Most people’s thoughts and feelings about themselves fluctuate somewhat based on their daily experiences. Your self-esteem, however, is something more fundamental than the normal ups and downs associated with situational changes. For people with good self-esteem, normal ups and downs may lead to temporary fluctuations in how they feel about themselves, but only to a limited extent. In contrast, for people with poor self-esteem, these ups and downs drastically impact the way they see themselves.
Our self-esteem evolves throughout our lives as we develop an image of ourselves through our experiences with different people and activities. Our past experiences, even the things we don’t usually think about, continue to impact our daily life in the form of an “inner voice.” Although most people do not hear this voice in the same way they would a spoken one, it acts in a similar way.
For people with healthy self-esteem, the messages of the inner voice are usually accepting and reassuring. For people with low self-esteem, the inner voice becomes a harsh critic, punishing one’s mistakes and belittling one’s accomplishments.
Three Steps to Improved Self-Esteem
The first important step in improving self-esteem is to begin to challenge the negative messages of the critical inner voice.
The second important step is practicing self-compassion – meaning treating yourself with the same empathy you would others.
The third important step is getting help from others, which can also be the most difficult. People with low self-esteem often don’t ask for help because they feel they don’t deserve it, but other people can help to challenge the critical messages that come from negative past experience.
Here are some ways to reach out to others:
Ask for support from friends. Ask friends to tell you what they like about you or think you do well. Ask someone who cares about you to listen to you vent for a little while without trying to fix things. Ask for a hug. Ask someone who loves you to remind you that they do.
Get help from teachers & other helpers. Go to professors, advisors, or tutors to ask for help in classes if you need it. Remember: they are there to help you learn! If you lack self-confidence in certain areas, take classes or try out new activities to increase your sense of competence. For example, take a math class, join a dance club, take swimming lessons, etc.
Talk to a therapist or counselor. Sometimes low self-esteem can feel so painful or difficult to overcome that the professional help of a therapist or counselor is needed. Talking to a counselor is a good way to explore these feelings and begin to improve your self-esteem.