In psychology, the term self-esteem is used to describe a person’s overall sense of self-worth or personal value. Self-esteem is often seen as a personality trait, which means that it tends to be stable and enduring. Self-esteem can involve a variety of beliefs about the self, such as the appraisal of one’s own appearance, beliefs, emotions, and behaviours.
Research has shown key differences between individuals with high and low self-esteem. For example, people with high self-esteem focus on growth and improvement, whereas people with low self-esteem focus on not making mistakes in life. Low self-esteem has been shown to be correlated with a number of negative outcomes, such as depression (Silverstone, & Salsali, 2003).
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So how do you improve self-esteem?
From my perspective, self-esteem is a confidence and satisfaction in oneself, appreciating yourself for who you are — the good, the bad and the ugly. So let me share with you three aspects to think about that can make a big difference when it comes to self-esteem. You’re never going to be perfect.
You’re never going to have the perfect body, the perfect life, the perfect relationship, the perfect children, or the perfect home. Media portrays the idea of perfection, and because we see so much of it we create an artificial creation of what society is, which in reality doesn’t exist.
Focus on your accomplishments. Big and small. Acknowledge them, don’t de-value them by saying, “Oh, that? That’s just so easy for me, no big deal.” It’s just as important also to take something away from the mistakes you make in life.
It doesn’t mean you’re a bad person, it simply means you made a mistake (like everyone does). Mistakes are an opportunity for learning and for growth, if only we push ourselves out of the self-pity or negative self-talk we wallow in after one, and try and see it from someone else’s eyes.
At the end of each day, go through your day in your mind and recognise and honour those parts of your day that you enjoyed and also with those parts of your day that you did not enjoy, honour those for the opportunities they may give you go forward.
It isn’t just about knowing your strengths and weaknesses, but also opening yourself up to new opportunities, new thoughts, trying out something new, new viewpoints, and new friendships. Sometimes when we’re down on ourselves and our self-esteem has taken a big hit, we feel like we have nothing to offer the world or others.
It may be that we simply haven’t found everything that we do have to offer — things we haven’t even considered or thought of yet. Learning what these are is simply a matter of trial and error. It’s how people become the people they’ve always wanted to become, by taking risks and trying things they wouldn’t ordinarily do.
As the Japanese Proverb says, fall seven times, stand up eight. Self-esteem is useless if it’s based upon an older version of you that no longer exists. Having a mentality that says, ‘I used to be good at this or that thing, that I’m no longer good at’ is not going to help you improve your self-esteem.
Evaluate yourself based upon what’s going on in your life right now, not some distant past version of you. Keep adjusting your self-image and self-esteem to match your current abilities and skills, not those of your past.