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How to Build Your Self-Esteem

Updated: Dec 6, 2022

Increasing one's sense of worth is something many of us agree is important. When we have a healthy dose of confidence in ourselves, we can take on the world with ease.

Researchers have found that people with higher self-esteem recover from the emotional setbacks they experience in life, such as rejection and failure, more rapidly and with less suffering.

When we have a healthy sense of self-worth, our bodies respond to stress by releasing less cortisol into the bloodstream, and this stress hormone is less likely to remain in our systems after the source of the stress has been removed.

A stronger sense of self-worth is excellent, but it turns out that getting there isn't simple. There is no shortage of publications, programs, or products that claim they will boost your confidence, but the truth is that most of them are ineffective, and some may even have the opposite effect.

“It is confidence in our bodies, minds, and spirits that allows us to keep looking for new adventures.” – Oprah Winfrey

Our sense of worth fluctuates on a daily, if not hourly, basis, which contributes to the problem. Complicating matters further, self-esteem is a composite of how we feel about ourselves in general and in the various aspects of our lives (e.g., as a father, a nurse, an athlete, etc.).

The greater the significance of a certain aspect of self-esteem, the larger its influence on the sum total of our self-esteem. If cooking is an important part of your identity, having someone wince when they taste the not-so-delicious food you prepared will hurt your pride more than it would hurt someone else's.

Finally, a healthy dose of pride in one's own abilities is always welcome. Highly confident people, such as narcissists, tend to have fragile self-esteem.

Though they may have a high sense of self-worth most of the time, such people are often unable to effectively process and adapt to constructive criticism, which can have a devastating effect on their psychological development.

showing your confidecnce

Definition: What is Self-Worth?

The ability to love and be loved is at the heart of self-worth. Individuals who regard themselves highly are those who have higher standards of respect, confidence, and ethics. People who don't value themselves may lack confidence and have negative emotions.

Related: How to Become a Better You

Self-Respect vs. Self-Worth

Although the two concepts are often used interchangeably, self-esteem refers specifically to an individual's subjective experience of having a high regard for and faith in their own abilities.

The key distinction is that self-esteem is a transient emotion that may be boosted temporarily by things like positive feedback or material acquisition.

Imagine that your sense of self-worth is a cloud in the sky. Those with high self-esteem may need frequent mood stimulants to "feel" good about themselves, as their self-esteem can and will fluctuate.

But there is more to one's worth than that. It's a deep, abiding conviction that you are valuable and deserving of respect and admiration. And in contrast to a cloud, self-respect is more analogous to the ground. It's a firm conviction that's "rooted" in self-assurance; you won't let a cruel word or setback "uproot" your sense of value.

Recommended Book: The Confidence Gap: A Guide to Overcoming Fear and Self-Doubt

How important is self-worth to self-esteem? Absolutely. Narcissists are people who value themselves highly and present themselves in a positive light. Self-worth is something many people lack because they are trying to cover up something else, such a lack of love for oneself.

Herein lies the essence of self-esteem. Your genuine value may be hidden from the eyes of others.

Self-improvement begins with laying the neural foundation for greater self-worth, which is ultimately up to you.

Keep in mind that a higher "baseline" of self-worth is achieved when one experiences positive emotions about themselves over an extended period of time.

Related: How to Boost Your Creativity

What are some of the root causes of low self-esteem?

Low self-esteem is a universal experience, but it need not have a devastating impact on one's life. When low self-esteem persists, it can lead to a lack of confidence and an inability to get things done.

Licensed clinical psychologist and executive director of the Center for Emotional Health in Greater Philadelphia Marla Deibler says that low self-esteem "may involve a history of neglect, rejection, or abuse by caregivers during childhood; experiences of trauma; a history of rejection or bullying by peers during one's development and/or social comparison to unrealistic societal standards."

Low self-esteem can have many potential roots, but it often stems from traumatic events or interactions that occurred throughout childhood or adolescence.

Related: 20 Daily Habits that Will Change Your Life for the Better

Why is it beneficial to have high self-esteem of oneself?

Each person's experience of the positive effects of self-esteem will be different, but studies have shown that having a healthy sense of self-worth is a predictor of happiness and success in areas like relationships, careers, and health, particularly in societies that prize uniqueness.

Resilience emerges from a combination of a healthy self-concept and effective coping mechanisms used in the face of stress, anxiety, obstacles, or adversity.

Healthy dose of confidence can stimulate development as well. Positive self-image "makes people more eager to seek out new relationships and put themselves in uncomfortable circumstances," she says. An opportunity for personal development is offered by these events.

Methods for Boosting Your Confidence

In the event that you are experiencing low self-esteem, there are actions you may take to improve your situation. Cognitive behavioral treatment, or CBT, is one effective alternative (CBT).

A person's self-concept and the accompanying beliefs, feelings, and behaviors can be challenged and altered through cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), as explained by Dr. Deibler.

Self-improvement strategies beyond therapy are available. Here are six strategies validated by research and experience that can help you feel more confident and at peace with yourself and the world.

One thing to keep in mind is that chronic feelings of inferiority may be linked to other mental health issues like depression, eating disorders, and substance abuse.

It is critical to consult a mental health expert if you suspect you are experiencing a more serious mental health condition so that you can be directed toward appropriate treatment and recovery.

Related: Discover Your Core Values

Make the most of positive affirmations by using them properly.

Popular yet problematic positive affirmations include statements like "I am going to be a tremendous success!" which might have the opposite effect on those who already struggle with low self-esteem.

Why? Since such claims run counter to our established worldview when our confidence is low. Ironically, persons whose self-esteem is already healthy seem to benefit the most from positive affirmations.

If you want to use affirmations to boost your confidence when it's low, you need to make them sound more plausible. Rather than saying something like, "I'm going to be a tremendous success!" rephrase it as, "I'm going to endure until I succeed."

Recognize your strengths and work to improve them.

The best way to boost our sense of worth is to show that we can succeed in things that are important to us. Throw more dinner parties if you're proud of your culinary prowess.

Sign up for races and get in shape if you're a decent runner. In a nutshell, you should identify your strongest skills and then look for work that plays to those strengths.

You should get better at acknowledging compliments.

One of the most challenging components of boosting self-esteem is overcoming the natural human tendency to reject praise just when we need it the most. Then, force yourself to accept praises even if they make you feel awkward (and they will).

Prepare basic prepared responses (such as "Thank you" or "How kind of you to say") and train yourself to use them automatically whenever you receive good feedback (such as a compliment). Your confidence will grow and your natural tendency to reject praise will diminish with time.

Related: Why You Should Grow a Plant Garden

Drop the harsh criticism of yourself and replace it with kindness.

When we already have a low sense of self-worth, it's easy to be even more critical of ourselves. If we want to boost our confidence, we need to replace self-criticism with self-compassion, which is more effective in the long run even if it initially feels counterproductive.

If you find yourself having a self-critical inner monologue, try replacing it with the kind of words you'd say to a close friend if they were in your shoes. Doing so will help you avoid destructive self-criticism and instead foster the growth of a healthy sense of self-worth.

Affirm your true value.

Self-esteem can be restored after a setback with the help of the following exercise: Jot down the skills and traits you possess that will serve you well in this particular setting.

If a date rejects you, you may write down the traits that make you an attractive partner (such as loyalty or emotional availability), and if you don't get a promotion at work, you might write down the attributes that make you a valued employee (you have a strong work ethic or are responsible).

The next step is to select one of the qualities on your list and explain in a short essay (approximately one to two paragraphs) why you think the quality is important and will be valued by others in the future. For best results, perform the exercise daily for a week, or whenever you feel your confidence could use a boost.

Make Exercise a Top Priority

New York City psychiatrist and neurologist Julia Samton, M.D., co-founded the Midtown Clinic, a private practice that specializes in mental health, and she claims that exercise has been demonstrated to have a favorable effect on self-esteem and life satisfaction.

"Building an exercise program into your daily life can help you feel strong both physically and psychologically, boosting your confidence and making you feel good about yourself."

Small research conducted in 2016 suggests both actual and perceived levels of physical fitness play a significant effect on one's sense of self-worth.

According to the World Health Organization, adults (aged 18-65) should engage in at least 150 minutes of moderate or 75 minutes of strenuous physical activity every week. In the absence of a gym, this recommendation can be met by merely walking for 30 minutes five days a week.

Emphasize Physical Impartiality

Being at peace with one's physical appearance is a key step toward a more assured sense of self. This may involve promoting a body-positive outlook or adopting a nonjudgmental stance toward one's physical appearance.

The goal of adopting a body-neutral stance is to shift the conversation away from an unhealthy preoccupation with either praise or criticism and toward an emphasis on healthy, positive feelings about yourself. Some methods for being more body-accepting.

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