Most of us struggle with self-esteem at some point in our lives. Our self-esteem is developed during childhood. It is also during our childhood and sometimes our adolescence that our struggle usually begins. Many of us overcome these struggles as we mature and move on to other phases of our lives, while for some of us the problem persists even into adulthood. For others of us our self-esteem may fluctuate at different times in our lives. Whatever the case, it is important that we develop ways of improving our self-esteem when it is needed. Self-awareness is one of the most powerful and important things to our overall well-being and to our journey of personal growth and development. That includes being aware of where we stand as it regards our self-esteem; recognizing when we are struggling, admitting to its effects on our lives and knowing what to do about it.
What is Self-Esteem?
The word esteem originates from the Latin aestimare which means to “value, determine the value of or appraise”. Therefore, self-esteem means to regard ourselves as being valuable. We often use the words self-esteem and self-confidence interchangeably, but I have come to learn that while they impact each other, they are not quite the same.
Confidence comes from the Latin confidere which is to have “full trust and reliance”. Therefore, to have self-confidence is to have trust in ourselves and our abilities. We have been taught that to have good self-esteem is to generally feel good about ourselves. In recent times there has been a new view on self-esteem which I rather like.
Social scientists and researchers have discovered “that people need more than positive feelings about themselves to be psychologically healthy and have positive connections with others. Those feelings have to be grounded in being a decent person who lives decently.” Marie Hartwell-Walker author of the book Unlocking the Secrets of Self-Esteem refers to this as genuine self-esteem. She asserts that there is a connection between feeling good about yourself and doing good things to earn that positive self-regard, and that the two parts are in constant interaction with each other.
There is no exhaustive list of things that you can do to improve your self-esteem. Neither is there a one size fits all formula. What may work for me, may not work for you. You have to find your unique set of tools for improving your self-esteem. I can however, offer some suggestions, which you can experiment with until you find what works for you. I wanted to approach this topic from an experiential standpoint, so I asked more than a dozen persons what methods they used to improve their self-esteem and have had success using.
Several persons reported that they have derived their self-esteem from their faith in God and relationship with Him. Their assurance of his care and love for them, their understanding that they were created by him and belong to him who is the most powerful being in the universe causes them to feel valuable, worthy and special.
Some persons turned to exercise in dealing with their issues of poor self-esteem. The benefits of exercise have been promoted time and time again. The benefits range from physical to psychological. It has been found that consistent exercise causes the brain to release feel good chemicals known as endorphins which leave you feeling happier and better about yourself. Not to mention the physical changes in your body which also lead to you feeling good about yourself. I am sure you have heard the saying, “when you look good you feel good.” Some persons also reported that looking their best, in terms of how they present themselves to the world, their dress, hair etc., boosts their self-esteem.
This one is one of my favorites, because it has worked for me when I struggled with poor self-esteem. It is words of affirmation from others. There is no disputing the power of words. The words we speak have the power to build up or tear down, to breathe life into another or suck life out of them. The words we speak have the power to make a real difference in the life of the hearer. I borrow the words of Proverbs16:24 which says, “Pleasant words are a honeycomb, Sweet to the soul and healing to the bones”. Words can buoy up another’s soul and even bring healing.
Several persons reported that words of affirmation from family and friends and persons closest to them have helped them with problems of poor self-esteem. They reported to surrounding themselves with honest and real individuals who would contribute to their lives in a positive way and eliminating negative people from their space.
One person told me a powerful story. He had incredibly poor self-esteem which came about as a result of being devalued by his mother and females in his life. As a young man his boss at the time took him under his wings, mentored him and positively affirmed him. Over time his self-esteem improved and he went on to accomplish much in life. He in turn affirmed his young son when he started struggling with poor self-esteem during childhood. He would also have his son repeat after him each day, several times a day, “I am good, I am special, I am the best”. This went on for several years until the young boy started believing in himself and his self-esteem improved. Today that young boy is a man who has accomplished much and is completely confident in himself.
You may be thinking; “no one really knows how I feel about myself, I do a good job of masking that, besides I have no true people in my life who will affirm me”. I doubt that is true, but even if it is, guess what, you can affirm yourself. Write down a list of positive statements about yourself, you don’t necessarily have to believe it to begin. Write them down and repeat them to yourself every day, until eventually you begin to believe them and your sense of self and worthiness begin to improve. You can’t think of any statements to write? Check out YouTube, there are tons of self-affirmation videos there that can get you started and give you ideas for your own statements. By constantly repeating words of affirmation they eventually leave your conscious mind and penetrate your sub-conscious mind. Transforming your sense of self.
Some other persons reported that their work; doing what they love and doing it well and touching the lives of others through their work has helped to boost their self-esteem. Others reported to doing something creative, like art or writing or dancing. The main idea here is to take action and get moving. Be active, do something you enjoy, enjoy your work, pursue something you are passionate about. This to me is one of the most powerful methods among all that I have mentioned. As human beings we need work, we need to feel a sense of purpose. When God created Adam He gave him work, he told him to name the animals, He also told him to fill the earth and subdue it. Personally, nothing boosts my self-esteem and self-confidence more than when I am at work. I don’t mean when I am on my job, but rather when I am working on my dreams. When I am working on a project that is in line with my purpose or when I have written something that I know will help and encourage others.
Some other persons reported that helping others has improved their self-esteem. Doing good to others always leads to feelings of positivity for both the doer and the receiver. It energizes both parties. I want to encourage you to especially try this one. Why don’t you make it a daily practice to do good to others, you can even get involved in volunteer work, become a volunteer at a charity or organization whose focus is on helping others. It can do a lot towards improving your self-esteem. “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is: what are you doing for others?” ~Martin Luther King Jr. There is nothing quite like the joy of helping another human being.
We all need a self-esteem boost at some point in our lives. There is no fixed formula for improving self-esteem, however there are several proven methods for doing so. They include but are not limited to, belief and relationship with God, working towards your purpose and dreams, finding work you love and enjoy doing, being creative, exercising, looking your best, affirmation from others as well as self-affirmation and helping others.
Remember that genuine self-esteem comes not only from feeling good but also from doing good; doing good to others and doing what is right and ethical. Marie Hartwell-Walker writes, that doing good can mean, “I’m doing good” as in I’m fine, or it can mean “I’m doing good” as in “I’m a person who does charitable and moral things.” The two-part definition of self-esteem embraces both meanings. People who do good things for themselves and others are people who feel fine and do well in life.”
I encourage you to explore the methods mentioned here as well as some of your own in order to boost your self-esteem. I also encourage you to embrace this definition of self-esteem which not only focuses on yourself but also on others.
Thank you for taking time to read this post. I hope it has been helpful. Until next time, be safe and be blessed.😊