Self-esteem refers to the beliefs that you hold about yourself. This can mean everything from the sort of person that you are, your abilities and skills, as well as your expectations for the future.
People with high self-esteem will generally hold largely positive views about themselves. They still experience all of the same hardships and difficulties that everyone else does, but they are able to process and deal with them in such a way as to avoid any long-term impact on their lives.
On the flip-side, people with low self-esteem will often become fixated on the negative aspects of their lives and personalities and have difficulty acknowledging the positive aspects. They will also tend to adopt the opinion that negative things always happen to them and them alone and will attach greater significance to them than perhaps they deserve.
Low self-esteem can impact on all aspects of a person’s life and can lead to social withdrawal, poor performance at work or study, an unwillingness to participate in new activities and an inability to deal with failure. With that in mind let’s take a look at some of the ways in which you can address low self-esteem and improve it for the future.
The biggest thing that most people do that can damage our self-esteem is comparing our lives to the lives of others around us. If we perceive someone else to have a better life/relationship/house/car etc., then this will cause us to feel inadequate about our own lives and thus engender feelings of low self-esteem.
It is important to remember that this is just that – a perception, and that we only witness a snapshot of the lives of others. We don’t see what life is really like for them and we cannot read their thoughts and feelings. Social networks tend to have a big impact on this as people have a tendency to only post things that paint their lives in an exaggeratedly positive light.
The only person that you should be competing with is yourself as only you know all of the facts about your own life and your own thoughts and feelings. This is hard to do, but try and stop comparing yourself to others.
It doesn’t exist. In the internet age we are constantly bombarded with media that portrays the perfect life and it can be very easy to think that this is something that you should be shooting for yourself. However, perfection is an artificial creation that society has imposed upon itself and you need to let go of that idea.
Instead you should focus on the things that you achieve, as you achieve them. Don’t self-deprecate too much about them either as this will only devalue them in your own mind. Some people find it helpful to keep a little journal or list of their accomplishments, so that they can have a quick glance and see the road that they have taken to get to this point and all of the things that they have achieved along the way.
These things can range from the quite small – such as getting out of bed and going for a run, to the bigger achievements – such as passing an exam. No achievement is insignificant and by acknowledging them all, you will find that you maintain a far more positive outlook on your life.
The same goes for your mistakes or failures. We all make mistakes and we all fail at things, but what is important is to not see these as a sign of weakness and wallow in self-pity about them. Instead view them as opportunities for growth and learning. Find something to take away from your mistakes and move on from them in a positive way.
OK, now that we are going to stop comparing our lives to those of the people around us and we have put the idea of perfection where it belongs, it is time to start looking at the things that we would like to change about ourselves.
A simple way to do this is to make a list with two columns – one labelled “strengths” and one labelled “weaknesses.” Most people who have low self-esteem tend to over generalise about themselves with thoughts such as, “I’m a bad person,” or, “I can’t do anything.” However this is a lie that we tell ourselves in order to perpetuate the negative beliefs that we hold.
Everybody does bad things sometimes and everybody finds some things more difficult than others. Try to come up with ten things for each column and remember to focus on the small things as much as the larger ones. The strengths column will help you realise the things that you are good at and the weaknesses one will give you something to work towards.
Remember to set yourself realistic expectations. You are unlikely to be able to change any of these things overnight. Some of them may take weeks, months or even years to address. However, with time and dedication they can be addressed and it is never too late to start.
Indulge in a little self-exploration. This isn’t just about being aware of your strengths and weaknesses, but also about opening yourself up to new experiences. These experiences can range from new activities and friendships, to new thoughts and feelings. Part of changing the way that you see yourself is not being afraid to try new things. You may feel like you haven’t succeeded at anything up to this point because you haven’t yet found the thing that you are meant to succeed at. And you are never going to find it if you are afraid to try new things.
You are also going to need to adjust your self-image. There is no point basing your self-esteem on an old version of yourself that no longer exists. There are going to be things that you are good at now that you used to be terrible at and vice versa. So, don’t compare yourself to the past you, but instead look at the present you and your future self as well.
Hopefully that gives you some ideas about how to raise your self-esteem up a couple of notches. Remember that you can always talk to student support if you are having problems and they will be more than happy to provide you with some guidance and advice.
Please let us know any tips you have discovered for combating low self-esteem as well.
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