highOften the terms of self-esteem and self-confidence are considered the same or used interchangeably.  Although they are similar, they are in fact two different concepts.  Self Esteem refers to how you view yourself overall and appreciate yourself for who you are – foibles and all.  Self Confidence is how you feel about your abilities, and varies from situation to situation.  In essence, self esteem builds confidence.

Positive people work on having good self esteem by acknowledging their strengths and limitations and navigating through the world safe in that knowledge. There also needs to be the recognition that research suggests that some people have a genetic predisposition to being solitary which may impact on their wellbeing, self esteem and self confidence.  Other people harbour irrational thoughts which may affect self image and self esteem.  Whichever way you look at it we all need to work on fostering and maintaining high self esteem.

Signs of Low Self Esteem:
•    Negative self talk
•    Refusing to accept compliments genuinely received
•    Making comparisons between yourself and others
•    Focusing on the negatives in your life rather than the accomplishments
•    Being overly critical of yourself

Causal Factors of Low Self Esteem:
•    Feelings of being the odd one out
•    Unemployment
•    Homelessness
•    Neglect
•    Bullying
•    Abuse
•    Loneliness
•    Poor academic/work performance
•    Lack of social and work related skills
•    Disability or Disfigurement
•    Social isolation

20 Tips on Cultivating High Self Esteem

1.    Self acceptance to achieve personal power.
Until we are able to look in the mirror and accept ourselves as we are, we are unable to make a lasting change in our attitude and behaviour.  In other words we have to be honest in our assessment of ourselves before we can address the elephant in the room and attain self worth.  The focus is on being the best that you can be.

2.    Self Esteem – horses for courses.
Scientists have struggled and debated for years over how to measure self esteem.  As it turns out it is an elusive concept.  We can all identify with the person who presents as self confident, and yet harbours self doubt in their heart.  A more serious issue from a practicality point of view is the process of ‘self rating’ where one rates oneself as either good or bad.  Where do we draw the line on rating ourselves and under what circumstances do we take such measures?  It is more productive and positive to look at our potential for improvement and self empowerment.

Never doubt yourself.  You are capable of so much more than you think.

3.    Fake it till you make it.
A very sound suggestion was made by Laura Berman Fortgang (in the Huffington Post): “The next time you feel like an imposter, remember you are probably in a room full of them, so have a private chuckle and go for the ride.  Before you know it, you will not be pretending anymore.”  You really do have to see it to believe it.  There’s no implying here that we should become liars and charlatans, rather we need to be ‘responsible fakers.’

4.    Tempering confidence with insecurity.
‘Tiger mum’ Amy Chua and her husband, Jed Rubenfeld,  authors of The Triple Package, speculate that for certain races and cultures who do significantly well in business and life, there are three components at work.  Firstly, there is the sense of superiority that encourages confidence.  However, this needs, secondarily, to be tempered by feelings of insecurity about abilities to get things done effectively.  Finally, there is a need for impulse control or self-discipline, without which…not much happens.  In exploring this ‘triple whammy’ of human endeavour, one notable person considered the elemental requirements of getting on in life as being – ‘focus’ and ‘drive.’

5.    Celebrate your accomplishments.
There isn’t a person alive who hasn’t made mistakes in the process of self discovery and self acceptance.  Instead of doing a real number on yourself, be constructive in the advice you give yourself.

“We are each gifted in a unique and important way. It is our privilege and our adventure to discover our own special light.” – Mary Dunbar

6.    Keep your expectations real.
We need to ensure our expectations are grounded in reality and the goals we set ourselves are achievable.   The last thing we should be doing is berating ourselves for not meeting some idealistic goal based on a personal fantasy which tests the realms of possibility in the first place.

7.    Make a Self Esteem checklist.
On a piece of paper draw up two columns – one side is for listing your Strengths and the other is for listing your Potentials for Change.  List 10 on each side.  Yes, I know it may seem like you can’t find those strengths initially but they are there.  If you need to, draw on comments provided to you over the years by friends, family, and colleagues.  Some of the targets for change may be addressed short term, others may take a little time.

8.    Establish your To Do List…it’s all about planning and action.
Perfectionism is simply unattainable.  So often we wallow in the idea of perfectionism  knowing full well that we are setting ourselves up for disappointment and failure.  By keeping a journal or diary we are able to keep note of our achievements and accomplishments.  It also provides us with the opportunity for self reflection and helps us focus on the bigger picture of attaining and keeping our self esteem in good shape.

9.    Getting to know the real you.
There’s the old saying of “(Physician) Heal Thyself.”  By carrying out the above, you engage in the process of self exploration where you learn about your mindset, behaviour, perceptions, attitudes and so much more.  But, in the process you create opportunity for new thoughts, endeavours, viewpoints and new contacts and friends.  Life is a process of trial and error and the only way to gain experience and insight is to live life courageously.

10.    Cease comparing yourself to others.
There is nothing more toxic to our self esteem than comparing ourselves to others.  Claim back your individuality and work at being the best you can be for yourself and no one else.  Sure, there will be challenges, hits and misses, and you will need to be patient.  You have amazing skills if you just give yourself a chance to use them.  In fact, you are probably using them now but just haven’t identified your gifts.

11.    Be prepared to modify your own self image.
Nothing is set in concrete when it comes to self image.  Be prepared to update your beliefs about yourself.  Leave the past behind because all of us are constantly evolving.  Evaluate what is going on in your life right now and work with what you’ve got.  Whatever skill sets we acquired as a child will change in our adult years.  Open your mind and heart to change, embrace it and stretch yourself.  You are capable of so much more if you trust yourself.

“Wanting to be someone else is a waste of the person you are.” – Marilyn Monroe

12.    No man is an island.
To improve your self esteem you need to take a chance.  Take a chance on your ability to relate to others.  If you reach out you will be surprised how many will welcome your hand.  In this way you will create a strong network of likeminded people who appreciate you for your openness and generosity of spirit.

13.    Find your bliss.
By finding activities that bring you joy you’re more likely to think positively.  Make sure you schedule time for relaxation and fun every day.  Make your weekends special – involve your supportive network of family and/or friends.

14.    No one is perfect.
It is important to do things to the best of your abilities, but constantly striving for perfection is a recipe for disappointment.  Life is a learning process and we learn from experience which usually involves getting it wrong the first time around.

15.    Exercise helps to promote wellbeing.
So often we measure ourselves against the smartest, most beautiful and most successful individuals in society, work or school.  It is important to acknowledge everyone suffers from self doubt at some point in time.  However, the challenge is to recognise this and still strive to be the best we can be.  One way of helping to overcome the negative and promote the positive is through exercise.  Our body produces endorphins which boost our mental wellbeing and exercise helps keep the body fit and toned – a double bonus.

16.    Introduce and maintain positive motivational habits.
To keep the inner critic in check and to give yourself every chance of creating and maintaining positive self esteem, it’s important to introduce healthy motivational habits.
1.     Write down the benefits you will get from forging and following a new path and reaching a personal goal.  Make this a daily practice and keep this list at the ready to reinforce your commitment to better self esteem.
2.    Focus on what is your passion and would keep you motivated.  Ask yourself: Am I doing what I really want to do?  If you aren’t then refocus your attention and commitment to what it is you want and write down the steps to achieving a positive outcome.

“Nobody can go back and start a new beginning,
but anyone can start today and make a new ending.” – Maria Robinson

17.    Think of your fellow man, lend him a helping hand…
If you would like to be treated with kindness, then start the ball rolling.  What we put out there comes back to us.  There’s that quote from the Bible…”Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”  It’s a good way of approaching life.  Try and do something generous on a daily basis.  For example:

  • Take the time to help someone in a practical way
  • Just be there as a sounding board and listen
  • Be generous whilst driving, and give someone a chance
  • Assist someone who is struggling with doors, groceries etc
  • Contact someone who may be lonely or has health issues
  • So many people are in need of company…become a volunteer
  • Offer encouragement to someone who is uncertain about life, their direction and place in the world
  • Stop to talk to an elderly neighbour, or the man/woman walking or sitting with their dog
  • Sometimes sharing a table with someone can make their day.  Why not join a person who appears to be lonely.
  • Smile – it’s contagious and adds brightness to the world around us

18.    Education is the name of the game.
There is so much information available at your fingertips.  If you want to know more about self esteem, check out the web, self help books and libraries.  By doing this you are empowering yourself and being proactive in bringing about positive change.

19.    Visualize a happier you.
There is so much scepticism surrounding visualization, but if you can see yourself in a better place, then you have a bench mark to which you can aspire.  Visualization is all about self acceptance and optimism and projecting that out into the world.

20.    Learn about Mindfulness and Self-Care.
A really good book called ‘One Minute Mindfulness’ by Donald Altman looks at simple ways to find peace, clarity and new possibilities in a stressed-out world.  By preparing and practicing gestures of self-kindness we develop a greater awareness of self care.  This process looks at intention, meditation or centering practice, and also minimizes negativity and anxiety producing stimuli.  What Mindfulness teaches us is to walk gently, to be kind to ourselves and others who are experiencing similar doubts, and to practice patience and forgiveness.

“People are like stained glass windows.
They sparkle and shine when the sun is out
but when the darkness sets in their true beauty
is revealed only if there is light from within.”
– Elizabeth Kubler Ross