Self-esteem; it can make us or break us. It has the power to influence every aspect of our existence – when our self-esteem is good it gives us the strength, faith, belief and motivation to do anything we could conceive of; life is positive and enjoyable and successful. When it’s low it has the power to negatively influence our thoughts, our feelings, our decisions, our perspectives, and ultimately our experiences of life.
As human beings we are products of our environment; how we feel about ourselves has been developed by our experiences and the influences of those around us. In particular, it is our experiences when growing up that have the most impact on how our self-esteem is shaped.
Think of yourself as a building, and your self-esteem as being the foundations of that building; in order to create a strong, solid structure you must first lay good stable foundations. When we are children our self-esteem is being constructed. As we lack the emotional intelligence, self-awareness and insight to be able to process our experiences, it becomes the responsibility of our parents, guardians and significant others to ensure that strong foundations are laid within us.
In order to develop strong foundations, we as children require some basic needs to be met. These include unconditional love, support, nurturing, empathy, encouragement, validation and acceptance. When we receive these then our foundations become strong and secure, and as we get older and we mature and we begin to construct the building that is ourselves, we are able to live with the confidence that anything we place on top of those solid foundations will be able to withstand any pressures or stress that life may throw at it.
If however we do not receive these basic needs, then our foundations, and our self-esteem, are insecure and unstable. And consequently anything we attempt to build upon those foundations will crumble with the smallest amount of pressure and stress.
As adults, our self-esteem becomes our responsibility because we now have the experience and knowledge required to process our experiences that we didn’t have as children. So if our self-esteem is not stable or secure, we have the task of re-laying our foundations in order to achieve the stability and strength we require to achieve happiness and success in our lives.
By following these five steps will ensure that your self-esteem will become strong, stable and secure, which will ultimately provide the necessary foundation for a successful and fulfilling life.
1. Always ensure your self-talk is positive
The words that we say to ourselves become our reality. When our self-talk is negative, when we tell ourselves that we’re stupid, we don’t deserve to be happy or we’re not worthy of anything good in our lives, we are damaging our perception of ourselves, which subsequently has the potential to ruin any hope we may have had of being happy and successful.
A healthy self-esteem is created when we are able to give ourselves encouragement, unconditional love, compassion, empathy and acceptance. The way we do this is through the words we say to ourselves. When we tell ourselves we are good people who deserve all the best that life has to offer, and that we will be happy and successful because we have the skills and abilities to achieve whatever we desire, then we are reinforcing to ourselves that we are strong, confident people deserving of the lives that we want.
So don’t forget just how powerful our self-talk can be; not only does it shape our self-esteem, it also has the power to determine whether we will be successful or unhappy in the future. Choose your thoughts wisely.
2. Make yourself a priority
When we prioritise our needs and happiness, we are sending a message to ourselves that we are important and worthy enough to spend time and energy on, which is one of the most powerful ways of boosting our self-esteem. However many people struggle with the concept of prioritising themselves because they feel that if they do this then they are being selfish and they are neglecting the people around them. But this couldn’t be farther from the truth.
If you’ve ever been on a plane I want you to think back to the safety demonstration that the flight attendants run through before the plane takes off. One of the key instructions they give is that if there is an emergency on board and the oxygen masks drop, then we must ensure that we put our own masks on first before helping anybody else. This perfectly reflects the importance for us in our own lives to ensure that we are looking after ourselves properly. Because if we don’t do this, and prioritise our own health and happiness, then we will be of little use to those around us; we actually aren’t able to give them the best of ourselves.
In reality, prioritising our happiness and success contributes to a strong self-esteem, which in turn has positive impacts on those around us. So take the time out to do the things you love and enjoy and that make you happy, because if you are happy, then you will project that happiness onto everyone else too.
3. Treat yourself well
People with low self-esteem will often treat others much better than they treat themselves, whereas people with high self-esteem have realised the value and importance of treating themselves well. When we treat ourselves well we are acknowledging that we deserve happiness, enjoyment and respect in our lives. And if we consciously ensure that we are only treating ourselves in a positive way, then we will not allow ourselves to accept anything less from those around us.
4. Set goals
Goal setting is integral to developing and maintaining a healthy self-esteem. It is through setting goals that we are able to dream, plan and achieve; it gives our lives a purpose, meaning and direction, a reason for getting up each day. Each time we tick a goal off our list, we increase our confidence, we feel a sense of pride and we prove to ourselves just how capable and successful we really are.
In order to ensure that your goals continue to reinforce a positive self-esteem, remember the following: SMART goals are effective goals – Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Time-bound. And remember to never give up.
5. Choose your company wisely
Although we don’t have control over what the people around us say and do, we do have control over whether we choose to have those people in our lives. Some people bring with them toxic energy and negativity, which if we spend too much time entertaining, can have a detrimental impact on our self-perception and self-esteem. On the other hand, some people project an abundance of positivity and motivation, which can inspire us to continue to achieve happiness and success in our own lives. So always remember to consciously select the people you allow in your life; it’s more than OK to be picky. Because we are the company we keep.
So above all, remember to always invest your time and energy in laying the strong foundations necessary to achieve a healthy self-esteem. Because this will ensure that you will realise all the success and happiness you believe you deserve.
By Jill Searle, Psychologist