What is self-esteem?

Webster’s dictionary defines self-esteem as “satisfaction with oneself” and “one’s good opinion of one’s dignity or worth.” Self-esteem is our opinion about ourselves. Based on our past experiences, childhood and genetic make-up, self-esteem can have a range and can differ from individual to individual.

Research says that people who have a healthy self-esteem are more likely to feel content and positive about their life. Studies show that people with higher self-esteem have lower chances of developing mental health problems.

Here are some signs to look for to know if you have a low self-esteem.

  • You apologize a lot.
  • It is very hard for you to say NO.
  • You constantly try to please others.
  • You avoid challenges and try to be perfect in social situations.
  • You blame yourself for things.
  • You criticise yourself constantly.
  • You’re fearful and conscious of what people will think.
  • Its hard for you to make decisions.

What are the causes of having a low self-esteem?

Self-worth of an individual is shaped by various factors. Like every thing self-esteem has a range and different how you react with different people and different situations. Though the genetic make-up, health conditions have an effect, majority of problems regarding self-esteem are caused by early life experiences, upbringing, family values and mind-set.

Experiences that may contribute towards developing a low self-esteem include:

  • Childhood punishment and abuse: People who have been through harsh punishments and abuse are more likely to have a low self-esteem as compared to people who don’t have such experiences.
  • Parental control: various studies have confirmed that parental behaviour has strong connections with child’s self-worth and self-efficacy.
  • Insufficient encouragement and affection: Some times people don’t have negative experiences but they still struggles with self-worth. This could be related to the deficit of the positive reinforcement. Without sufficient positive encouragement, over a long period of time, an individual can develop a sense of low self-esteem.
  • Continued self-criticism: Over a period, people with low self-esteem tend to blame and criticise themselves. This leads to a cycle of self-criticism that leads to further damage in self-worth.
  • Negative social comparison: Mainly done by teachers, friends, parents and siblings. Negative comparison can create lasting changes in a person’s behaviour. being compared over weight, socio-economic status and appearance are common factors that can cause damage in self-esteem.

Five ways to boost self-esteem

Following 5 strategies can help you if you are struggling with low self-esteem:

  1. Find something that you are good at: Create a list of things that you do well. Don’t judge yourself. These things could be as small as making a good cup of tea to playing a sport that you enjoy.
  2. Ask if its true?: when you see that there is a pattern of automated negative thoughts then focus on your breathing and ask yourself if the thoughts that you are creating actually true? If so what is the evidence? A lot of time, we tend to create horrifying scenarios in our head without actually realising that these are only thoughts we have created based on where we are with our self-esteem.
  3. Be willing to forgive: If you notice low self-esteem is originating from an experience that someone else created in your life and you had very little to do with it, therefore you find it really hard to forgive (the person of experience), then your starting point could be to just being willing to forgive.
  4. Do affirmations: Saying positive affirmations has a proven effect on human brains. There are several studies that have showed that saying positive affirmations can activate different reward centre in your brain. MRI scans have shown that neural pathways strengthen as a result of doing self-affirmations tasks (Cascio et al., 2016).
  5. Accept compliments without any justification: This is a tough one. Being able to accept the compliments is one of the hardest things for people with poor self-esteem. We often see people clarifying as soon as they receive a simple compliment like- “You look beautiful in this dress”. Instead of saying something negative such as- “its just the dress” or ” I am getting old, dress is old or whatever”. Try saying something positive like- “thank you for noticing” or “that’s very kind of you, thank you” or “I love this dress, thank you” and STOP THERE, fight your behaviour to dishonour a compliment.

Finally, improving your sense of self-worth is only a process. You have to learn to be more kind to yourself. If you are starting a journey where you are beginning to notice that you have low self-esteem then appreciate that. Developing awareness to our negative self-talk is a great starting point in order to develop a healthy and all rounded self-efficacy.

Please let me know what are your tips to develop healthy self-esteem. We all are in this together.