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Self-esteem and how to develop it?

Updated on December 7, 2014

Self esteem can be described as how we value ourselves and how we perceive our value in particular to those who are close to us and in general to the others. Self esteem affects our life in many ways, namely, our trusts in others, our relationships, and our work. A positive self esteem gives us strength and makes us succeed at what we undertake in life.

A person having a positive self esteem will show the following signs –

  • Confidence
  • Optimism
  • An independent attitude
  • An attitude of co-operation with others
  • An ability to trust others
  • An ability to learn from one’s mistakes
  • An ability to handle effectively a wide range of emotions
  • A sense of genuine respect for others
  • An awareness of personal limitations
  • An ability to solve problems
  • An ability to say No to others
  • A sense of good self care
  • Non blaming behavior
  • An awareness of one’s strengths
  • An ability to manage anger effectively
  • An ability to handle fears effectively
  • An attitude of not harming or hurting others
  • An ability to take sound decisions

An individual having a high self esteem will possess most of the above traits in varying degrees. A lack of most of the traits equates to low self-esteem. But the good news is that an individual can develop these traits with sincere efforts.

Causes of low self-esteem –

Disapproval from authorities – As a child, if a person is excessively criticized for what one does in spite of how hard one tried, it becomes difficult for the person to feel confident and comfortable. Most of us fail to see that the shame forced on the child for perpetually failing is very painful, which prevents the child to grow into an adult with a positive self-image.

Indifference of caregivers – If parents or other primary caregivers don’t pay attention to the achievements of the child, this results in a feeling of unworthiness and non-recognition in the child. Such a feeling in the child causes a belief that it is supposed to apologize for its existence. And, therefore, non-involvement in the activities of the child can contribute largely to its low self-esteem.

Bullying – If a child is taunted or bullied by someone, it can recover and salvage its self-esteem if the family is supportive. But, with the unsupportive family, if bullying continues outside home, the child can develop an overwhelming sense of being lost, abandoned and hopeless. This fills the child with a feeling of self-loathing that pervades its every day life.

On the other hand, if the parents are overly and indiscriminately supportive, it will leave the child feeling unprepared for the cruel world. The child will feel shameful if unable to withstand the challenges of life outside home. Eventually, the child will notice that there is a conflict between the parent’s opinion and world’ opinion of it. It may start to question the validity of the parent’s positive view and accept the view of others outside home. So, over-supportive parents can also promote to a low self-esteem in their children.

If a primary caregiver is too pre-occupied to pay attention to the child when it is being bullied, it feels neglected and fails to understand why there is lack of attention. This results in a feeling of being unsafe. Thus, the child suffers from shame and pain that can be brutal at times. It is hard for the child to ask for the necessary attention and may instead retreat and become more isolated with a sense of shame.

Academic challenges - If a child doesn’t understand what is happening in school, it will get further and further behind without anyone noticing it. If the parents or primary caregivers fail to notice this, they may not be able to step in to help him how to accommodate with curriculum. With the unsupportive parents, the child will develop a feeling of inadequacy and shame when unable to handle academic challenges. Therefore, the parents or primary caregivers should step in to help the child to accommodate for the academic difficulties and prevent it from developing low self-esteem.

Trauma - Physical, sexual, or emotional abuse may be the most striking and overt causes of low self-esteem. Being forced into a physical and emotional position against one’s will can make it very hard to like the world, trust oneself or trust others, which profoundly impacts self-esteem. One may even feel like that one is at fault when in fact it is not so.

Belief systems – Religious or other belief systems can instill a feeling of perpetually sinning in a person. When such a judgment comes from our belief system, it can evoke shame, guilt, and self-loathing in a person. Most of the belief systems offer two paths – one that is all good and the other that is all bad. Oftentimes, we can not differentiate between two paths and end up feeling confused, disoriented, and shameful.

Society - The society has set its own unrealistic standards of beauty, thinness, smartness or happiness, which are greatly influenced by media. Society and the media make our imperfections so easily accessible that there is no relief from feelings of inadequacy. As media access is available so easily, the youngsters and kids are subjected to these unfair comparisons earlier and earlier. So, society and media are responsible to a large extent in developing low self-esteem in so many persons.

Betrayal - Betrayal in a romantic relationship can lead to a person doubting one’s self-worth. One might feel that there is something lacking in one and that is why the other person has left and gone.

Financial and social position - Belonging to the lower strata of society in terms of financial or social position can lead to a low self-esteem in a person. This is especially true if his or her peers enjoy a better standing in society.

How to develop self-esteem –

  • Stop the inner critic – We all have an inner critic in our mind that whispers destructive thoughts in us from time to time. Whenever our inner critic is active, we can stop it by silently saying forcefully – stop, stop, stop…… and to our surprise, it will. Then we can refocus our thoughts on something constructive.
  • Develop motivational habits – Motivate yourself to take action to raise your self-esteem. Remind yourself the benefits of high self-esteem. Whenever you are in a situation that tries to damage your self-esteem, refocus and start working on how to avoid the damage.
  • Self-appreciation – Develop a habit of self-appreciation and do it often in a day. Write down three things at the end of the day that you can appreciate about yourself. An extra benefit of writing it down is that after a few weeks you can read through all the answers to get a good self-esteem boost and it will help most especially on days, when you may need it the most.
  • Do the right things – Always do the right thing to the best of your capacity even if the outcome may not be in your favor. By consistently doing right things you will make it the habit. This will strengthen your self-esteem.
  • Replace perfectionism – Thought of doing things with perfection in daily life can be quite stressful. It can paralyze a person from taking action if one is afraid of not living up to some standard. This can lead one to procrastinate and, therefore, one will not get the results one wants. This will make one’s self-esteem sink. So, go for good enough according to your capability. Remember that buying into myths of perfection will hurt you and the people in your life.
  • Handle mistakes and failures positively – Every one is likely to stumble and fall along the way. If it happens with you, instead of beating yourself up be your friend. It will keep you from falling into a pit of despair and will help you to be more constructive after the first initial pain of a mistake or failure starts to dissipate. Alternatively, focus on optimism and learn from mistakes and failures.
  • Try something new - When you try something new and challenge yourself in a smaller or bigger way and go outside of your comfort zone, then your opinion of yourself goes up.
  • Stop comparing with others - When you compare your life, yourself and what you have to other people’s lives and what they have, then you have a very destructive habit. Compare yourself to yourself. Focus on you, on your results, and on how you can and how you have improved your results. This will both motivate you and raise your self-esteem.
  • Spend more time with supportive persons - Choose to spend less time with people, who are nervous, perfectionists, unkind or unsupportive of your dreams or goals. Instead spend more time with positive, uplifting people, who have kinder standards and ways of thinking about things.

Having a high opinion about oneself basically amounts to loving oneself. So, when you love yourself sincerely, you stop trying to get validation and attention from others for your self-esteem. In fact, love for yourself raises your self-esteem. If an individual finds that one has more negative traits than positive ones, even then that individual is loveable because by loving oneself, the individual can transmute one’s negative traits into positive ones.


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    • Dr Pran Rangan profile imageAUTHOR

      Dr Pran Rangan 

      3 years ago from Kanpur (UP), India

      Thanks for liking my hub.

    • Padmajah Badri profile image

      Padmajah Badri 

      3 years ago from India

      A very good Hub.Voted up.


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