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Building Self-Esteem: How I Learned to Accept My Mistakes & Shortcomings

Updated on March 7, 2012

Once upon a time, I was an annoying know-it-all who never admitted being wrong even if it was so obvious even a cat would know. (Well, maybe not but you get my point.) Not exactly a fairy tale, huh? And yet I lived the first two decades of my life in that unpleasant state. Why was I like that? To be honest I had no idea anything was wrong at that time. I was living life in a state of unawareness, going through the motions of life and yet not really grasping the full significance of it. Now after years of self-reflection, I am finally able to pinpoint the cause of my past negative attitude and behavior: low self-worth and low self-esteem. Allow me to explain.

Low Self-Worth & Low Self-Esteem

Self-worth is defined as “the sense of one’s own value or worth as a person”. When a person has low self-worth, he does not believe that he is worthy of love, respect, trust, etc. He cannot see his own value and at the extreme feels like his existence on Earth is pointless. Most of the time this lack of appreciation of the self is in the unconscious level, meaning, the person is not aware of it.

Self-esteem is defined as “a confidence in oneself, a satisfaction of what one is and the self respect that that confidence brings”. When a person has low self-esteem, he does not truly believe that he can accomplish anything to be proud about. Basically, low self-worth leads to low self-esteem.

Symptoms of Low Self-Esteem

Low self-esteem has many symptoms, being an annoying know-it-all is just one of them. Here are some of the other symptoms that manifested in me:

  • I was quick to find fault in others, not realizing that what I hated the most about them was what I hated the most about myself.
  • I was always blaming outside circumstances as the cause of my problems, playing the victim.
  • I saw the world as full of people who did not care about me and so I convinced myself that I didn’t care about them either.
  • I was numb. I did not feel emotion at times when I knew I should have felt worry, grief, sadness or even happiness.
  • I was very competitive, always needing to be “right” and demanding to have my own way most of the time.
  • I constantly compared myself to others, and felt inferior as a result.
  • I was in denial of reality and daydreamed every opportunity I got.

Looking back now, I realize that I was (unconsciously) desperately trying to prove my worth as a person, hence the strong need to be always right and to know it all. Whenever people criticized me for whatever reason even though it was valid, all I could hear was “You can’t even do this right? You really are worthless.” And so my coping mechanism was to shut it all off and put up an impenetrable wall around me.

So how did I build self-esteem and learn to accept my mistakes and shortcomings? In my case, it started with me understanding why it was that I had low self-worth and low self-esteem in the first place. At the top of my list were:

  • Our mother left us when I was about three years old. I was too young to remember anything, but this knowledge of being abandoned could have borne the unconscious belief that we were not worthy of her love.
  • As a child, I suffered an experience which according to the rules of society was shameful, therefore I grew up unconsciously believing I was tainted.
  • Growing up, I don’t remember ever hearing the words “I love you” or “I’m proud of you” or other words of affirmation from anyone.

After identifying the root of my low self-worth, I realized that it did not matter anymore. I learned to accept that my past does not define my future. And I learned to love myself. Now I am able to say, “I’m sorry, I made a mistake” or “I’m sorry I was wrong”. I am more forgiving of myself, and as a result have become more forgiving of others.

No more low self-esteem issues for me!
No more low self-esteem issues for me!

Exercises to Build Self-Worth & Self-Esteem

Here’s a simple exercise to build self-worth. It’s from an ancient Hawaiian practice called Ho’oponopono. Look at yourself in the mirror, gently pat your chest and repeatedly say out loud to yourself “I love you. I’m sorry. Please forgive me. Thank you.” The first time I did this, I actually felt a lump forming in my chest and I felt like crying. That is how powerful those four simple sentences are.

Another way to build self-esteem is to feed your mind with positive affirmations to replace the old negative beliefs about the self. Say the affirmations out loud every day until it resonates with every fiber in your being. This is one of my favorites:

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    • Susan Ng profile image
      Author

      Susan Ng Yu 5 years ago from Cebu, Philippines

      Thanks, rad. :)

    • profile image

      rad 5 years ago

      hi susan,

      glad to know ur from cebu.. and thank you for the informative page u have created.. life is indeed a journey to behold.. keep the creative thoughts coming and stay away from nega people..(.. duh"pareha ra na" type).. always pray for an increasing faith and above all., love much...

      namaste,

      rad700@hotmail.com

    • Susan Ng profile image
      Author

      Susan Ng Yu 5 years ago from Cebu, Philippines

      Thanks, tich. :)

    • ripplemaker profile image

      Michelle Simtoco 5 years ago from Cebu, Philippines

      It has been a joy seeing you grow and blossom. A wonderful and inspirational hub, thumbs up teacher Susan :)

    • Susan Ng profile image
      Author

      Susan Ng Yu 5 years ago from Cebu, Philippines

      Thanks, AnnaCia. :)

    • AnnaCia profile image

      AnnaCia 5 years ago

      Confidence in oneself. That is such important aspect to build self esteem. This is a great article. Thank you very much. Vote up

    • Susan Ng profile image
      Author

      Susan Ng Yu 5 years ago from Cebu, Philippines

      Thanks, rLcasaLme. I couldn't agree with you more. :)

    • rLcasaLme profile image

      rLcasaLme 5 years ago from Dubai, United Arab Emirates

      Great hub Susan!

      If that smile cannot be taken away by just a mere criticism, and your fear of rejection is no longer there, then you have genuinely learned how to love yourself. You have discovered your true self-worth, and you've gained confidence in yourself.

      What others would say does not really matter. Other people will accept you, others will reject you. But what matters most is your love for yourself.

      You can inspire people, and that starts from within.

    • Susan Ng profile image
      Author

      Susan Ng Yu 5 years ago from Cebu, Philippines

      Thank you, I am honored. :)

    • Millionaire Tips profile image

      Shasta Matova 5 years ago from USA

      Susan, I wanted to let you know that each week, I write a hub that includes my favorites of all the ones I've read during the week, and yours is included this week, ending March 11. Congrats!

    • Susan Ng profile image
      Author

      Susan Ng Yu 5 years ago from Cebu, Philippines

      Thank you for your kind words, everyone. I feel happy to be around such encouraging people. :)

    • GDRshop profile image

      GDRshop 5 years ago

      great share =)

    • Millionaire Tips profile image

      Shasta Matova 5 years ago from USA

      Thank you for sharing your story with us. You've done an excellent job with this hub. This is very well written, and helps not only those with low self esteem, but also their loved ones.

    • jainismus profile image

      Mahaveer Sanglikar 5 years ago from Pune, India

      Susan Ng,

      You have written a very useful Hub with great information. Thank you for sharing it, voted up.

    • L.L. Woodard profile image

      L.L. Woodard 5 years ago from Oklahoma City

      What an inspiring hub! Through self-reflection and honesty, you experienced such growth as a person. Thank you for sharing this uplifting experience with us.

      Voted up and SHARED.

    • thesingernurse profile image

      thesingernurse 5 years ago from Rizal, Philippines

      This is very inspiring Susan! I am very proud of your great accomplishments! You're such an inspiration. :)

    • Susan Ng profile image
      Author

      Susan Ng Yu 5 years ago from Cebu, Philippines

      Thank you for reading, Mmiller_89. :)

    • Mmiller_89 profile image

      Mmiller_89 5 years ago from Germany

      With this article, you took your own experiences with negative self-worth and reflected on them. In the process, you taught us all a little about loving ourselves and what it means. It was a lovely read, thanks.

    • Susan Ng profile image
      Author

      Susan Ng Yu 5 years ago from Cebu, Philippines

      Thank you, sandrabusby and Kathleen. :)

    • profile image

      Kathleen Kerswig 5 years ago

      Voted up! Thank you for sharing your experience with us in your hub. It is written from the heart and I always appreciate it when people share solutions with others.

      There is a saying I've heard that says it all for me - To build my self-esteem I need to do esteemable things. I don't know if this is from a famous quote or not, but it is a great reminder for me when I start to feel as if my self-esteem is declining.

      Great topic. Thanks again!

    • sandrabusby profile image

      Sandra Busby 5 years ago from Tuscaloosa, Alabama, USA

      You are awesome. I'm sharing this everywhere. Sandra Busby