Low self-esteem is a spiritual crisis. We live in a world where 85% of the population is affected by low self-esteem.
I am sure you would agree with me that everyone wants and deserves to live a life that is filled with high self-esteem.
I am sure also that this world would be a better place if people like you and me were not hindered by fear or negative thinking.
Our own negative thinking and harmful self-talk are responsible for so many of the unpleasant things that happen to us in our lives.
It effects our relationships with other people and ourselves, it hurts our mental and physical health and our ability to create healthy boundaries. It affects all of the choices that we make in our day to day lives. In this article we will explore:
- What low self-esteem is and what causes it
- How to make better choices
- How to forgive past hurts
- Tools to build high self-esteem
- How to set goals like a boss
If you recognize that you have low self-esteem, please read this article in its entirety, I promise that by the end of it you will have all the tools at your disposal to walk into the future with high self-esteem.
If you want to develop certain aspects of yourself, please click on the link in the table of contents and that will take you to the relevant section.
Finally, for those who struggle with boundaries, make sure you take some time to absorb the section on creating healthy boundaries and check out the advice at the end of this guide.
Now, let’s get started on your journey to high self-esteem!
What is self-esteem?
I’m sure you’ve all heard of that term before: self-esteem, and we know that it is good to have high self-esteem, but what exactly is it? Self esteem is what we think of ourselves, and how we measure our own self-worth.
It impacts the choices that we make every day, because it determines what we consider ourselves capable of doing – and what we think we are worthy of doing. Glenn R. Schiraldi, author of The Self Esteem Workbook describes healthy self-esteem as “a realistic, appreciative opinion of oneself.”
Self esteem is what we think of ourselves, and how we measure our own self-worth.
“Self-esteem is the fundamental power of life,” says medical intuitive and acclaimed author Caroline Myss, who in her audio book Self Esteem: Your Fundamental Power goes on to explain that all the qualities of our lives including love, relationships and work are impacted by self-esteem. Cultivating high self-esteem is essential for us as humans to lead the best possible lives that we can.
Why we have low self-esteem
There are a number of factors that create low-esteem, and I am sure that, at some point or another, you have come across at least one of these. I’m going to explain the most common reasons for low self-esteem and what you can do to change them.
You strive for perfection. Unrealistic expectations can be caused by society or influenced by our family or peer groups. The first thing to understand is that if there is no such thing as perfection, then there is no such thing as imperfection. Set realistic expectations for yourself and recognize that there is a big difference between failing at something and being a failure as a person.
You don’t like your body. Peer group pressure is the biggest cause for discontent among women, with studies showing that 80% of women believe that their negative body image is caused by negative comments made by family and friends. Comparison is the thief of joy. Look after your health and take care of your appearance and stop comparing yourself to other people.
You think you have nothing to offer. We all have our own unique talents, and it is a mistake to think that just because someone else has a similar talent that they are worthy and you are not. Perhaps you have always wanted to write a book about frogs but never did because other people have already written books about frogs. This is true, there may be many books out there about frogs – but there is not one that is written by you.
You feel angry over past hurts. This is a big one. We all have experiences where we have been let down, disappointed and taken advantage of. You are able to let go of this past hurt and move on, and I will show you how a little later in this article.
The effects low self-esteem has on usI will say it again; low self-esteem is a spiritual crisis. It impacts all areas of our lives, from the choices that we make, the people that we allow into our lives, our health and wellbeing.
It affects our highest potential. We accept poor treatment from others and make self-destructing decisions because we think we are not worthy to live happily. These self-destructive decisions range from harming ourselves with drugs and alcohol, developing eating disorders and extreme cosmetic surgery habits to hurting others, through bullying and cheating.
Low self-esteem leads to social withdrawal and ultimately a lack of social skills. It is a precursor for mental health issues like extreme stress and anxiety, which can have terrible effects on our bodies physically.
It causes us to continuously accentuate the negative and ignore any positives which stops us from pursuing goals and taking risks. We lose the ability to heal and to grow and to be the absolute best versions of ourselves that we were put on this earth to be.
How to raise your self-esteem
We all want and deserve to have high self-esteem. You might be wondering but how do I do that? There are a number of really easy ways to raise your self-esteem and I’m going to explain how to do it.
Avoid negative self-talk. Be careful how you talk to yourself, because you are listening. It is so important for you and your self-esteem to be mindful of how you talk to yourself. We will go into detail on this topic a little later.
Learn to be assertive. Your opinions and thoughts are important! There is nobody in this world who can be you and you must celebrate this. Dr. Seuss put it best: “Today you are you, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is youer than you.”
Focus on your positives. We all have different strengths.
Albert Einstein said,
“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”
Think about what you like about yourself. What are your favourite positive attributes? Is it that you are kind, or funny, or good at puzzles, or that you make the best toasted cheese sandwiches?
You do you. Stop comparing yourself to other people! Comparison is the thief of joy. The more you love your decisions, the less you need other people to love them.
Be nice to yourself. Do something every day that makes you happy. Whether it’s going for a walk or taking a long bubble bath or simply zoning out in front of the tv for thirty minutes. Whatever it is, make time for it every single day.
Finish something you start. A great way to get high self esteem is to finish a task that you start. It doesn’t matter what it is, whether it is a puzzle, a book, a building project or any other task. Completing something that you start makes you feel good and accomplished.
Spend time with people who love you. Spending quality time with people who genuinely care about you does wonders for your self-esteem. It’s good for you to see yourself how other people see you, and by surrounding yourself with people who like you, it becomes easier for you to like yourself.
You are not what happens to you. This is the key to unlocking your self-worth. While you have control of your choices and what you do in this life, the bad things that happen to you are not your fault. Challenges are obstacles that need to be overcome, not feared.
How self-esteem effects choices
Do you ever wonder, why can’t I seem to make the right decisions?
Making the best choices in life is easy.
Then why do we keep making the wrong ones?
There is a simple answer but before we get to it we should explore the question a little bit more. Have you ever felt frustrated that things are not going the way you had imagined? Have you ever felt like kicking yourself when you decide to do something, knowing you should have done it a different way, made a different choice?
We make the wrong choices all the time.
Here is the answer: because it is easy to.
We live in a fast-paced society with an information overload, and we have become used to doing things now, already, yesterday. We think and act rashly. Low self-esteem causes us to feel insecure in our abilities and has convinced ourselves that others know better than we do. We have forgotten to listen to ourselves.
You know yourself better than anybody else on this Earth. When you stop trusting yourself you take away the ability to live to your highest potential. You will make choices and decision that are not in tuned with your higher self and these ultimately leave you feeling unsatisfied.
You are probably wondering: how do I start making better choices? The key is to pay attention to yourself. Start asking yourself questions and start small.
What do I want for breakfast?
Which colour shirt shall I wear today?
Once you get into the habit of making choices that make you feel good it becomes easier to tackle the harder questions.
Removing negative thought patterns
Positive thoughts are empowering. They make you feel good. Negative thoughts are disempowering. They make you feel sad and tired and affect all your energy levels and especially your self-esteem.
Negative thoughts have a nasty habit of sinking their teeth into our brains and it can feel challenging to fight them. But it can be done and I’m going to show you how to do it.
First though, we need to understand why we think negative thoughts.
Unfortunately, our brains are instinctively wired to think negatively. This is traced back to the caveman days where the mentality was ‘eat or be eaten.’
It made sense then, but not so much now. Our history books teach us that our ancestors survived incredible odds, and dealt with terribly harsh conditions, all mentalities that have been passed down from generation to generation, and which makes it almost a given that we tend towards the negative.
Not that we think negatively all the time, but that our brains are trained through evolution to spot the scary stuff first. We have learnt from our experiences, and our default coping mechanism is to respond to the uncomfortable first.If you think only negative thoughts, you attract more negative thoughts. If you think you have no future, that your job is awful, that you are lonely and sad and everything is terrible, then only negative things will be attracted to you. Does that make sense?
However, if you think only positive thoughts, you will attract more positive thoughts. If you are excited about what tomorrow brings, spend time thinking about all the things you want to achieve in the future and are genuinely comfortable and happy within yourself, you will attract positive, enriching experiences.
Understanding the power of positive thinking is one of the easiest and most effective ways to create high self-esteem.
Eliminate the negative. The more often you think about something, the more you will continue to think about it. Sever that tie.
When you find yourself thinking things that are not in alignment with your higher self, stop. Focus on a positive affirmation.
Soon, your brain will start to do this automatically.
As powerful and programmed as they are, our brains are not difficult to rewire. A chemical reaction begins with the act of thinking. The more we think about a particular thing, the easier it is to think about, and the stronger the thought becomes.
There is no difference between the imagined and the reality in your brain, it’s can’t tell the difference. To successfully rewire your brain, you need to visualize what you want to see happen, so your brain believes it is real.
Similarly, the intention needs to be supported by your actions. Doubt hinders your ability.
There is no difference between the imagined and the reality in your brain, There is no difference between the imagined and the reality in your brain, it can’t tell the difference.
Throw away the victim card
You are allowed to feel upset, to feel hurt, to feel angry or annoyed. The challenging part is accepting those feelings as your own, and not blaming others for making you feel that way.
Imagine telling a joke you found funny to someone who becomes upset with you. Is it your fault that they have reacted that way? Remember, thoughts have no emotions. It is us as humans that attach feeling to thought.
See your thoughts for what they are and feel your feelings without judging them. Take responsibility for your emotions, without forcing them on others. Understand that you have the power to empower yourself, and empower others with your words, your actions, and the way you express your emotions. It is an instinctive thing, to blame others when we feel negative. “You said this so now I feel this.”
We develop emotional sensitivities in our formative years, when we are young children absorbing everything around us like sponges. When you react as an adult, it is a preconditioned sensitivity to a particular stimulus. This is why two people experiencing the same event can have very different reactions to it. You strengthen these sensitivities every time you react to them.
Imagine that as a child your sibling would take your toys without asking. This irritated you and as an adult you feel that same irritation when people help themselves to your food, your makeup, your time, without asking. You will keep feeling irritated until you deal with the root cause. Don’t play the victim to circumstances you created.
Change the terminology. You are not a victim. You are a survivor.
Victims stop, survivors keep going.
Victims are jealous of other’s successes, survivors are inspired by them.
Victims bathe in self-pity, survivors use their pain to help others.
Victims argue with life, survivors embrace it.
Surround yourself with positive people
Like attracts like and this is especially true when it comes to the people in your life. One of the best ways to support high self-esteem is to surround yourself with positive people. Positive people are supportive, nurturing and encouraging – they want you to be happy and to succeed! They will help bring out the best in you; even if you are not in the best of moods all the time, being around positive people helps you feel better. The more time you spend with positive people, the more positive you will feel, which will lead more positive people to be attracted to you. It’s a win-win!
Why self-talk is so vital to self-esteem
“Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t, you are right.”
These words were famously spoken by Henry Ford and they resonate with many of us. We need to be mindful of how we speak to ourselves, the tone with which our thoughts are turned inwards.
Telling myself constantly that I am making mistakes or putting myself down will make me believe that I am useless. It’s that simple. If I believe that I am worthless, then I will also think that other people believe the same of me, even if they don’t. Negative self-talk not only affects you mentally, but physically as well. It makes you feel lethargic and sleepy and can lead to harmful eating disorders.
Positive self-talk boosts confidence and helps push doubts aside. It helps you get things done. This confidence leads to personal and professional success. Positive self-talk introduces optimistic thoughts, that save you from depression. Some examples of positive self-talk that you can start practicing every day are:
Remember, every thought you have is creating your future.
Creating healthy boundaries
In order to maintain healthy relationships with people, it is important to establish healthy boundaries. It is too easy to feel like you give too much of yourself in relationships – not just romantic relationships – and this can leave you feeling dissatisfied and that you are being taken advantage of.
Healthy boundaries are about maintaining your personal integrity. You are determining what you will accept and what you won’t, and this will help you cultivate high self-esteem.
The first step in setting healthy boundaries is determining what your core values are.
What is important to you?
Is it being honest in your dealings with people, expressing your creativity or perhaps working on your personal development?
Once you have these core values firmly in your mind (you can also write them down on a piece of paper), decide what constitutes a crossing of these boundaries. Your list may look like this:
It’s not ok when
When people ask me to lie
Not being allowed the time to be creative
Being told or warned I shouldn’t do something
Remember that boundaries are about honouring your own personal needs, they are not about judging other people’s decisions. Knowing what you stand for and what you believe in is instrumental on your journey to high self-esteem.
Leaving the past behind
As humans we collect things. Books, clothes, movies, magnets, habits. Some of these are fine; others are detrimental to our overall health. One of the most damaging habits we tend to protect with almost defiance is our inability to let things go.
We are constantly changing, adapting and evolving. What worked for us as teenagers doesn’t work for us anymore. How you dealt with a difficult colleague two years ago will be different from how you deal with one now.
One of the most challenging lessons we need to learn is how to forgive someone who has hurt us. As sentient beings we have a tendency to hang on to past hurts and these can seem difficult to let go of (I know I can hold a grudge!) It can be frustrating when the person you are angry with doesn’t even realise that you are feeling angry or hurt – that no responsibility is accepted on their part.
At the end of the day, the only person who is hurting by your anger is you.
“We cannot change anything unless we accept it.” - Carl Jung
But what if the person you are angry at is yourself?
Forgiving yourself for things you’ve said or done is not easy. I don’t know about you, but I used to replay conversations or events over and over in my head, physically cringing at my past self. If this sounds like you, listen to me now: stop doing this!
Remember when we looked at the impact of negative thinking, and we learned how to rewire our thought processes? If you keep dwelling on past mistakes you give those thoughts power! A wonderful tool for letting go of anger is through creative visualization.
The law of attraction states it perfectly: what you put out into the world is what you get back.
Focusing on anger and negative emotions attracts feelings of anger and negative situations. By focusing on positives, by visualizing the future that you want, you can make it happen. It is that easy.
Holding onto anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die. - unknown
Learn how to take a compliment
Not being able to take a compliment is a sure sign of low self-esteem. There are a variety of reasons why people can’t take compliments and the main two are:
We believe accepting a compliment makes us look conceited
We believe the other person is making fun of us
Neither of these reasons should worry you. If you have worked hard for something and someone congratulates you on it, accept it! And if someone was making fun of you by giving you a compliment that shows a lot more about their character than it does of yours. By not accepting a compliment it diminishes your value when you deflect it. What is the best response to a compliment? It’s simple:
Get back into nature
Spending time outside, whether in a physical, sporting capacity or simply going for a walk in your neighbourhood park or spending an afternoon in your own garden is beneficial for not only your mind but your body too – both of which help you get high self-esteem.
Humans need vitamin D not only because it’s beneficial to strengthening your teeth, bones and immune system, but also for the release of serotonin in your body which put simply, is a mood booster. The easiest way to get a healthy dose of vitamin D is simply to spend ten minutes in the sun. Being outside and getting some fresh air can quite literally make you feel better.
Regular exercise releases endorphins in your brain that instantly make you feel good about yourself. It will help you gain confidence, and keeps your mind busy and often clears it, helping to remove any stresses you might have. Exercising is a positive thing and is good not only for your mental health but physical health also. Taking care of yourself will make you feel good.
If you are not a very active person, don’t feel intimidated or alarmed by the prospect of physical activity, you don’t have to start training for a marathon.
Physical activity can range from playing sports, to joining a gym or simply going for a 30 minute walk in the afternoon. Any small amount you can manage is good to start with, and as soon as you start seeing or feeling the positive effects in your life like more energy, less negative thoughts, more confidence and much better sleep, it will become easier for you to maintain an active lifestyle.
In relation to health, having low self-esteem prevents you from healing as effectively as you would if you have high self-esteem. Negative thoughts lead to illness.
A 2009 study published in medical journal Circulation showed that cynical people were more likely to have heart disease than non-cynical people. Negative thoughts and low self-esteem lead to a variety of physical illness and disease that can all be prevented.
You are what you eat
The choices that we make when it comes to food are instrumental to our health, our wellbeing, and our self-esteem. Food has a vibrational frequency and you literally get out what you put in. Fresh, organic and raw foods operate on higher levels while processed and packaged foods have low vibrations. You can see for yourself. I know that I feel much happier on an overall level when I have a delicious home cooked meal than when I get take away fast food.
One of the biggest issue with having low self-esteem is the amount of stress it puts on our bodies. Most of us think that if we feel bad it’s just our minds and moods that are affected, but it’s not. Our bodies suffer physically from not having high self-esteem.
Let me explain.
On a daily basis we consume food to keep us alive - we convert it to energy and are able to sustain our bodies as we go about our days. In times of stress, elevated levels of cortisol combined with certain foods we ingest that contain the amino acid tyrosine, the hormone norepinephrine is triggered.
Norepinephrine is commonly known as our Fight or Flight response. The moment we are under stress, the hormone is released and immediately we become more alert, our heart rate increases as does our blood pressure. We are physically preparing to respond.
Prolonged periods of stress, of constantly being ‘on guard’ puts enormous stress on your heart as it pumps furiously, leading to a number of cardiovascular diseases. Your immune system also begins to shut down due to the pressure on your nervous system. Depression and anxiety are likely to result from this strain.
Being aware and modifying your diet is vital to help your body heal and remain strong and functioning during times of stress. When you have high self-esteem, your body will function much better.
Foods that are good for you:
(If you eat) Fish – high in omega-3 fatty acids, fish oils are a natural anti-inflammatory that help combat the negative effects of increased norepinephrine levels in your body
Bananas – full of positive B6 vitamins that help the brain produce the hormone serotonin, which calms and boosts your mood
Green leafy vegetables – these are high in B complex vitamins which aid the nervous system in circulating neurotransmitters, or brain chemicals, that help regulate heartbeat and digestion. Leafy vegetables are also high in vitamin C and vitamin E which have anti-ageing properties and magnesium, which has a calming effect
Citrus fruits – oranges, limes and lemons have high levels of vitamin C which helps boost your immune system
Carbohydrates – potatoes and whole grains increase serotonin levels in the brain, helping to regulate your mood in times of stress
(If you eat) Meat, poultry, milk and nuts – all high in zinc, which helps boost your immune system and prevent infection
Foods to stay away from:
Processed sugar, caffeine, foods that are high in saturated fat content like most takeaways and also very hot and spicy foods are detrimental not only to your health on a regular basis, but also when you have low self-esteem.
Try to avoid all if not most processed foods and anything that comes out of a packet.
Goal setting is an important part of maintaining high self-esteem. It keeps you accountable and feels wonderful when you achieve what it is that you want to achieve. I bet you have a number of goals in mind right now but – like many people – you don’t know where to start.
Here is a goal setting plan that will help you start moving forward.
Think big but think specifically. The first hurdle is taking on too much. Focus on one or two major goals, and only on them. Have the desired outcome firmly in perspective, know exactly what it is that you want to achieve. If for example, weight loss is your goal, think of the specific number you want to get to. Give yourself a realistic time limit, 6 months to one year. That is your first goal to focus on.
Set sub goals. Within that six to twelve months set monthly sub goals. Continuing with the example of weight loss, break the total amount of weight you want to lose into smaller chunks, divide the total number between six or twelve, however long you have decided is the appropriate amount of time to realistically achieve your goal. That is your new goal, each month.
Create weekly, mini goals that support your major goal. The amount of weight you want to lose in a month, divide by four; that is now your new weekly target. Don’t get disheartened if you don’t achieve these weekly goals, understand that it is a process, and that within the six or twelve months, you will notice the difference. Expect obstacles and rough patches. But persevere.
Be organized. Your weekly planning will help you through difficult times. Keep a journal or notebook for writing down all the things that pertain to your goals. Pay attention to what works, and what doesn’t work. Tweak or adjust your methods if you feel that you are not achieving anything.
For example, keep a record of your diet and any exercise that you do, week to week. If you feel that it is not working, or you aren’t noticing any results or changes to your body, consult your journal. Change your diet or increase or decrease the amount of exercise that you do. Keep writing down, every week, what you do.
Stick with it. Commit to your daily planning as vigorously as your weekly planning. Set small goals for yourself, each day.
For example, today I will take a walk, or today I will eat 3 serves of fruit. Be specific. Getting into the habit of creating daily goals is good discipline and will help you on your way to achieving your major goal and contributes to your overall sense of well-being.
High self-esteem is achievable.
Remember that what you allow, continues.
We teach others how to treat us and if we are unkind to ourselves, we are giving permission for others to be unkind to us as well.
Let me ask you this: are you willing to take charge of the creation of your reality? You have now learnt:
- Why we suffer from low self-esteem
- How to raise your self-esteem
- How to make better choices
- How to heal past hurts and how to forgive others
- The importance diet plays in our lives and
- How to set (and achieve) your goals
Our life energy is distributed by the choices that we make and everything is a choice.
Every morning you get to decide how to live your life, and ultimately, you get to choose to have high self-esteem. And now you know how to get it.
Without high self-esteem our intuition doesn’t work properly, and we aren’t able to make the best choices.
We hurt ourselves and prohibit ourselves from healing when we choose not to move forward in a positive way with positive self-talk and thought patterns.
I will leave you with my favorite quote from Carl Jung: “I am not what happened to me, I am what I choose to become.”
“I am not what happened to me, I am what I choose to become.” - Carl Jung
Don’t ever underestimate your power.