Here at My Internal World, fundamental to our teaching is that it is up to you to look after your own emotional needs. Depending on others to shore up the gaps in your own self esteem can lead to you hitting rock bottom if that external support drops away. This is not to say that you can't seek, and we can't offer, the tools you need to improve your self esteem and ensure a positive pathway to healthy self esteem. Vital to improving self esteem is understanding what it is, and the difference between it and confidence.
Here you may find it useful to refer to this post by Calm People, Confidence versus self esteem - which one would you choose? However, the shorthand is... the difference between confidence and self esteem is really that self esteem comes from within, it is your feelings about yourself, whereas confidence is about external validation. Another useful distinction is that confidence is about your skills, whereas self esteem is an attitude. You could be confident in some areas and not others. Self esteem is your own feelings about you as a complete person.
The important thing is that in order to have a healthy self esteem you need to know that it is really is all about you. Your emotional needs are paramount; it is up to you to look after them. Only by looking after our emotional health can we provide that love and support to others; our family, our loved ones, our friends, our colleagues. It is when we don't look after ourselves emotionally that the results of low self-esteem come out and affect others, causing us to behave in a variety of unhealthy ways; to continually seek validation at work, for example, and risk burning out from sheer overwork, or, sadly, to end up bullying others to make ourselves feel better, if only for a short while.
Finding your negative core beliefs
In order to truly achieve 'real healthy' self esteem, we first need to look at the reverse side of the mirror, as it were. We need to try and recognise what negative core beliefs we have about ourselves. These could be physical, or mental, or both, and they may also change over time.
Do you hate looking at yourself in the mirror, because you don't believe yourself to be worth looking at?
What are you scared of? Is it not being loved? Is it never being recognised for your talents at work?
Are you scared of being happy, or achieving success, because you fear it may fundamentally never feel 'enough'?
Do you constantly feel like you might be 'found out', that what people perceive you to be, is just a misunderstanding, in reality, you are not as bright, talented or attractive?
What behaviours do you regularly exhibit, and you don't really know why? Is it not going a certain way to work because you are scared of a fast road? Is it that you doubt your abilities as a safe, responsible driver? Perhaps you're a new parent, and you've been told there are great baby and toddler groups in your local community. Why are you not going to them? Is it because you're scared no-one will talk to you, and you won't make friends?
Tackling your negative beliefs
Tackling these negative beliefs that we all have about ourselves isn't easy. There is certainly no quick-fix solution. It's recognising them and trying to gently work on them that is where the real hard work begins, and it's that process that starts to build our self-esteem. When you're scared to do something, just give it a try. You may find that those things you feared (no-one talking to you at that works party) don't come to pass (you end up having a great time). Go for that promotion at work. You may not get it, but you'll be glad you at least tried.
Boosting your self-esteem
Telling yourself "You're worth it" may be a stroke of marketing genius by a well-known cosmetics company, and that's because it's true. Habits like self-affirmation, telling yourself you are worth it, can really help give you that vital core of self-belief that we all need. Start simple, and start with something you are comfortable with. For example, repeat affirmations in the mirror each morning, they're quick, simple and beneficial in the long run, even if you're sceptical to begin with! Or you could get out for a 30-minute walk at lunch time away from your desk at work. Tell yourself that you need the fresh air and exercise, and the world of work won't collapse because you've gone out for half an hour. The key is to find small ways you can look after your mind and your body.
Learn to forgive yourself. It's very unhealthy to live in the past. Yes, we all make mistakes. It's fine to regret them, but it's not fine to live your whole life dwelling on the things you did wrong.
Self-esteem is an absolutely vital part of everyone's emotional make-up. Without it, you will never be happy, and it will affect not just you, but those around you. Work on your self-esteem, and it will be much easier to withstand what our friend Shakespeare called 'the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune'. You won't feel the world is getting at you quite so much, if you can learn to be kind to yourself.