Self-esteem is something everyone struggles with from time to time; no one is immune to its effects. For some, it’s felt from time to time when life seems to have its down moments. A loss of a job, a divorce or breakup, a failed project, or a missed opportunity can lead to feeling “not good enough.”
For others, it’s an ongoing feeling; something they feel all the time. It’s become such a natural part of life that they often don’t even realize their self-esteem is lacking. This ongoing behavior is usually learned, often early on, and sticks around throughout life.
These are some of the causes of feeling a lack of self-esteem on a regular basis:
If your parents didn’t pay much attention to you as a child, maybe didn’t bother noticing and celebrating your achievements, you may feel unimportant. When you feel like no one cares about you or doesn’t recognize your abilities, it can leave you with low self-esteem which can lead to a lack of motivation in your life.
Maybe your parents did pay attention to you, just not in the way you wanted them to. Always being criticized, put down, or generally being told you’re not good enough will ultimately lead to a lack of self-esteem.
If your parents were consistently in conflict with each other, arguing and putting each other down, you were taught this is how people who love each other treat each other. Kids pick up on everything that is said and done around them and they absorb any negative emotions.
It’s hard being a kid. If you were shy and introverted, you may have been an easy target for bullies. People you may have looked up to as popular putting you down and letting you know you were good enough to hang out with them. Whenever we look up to someone, for any reason, and they put us down, it can cause a nick in our self-esteem. If you never got over those feelings of not being good enough to be friends with some of the other kids, you may still be carrying that around today without realizing it.
Sexual, emotional, or physical abuse creates feelings of low self-esteem and those feelings can be especially hard to overcome. Being abused can make it very hard to trust anyone, including yourself. Children of abuse often believe they brought the abuse on themselves; it’s somehow their fault. However, that couldn’t be farther from the truth. Many people, both children, and adults, who are in abusive relationships often find ways to cope so they can get through it. Yet the hit to your self-esteem takes for it can last a lifetime.
Sometimes religious beliefs can be the culprit of low self-esteem. If you feel like your actions are sinful and you will be judged for them, it can be a similar experience to living with a disapproving parent. You feel as though someone of authority will put you down and shame you, or make you feel guilty for your behavior.
All of these can be to blame for a lifelong feeling of low self-esteem. Especially if you experienced them as a young child or are currently in an abusive relationship. Learning a behavior, or feeling, as a child can stick with you throughout your life. It can be hard to unlearn it. If you’re still experiencing an abusive relationship, you are not able to escape your bully who is always putting you down and making you feel not good enough.
An ongoing lack of self-esteem can lead to other problems in life such as anxiety and depression, which can lead to self-destructive behaviors. Those behaviors can take form in both hurting ourselves (using drugs, developing eating disorders, or even suicide) and hurting others (bullying, cheating, abusing) as a well to feel better about ourselves.
If you already suffer from depression or anxiety, low self-esteem can be a factor in not being able to break out of it.
How do you know if you’re suffering from low self-esteem?
These are a few things you may notice feeling:
- Worthless or not good enough
- Unable to make decisions or assert your thoughts and feelings
- A dislike, or even hate, for yourself
- Blaming yourself for things that aren’t your fault
- Guilt about putting yourself first and spending your time and/or money on things you want
- Feeling like no one likes you or cares about you
Now that we know where it comes from and how it feels, let’s move on to discuss something more positive . . .
How to break the chains of low self-esteem and start improving how we feel about ourselves.
First and foremost, you need to let go of the negative self-talk that goes on in your head; it’s just keeping you feeling bad about yourself. As long as those conversations are happening, you’ll never be able to improve your self-esteem.
So how do you stop the negative self-talk?
Recognize that you’re doing it.
When you’re experiencing a negative thought, stop and ask yourself “is that really true”. Start to be aware of when and why you’re putting yourself down. Are there certain situations, or certain people, that bring out these thoughts?
Give yourself some self-love, face-to-face.
Standing in front of a mirror, look yourself in the eye and repeat some positive affirmations. Some phrases may include “I am a beautiful person” and “I am smart”, “I am able to figure things out” “I deserve better”.
Show gratitude for yourself and your body.
Energy flows where your attention goes so shift your awareness to your positive attributes and you will naturally start to notice more of them.
Let go of the chaos and connect with your inner self.
Meditation, journaling, and yoga are all wonderful ways to connect with your soul. Spend your time thinking about your day, when you were able to show yourself some love and when (and why) you put yourself down. Spend some time thinking about how you will handle the same situation in the future.
Let go of perfection.
Stop comparing yourself to others. You are beautiful just as you are. You are only human and you will make mistakes, yet don’t let those mistakes define you. Learn from them and move on.
Once you start letting go of the negative self-talk and are committed to building your self-esteem because you finally know how valuable and special you truly are, it’s time to take a look at the building blocks. What can you do to start building your self-esteem and improving your confidence? These suggestions will help to get you off on the right foot.
Seek positive support.
If you find it hard to find your self-esteem because you’re surrounded by people who make you feel bad about yourself, know that you deserve better and find some positive support in your life. Make new friends, join a group of like-minded people, work with a life coach to help you overcome your obstacles.
Pursue your passions.
Finding something in your life that you truly enjoy will help you feel better about yourself. Write a list of all those things you used to love doing and don’t do anymore. Add anything that you’ve always wanted to do. Then start working towards finding time and/or training to go after the things that make you happy.
Reflect on the things you want to change, yet do it constructively.
Know that no one is perfect and you were made to be you, just the way you are. There are some things about yourself that you can never change. For instance, you’re never going to be taller yet if that’s something you wish about yourself, you can select shoes that make you feel taller and more confident.
Stop putting yourself down for things you are not able to change.
For those things you can change, make a plan to do so and do it with love for yourself, not hate.
If you’re feeling like you want to lose a few pounds, create a workout plan that will help you achieve that goal. If you’re feeling under-appreciated at work, practice what you can say to your boss or coworkers to change that. Whatever it is that you want to change, make a plan to do it. Take your one big goal and break it down into manageable steps and tasks so that you can stay on track without getting distracted or losing hope. For instance, if your goal is to lose weight, start small with just a couple of pounds. Commit to getting a little more activity every day and making healthier food choices for a week. Once you get through the first week, set your next goal.
Find out what makes you feel truly beautiful, and do it!
Most people are never going to be the gorgeous models they see in magazines. Believing that’s how people should look is a major cause of lack of self-confidence and self-esteem. Just because you are not the perfect person you see in a photo, there is something that makes you beautiful and makes you feel beautiful, whether it’s making a trip to the gym every day or putting on a sexy pair of high heels. Find out what that thing is for you and do it. Making a small change can build your self-esteem and confidence to great heights.
Building your self-esteem is not an easy task and it won’t happen overnight.
There will be days where you feel like you’re moving forward and other days where you feel like you fell way back. That’s normal. What’s important is that you just keep making progress in a forward direction, remove as much negativity from your life as possible, and find a way to forgive anything or anyone that caused you pain so that you can move on. It will make a world a difference!
Need an extra boost of confidence and self-esteem to get you through the day? Try these techniques