activity in these reward centers.
Do esteemable acts of service. There is a saying in 12-step programs to “act your way into a good way of thinking” through serving others. Helping others is a great way to feel good about yourself, particularly when your negative self talk is out of control.
When life feels hard or you are feeling sorry for yourself, the simple act of doing something to help another person is a wonderful tool to disrupt the thought pattern and replace it with positive thinking. These acts don’t need to be large and grandiose.
To demonstrate, an esteemable act could be as simple as calling someone you know who is going through a hard time and asking them how they are doing or how their day is going.
Sharing with someone that you were thinking about them through the small gesture of a phone call assists the other person in knowing that someone else cares about them. This reminds them that they are worthy of another person’s time and that at least one other person in their life values them. And, you never know, they might return the favor when you are in a momentary state of despair one day.
Other examples of esteemable acts include offering to take your neighbor’s trash out, holding the door open for someone who has their hands and arms full of items, purchasing food for someone without a home, or making eye contact and smiling at a stranger as you pass them on the sidewalk.
These small acts demonstrate to another person that they are “seen” by another human being. Performing kind acts consistently reinforces conscious positive thoughts. These thoughts turn into positive beliefs. More positive beliefs about yourself increases your self respect. Growing your self confidence expands your positive outlook. An increasingly positive outlook develops your ability to see opportunities available to you. More potential opportunities builds up your sense of what’s possible.
In other words, positivity begets positive experiences. There is a multiplier effect of consistency in minimizing the impact of negative thinking and spurring positive beliefs.
Cultivate your self worth through daily self love worksheets. Writing a daily love letter to yourself by completing a daily worksheet can help you stay accountable in improving your self esteem. Downloading daily self-esteem worksheets is an excellent way to consolidate all of the best practices mentioned above. There are many free downloadable worksheets with a simple google search, and a “good enough” version covers the following areas:
- Identifying a reason on why you love yourself today
- Writing down how you can forgive yourself today
- Pinpointing something that you are grateful for
- Singling out something that you did to love up on yourself today.
Another option to systematize your efforts to improve your self esteem is to acquire a low-cost holistic system. These are especially helpful for those who prefer to follow a proven path that has worked for others. For example, you might consider Well and Wealthy’s Seven-Step Self Worth system, if you like a highly customizable roadmap.
Whatever you choose, know that with some, consistent small daily actions over time, you can achieve BIG WINS in increasing your self confidence and in enhancing your daily existence through a healthy lifestyle and strong emotional and mental health wealth. You are worth it!