Right from the moment we are born, we are already taking in our environment. As we grow up, we absorb the ideas and thoughts that people have about us or the expectations they have from us.
Our parents, friends, teachers, and siblings can also add to our self-concept. Our self-concept and self-esteem are tightly aligned and interactive, so it is essential to understand how they interact. Afterwards it will be a lot easier to overcome challenges, improve self-esteem and enjoy life more.
- Our body image
- Role performance – How do we fit into society
It might surprise you to point out the obvious, but we do not live within the same body during our lifetime. We were once babies, toddlers, adolescents, and, if we are lucky, young adults and seniors. Our bodies change over time, and we can also suffer ill health, depression, or changes in our bodies that can throw us off kilter.
Pregnancy, for example, can affect women in different ways. For some, it is a very uncomfortable time as they cannot align the change in their bodies and the inability to do certain things with their idea of their perfect self. During this time, they can suffer low self-esteem if they do not enjoy being pregnant. Pregnancy is not a permanent state, and any issues resolve once you are no longer pregnant.
The same can apply to aging and disabilities, although some are permanent and some are natural progressions. Some people manage their developing bodies and challenges with a better mindset than others.
Society can be kind or unkind to aging people. Lack of self-esteem comes from judgment of how we are as opposed to how we feel we are supposed to be. Or how we were once—coupled with our community and society’s opinion of us.
There is always something that sets you apart from others. It could be your culture, your ethnicity, your religion, or the roles you play in your family.
Your identity is accepted or rejected by your community or family, which can devastate your long-term self-concept or esteem. If you experience life rejection to a large extent, you probably will suffer from low self-esteem.
Learning that a supportive community and like-minded friends and family members can buffer people from a society that does not support who we are and turning to those that validate us can be life-changing.
Often roles are dished out to us by society or our family. People might tell us to be good daughters, great wives, strong husbands, or obedient sons.
We are to do well at school, win at sports and earn a lot of money through our career choices. At times we feel great when we are succeeding in these expectations and when we are not, anxiety and depression can flood us rendering us paralyzed.
In this way, we give power to others to define us, and when we do that, we are bound to fail. Instead, the locus of control should come from within us.
A good example would be that children with overprotective parents are not allowed to participate in sports because they are too sickly or weak. Yet feel strong and fit enough to participate in any sport they wish. Confusion can lead to incongruency in thinking about who they are and how they are perceived.
Throughout life, we are changing, and our circumstances can change. People can suffer financial losses, losing loved ones, health changes, and situational changes, which can result in a loss of self or self-concept. Even menopause as a developmental stage can trigger bouts of low self-esteem as a person tries to reconcile what society expects of them (role), their changing bodies (body), and loss of identity.
Younger people and adolescents directly link their sense of self-worth to their body appearance and societal role. They also rely heavily on environmental feedback to assess whether they are OK or not.
Knowing this might help to learn how to improve self-esteem with a more educated and thorough approach.
Now that we understand how self-esteem works and how different features interact, We can put a workable plan to improve self-esteem.
Self-esteem affects not only how one sees life in general but also how a person feels, their health, and their feeling of being a part of the world which is very important to mental health and having a happier life.
Step 1: Challenge The Beliefs You Were Brought Up On
Grab a pen and paper and make this your life work if you have to. Start to write down some of the negative ideas you believe about yourself. Write about ten to start on. Some might be repeats of the same thoughts, and you can group them.
Some examples can be:
I am lazy
I am good for nothing
I never finish a task
These are pretty much the same idea. The idea is that you are not good enough.
Next to each idea, write something that disproves that:
- I won an award for the best garden in my street.
- I am a volunteer at a local charity that relies on my help
- I love painting and have some pictures hanging around my home.
You can write as many achievements as you wish and add to them as they pop into your mind.
The mind is very pliable, and when faced with proof, it starts to distrust the negative affirmation.
You can also add some compliments that people have given you. You might find it difficult at first until you get into the swing of things. You can add achievements, changes that helped you, and even other people you have helped in some way.
Also read: Tips for Personal Growth
Some of these beliefs might have occurred when you were growing up. Try to remember that other people do a few things when commenting on us. They project their shortcomings onto us or have their plan when saying or doing certain things around us. Once you absorb this, you can start to move on from these thoughts and let those people own those negative connotations, not you.
Think about when you started to feel those feelings about yourself. Thinking back helps you understand why that person said those things and let go of them.
Step 2: Your Self-Esteem Can and Will Change
The best news is that self-esteem is changeable. As we discussed earlier, people’s positive self-esteem can change when faced with life challenges, but it can also improve.
Once you have a vast cache of positive ideas about yourself, you can start to make these visible. The brain enjoys repetition as a method of learning. Stick-it notes are handy. You can put one up on the bathroom mirror, and while you are brushing your teeth can reinforce new ways of thinking which are more productive for your self-image.
Visual cues increase impact.
You can go a step further and place photographs around you that reflect the person you are, doing the things you love. Even just sitting smiling with friends can give your body a positive hit instead of a lot of negative self-speak. Pretty birthday cards from people who care about you can be framed and form part of your memories.
Step 3: Recognise Your Hero Qualities
Write down anything that you feel you are good at doing. It could be doing puzzles, for example! Loving puzzles indicates that you are good at problem-solving and love doing it too. The world certainly needs more people to solve problems, and people like this are invaluable.
Great talkers are always looking for great listeners.
Perhaps you are a good listener. Many talkers love great listeners. They are a match made in heaven! You could make someone a great friend. You probably have more talents than you realized.
Learn more about: How to Be More Talkative & Better in Conversations
You could be artistic, scientific, love animals, or people, the list is endless, and if you think about it, you might add more things each day. This list is your hero list, and it is essential. Recognizing your talents and abilities not only helps esteem but can propel you to do more exciting things with your life. You can back up these ideas with proof, mentioning great things you have done in the past.
Remember to make these things visible.
Step 4 – Find Your Tribe
People might not have appreciated you in your village school or your own family, but your tribe will understand you.
Get together with like-minded people.
There are tons of groups and social get-togethers in support of varied interests. These groups create a sense of belonging essential to feeling better about yourself. They can validate you for the person you are as opposed to the person that others with a defined plan.
Finding your tribe can be easy, even chatting with people generally can unveil shared interests and passions.
The more you hang out with your tribe, the happier you will be.
If you have people in your life who are critical of you or pull you down, get rid of them, or see them in small tolerable amounts if you have to.
People who don’t support the real you are not part of your tribe, so they should return to their tribe of self-criticizing people!
Step 5: Be Kinder to Yourself
The problem with early programming is using those words to criticize ourselves. You will start to understand how you might have internalized those negative remarks by writing them down. This process will help you to identify them.
Real constructive criticism focuses on what went wrong and your ability to change things. It is not derogatory, nor is it humiliating or personal.
Reducing the volume of negative thoughts
When you hear those familiar insults, you will start to remember where they came from and can avert them. The more we interact positively with the world, the more positive feedback we get, and these thoughts start to fade.
They might not go away entirely, but you can reduce the volume.
Life is dynamic. It is ever-changing, so this type of self-improvement is ongoing. When we age, or our bodies change, we can begin to reassess what is meaningful to us. Perhaps we thought the only way to be loved was to be slim or muscular, but real love does not encompass anything like that.
Presenting your best self is about your best self as a whole person, not a specific figure type or age. It also applies to body changes like loss of limbs or other challenges. People enjoy interacting with real people, people they can relate to on a deeper level. If they are not into that, they will probably veer off to their tribe that values looks and age more than anything else. It sounds like a very shallow way to live, but try not to judge people, instead, focus on your people, what they have to offer, and what you can offer them in return.
The loss of self-esteem comes from how you think you should be or how you are against who you are right now.
It’s important to note that how you present yourself is how you will be valued. So if you put more value on your outer body or appearance, you will be judged on that alone. You will also draw like-minded people towards you, and perhaps that is not your dream tribe? Why spend a life following something that does not nurture you as a person.
Understanding how self-esteem develops, how it can change with life challenges, and knowing how to improve self-esteem can motivate you to move forward.
You no longer have to view yourself in a certain way, you can neatly package up all negative remarks and send them back to the ‘owner.’ There is always room for change, and there is always room for growth as we encompass developmental and life changes all through our lives. Life is about growth and change, so you can meet the challenge enthusiastically, and enjoy visualizing the great things that will still happen to you moving forward as you improve your life.