A few weeks back, I wrote about the troubled period of my life when I experienced low self-esteem. As I reflected these past two weeks about it, I had the growing sense that this topic is much larger than one blog post (or even 2 for that matter!). I know there are more of you out there because, according to Dr. Joe Rubino, 85% of the world’s population has low self-esteem.
So, I wanted to provide some tools to help you along the way.
Effects of Low Self-Esteem
Low self-esteem is typically traced back to an abusive or dysfunctional childhood, but other stressors can cause it, such as a bad break-up, mistreatment from partner or parent, or being bullied. It has many detrimental, long-term effects. Here are just a few:
- It leads to unhealthy coping behaviors such as smoking, drinking or drug use. Those, in turn, lead to addiction and alcoholism. Many recovering alcoholics cite low self-esteem as the reason they began their habit in the first place.
- Girls with low self-esteem are more likely to engage in sexual activity earlier than those who have higher self-esteem. They are also more likely to have a teen pregnancy.
- It produces anti-social behavior, such as vandalism and aggression. In poor communities, young boys often join gangs to gain a sense of worth and purpose.
- It causes people to tolerate mistreatment. Think: a woman in an abusive (either physical or emotional) relationship.
- It can lead to self-harm.
- It can cause a person to harm or bully others.
- It causes mental health issues, such as anxiety and depression
Build Your Self-Esteem
Now, you can see why it’s so important to build your self-esteem! It will take time and daily effort, but always remember it is possible. Here are a few steps to get you started.
#1 Get to know yourself
In my last blog, I shared how getting to know myself better helped build my self-esteem. Since then, I like to encourage others to do the same. Ask yourself things like: What are your strengths and weaknesses? What skills come naturally to you? What’s your learning style?
If you have low self-esteem, you may be inclined to say, “I’m not good at anything” or “I don’t know.” This is why I love self-assessment tests. They provide, in black and white, a clear picture of your personality or strengths. Here are links to some I always recommend, and you can read more about them here.
#2 Connect with Others
In my blog about inclusion, I talked about how humans are hardwired for social connection. If you’re interacting with people who value and respect you, it helps shift your own perspective of yourself.
Is there a hobby that you’ve always been curious about but never tried? See if there is a group or club near you. Most towns have community centers with free or low-cost events. How can you plug in there?
Perhaps you can volunteer for a cause or organization you are passionate about. When I started volunteering in the children’s ministry at my church, I got to know many of the families, and I became much more connected than I was before.
Bonus: I found out I really enjoyed teaching!
#3 Give yourself a goal
Working towards a goal helps you focus on something other than your shortcomings. It could be as simple as walking 10 minutes per day or as ambitious as deciding to go back to school. When making your goals, remember to take small, manageable steps to set yourself up for success.
#4 Stop Negative Thoughts
Did you know that you can control your thoughts? Joyce Meyer writes an entire book about it, called Battlefield of the Mind. If you feel the negative dialogue about yourself creeping up in your head, nip it in the bud. Replace it with a positive thought to actively combat those accusing ones.
#5 Cut Yourself Some Slack
We all make mistakes. All of us. So, give yourself a break. Determine what you might do differently next time and move forward. In your journey towards higher self-esteem, you may have good days and bad days. Remember, it’s a journey, but you’ll get there, so keep going.