The way we view and feel about ourselves has a profound effect on how we live our lives. These opinions are shaped by experiences in the family, at school, from friendships and in the wider society. Self-esteem involves our ability to think, to deal with life and to be happy.
Self Esteem : The Background
From birth we look for encouragement and approval, yet our culture does not readily give this. Parents can be tough taskmasters in seeking the best for their children. Young people have a tendency to be intolerant of difference and often mock peers who have opinions of their own or who wish to preserve their individuality. There's a constant bombardment of messages about how we should be: young, slim, beautiful, fashionably dressed, have one or many lovers and money to spend. Personal acknowledgement of ability and pride in oneself can be regarded as being arrogant, boastful or conceited.
Self Esteem and Rejection
Rejection at any age is likely to undermine self esteem. Events like parents separating, a partner being unfaithful, being picked on or ostracised by friends can make us feel unloved and unhappy. For some this is temporary, while for others the effects are long-lasting. There is a lot of pressure on students to do well. You may feel that other people over-estimate your ability, parents' expectations can feel like a burden leading to feelings of inadequacy and failure.
Self Esteem and Other People
Our self esteem continually fluctuates and is affected by events and encounters with others. Observing ourselves in relation to other people can be a helpful source of learning and feedback but all too often others become a yardstick by which we evaluate ourselves as good or bad, competent or inadequate. We all want to be of value and make a difference, to matter.
Self Esteem and Difference
The reality is we're all different. Each of us has strengths and limitations which we need to learn about and learn to live with. There are aspects of our behaviour and appearance we may seek to change or develop,but a sense of self is also based on self-awareness and self-acceptance.
Suggestions for increasing Self Esteem
Change is not easy. It means stepping into the unknown and taking a risk. Inevitably this means that some initiatives will work while others won't. Be realistic in your choices and try to remember that small changes add up.
Do things for pleasure, for fun!
Think about ways you enjoy yourself. Arrange to be in situations which make you laugh.
Learn something new. Maybe do something you've always wanted to try.
Look after yourself physically
- Eat regularly, think about the sort of food you eat, and make sure you try to get the amount of sleep you need.
- Exercise and toning muscles can give confidence and help you feel good about your body.
Pay more attention to your appearance.
- Pamper yourself - choose a new hairstyle or colour in clothing.
Use rewards, but avoid punishments
Reward yourself. Give yourself time off each week from work. Buy yourself a treat. Do something you particularly enjoy but don't often get round to.
We don't like other people saying very critical things about us so why say them to yourself? Listen to how you treat yourself - the internal conversation. Be a good friend to yourself.
Avoid as much as possible situations and people that leave you feeling bad about yourself and spend more time concentrating on experiences which are likely to be successful and rewarding.
Cultivate good relationships - with yourself and others
Are you continually expecting more of yourself than you do of others? If you accept the troubles and mistakes of other people, why expect more of yourself?
- Involve others. Try not to push other people away through being negative about yourself.
- Allow others to give feedback to you, to support you, to show affection. don't try to pretend or hide that you too need support.
- Join in with others. Don't assume you're not important; most people are interested in making new friends, and friendships can begin at any time in life.
- Say hello, don't wait for other people to come to you. smile - volunteer - be helpful - pay compliments.
- When interacting with other people, be encouraging, take an interest, give feedback, make suggestions.
Try to accept responsibility for your own actions: as we can't make other people change, we need to make the changes ourselves.