Self-esteem is an opinion we have of ourselves; a way of placing value on ourselves as people. While we may voice characteristics such as “I’m American” or “I have brown eyes,” these are facts that don’t carry a negative or positive connotation.
A low self-esteem suggests we carry a negative opinion of ourselves. For example, “I’m unattractive” or “I’m not good enough.” Most of us have mixed opinions of ourselves, but if your overall opinion is that you are an inferior or inadequate in some way, if you feel you have little worth and are not entitled to experiencing good things in life, your self-esteem is low. Having a low self-esteem can damper the great joys in life and have a negative impact on your relationships in general.
People with healthy self-esteems feel good about and value themselves. They also take pride in their abilities and accomplishments and enjoy sharing their talents with others. And perhaps most importantly, those with healthy self-esteems acknowledge their imperfections but do not feel they play a large part in their own self-image. In other words, they don’t put too much emphasis on their faults and limitations.
How to Create a Healthy Self-Esteem
The good news is a low self-esteem is not a life sentence. Since your low self-esteem developed over time (no one is born with low self-esteem), you can trade it in for a higher one. Here are a few ways to do it:
1. Forget Perfection – Focus on Accomplishments
Perfection only happens in Hollywood (and even there it gets a lot of help from Beverly Hills plastic surgeons and airbrushes!). The truth is, you will never have the perfect body, the perfect house, the perfect kids, or the perfect relationships. Perfection simply doesn’t exist in human nature.
Better to focus your attention and efforts on your accomplishments. And, when you achieve them, don’t de-value them by saying something like, “Oh, anyone could have done that.” Maybe, but then again, maybe not. The point is, you set a goal for yourself and you reached it. Celebrate your achievements and keep track of them in a journal so you can always refer to it and see how accomplished you are.
2. Set Realistic Expectations
Of course, when you’re setting goals, make sure they’re realistic. Having unrealistic expectations of yourself or how the world works in general is a surefire way to kill your self-esteem.
For example, setting a goal like, “I will have enough money to retire by the time I’m 35,” may not be realistic. Then what happens? Your 35th birthday comes along and you are nowhere near retirement and you feel like a failure. What happened? You didn’t take into account that life throws you curveballs and that owning a home and having kids requires liquid capital (there goes the savings account!).
Don’t set yourself up for failure by having unrealistic expectations.
3. Don’t Compare Yourself to Others
Nothing hurts self-esteem quicker than unfair comparisons. Others may make more money than you, have more Facebook followers or six-pack abs, but they don’t have your mind and experiences. Though it’s a tough habit to break, it’s important to stop comparing yourself to others and, instead, celebrate how unique you are.
If you’ve tried these tips in the past but are still struggling with a low self-esteem, speaking with a counselor can help. If you or a loved one is interested in exploring treatment, please contact me. I would be happy to speak with you about how I may be able to help.
Chelsy A. Castro, JD, MA, AM, LCSW