My time spent coaching and advising leaders from all walks of life made me realize a lack of self-esteem is among the biggest impediments to success for many people.
Self-esteem describes a person’s overall subjective sense of self-worth or value. It is how you appreciate yourself, regardless of personal characteristics and circumstances.
Low self-esteem causes many to feel unhappy and unsatisfied with themselves most of the time. They find it hard to maintain healthy relationships and are more prone to anxiety and depression.
People with healthy self-esteem have a more positive outlook on life, are more assertive, take calculated risks, and won’t dwell on negative experiences.
The exciting news is that self-esteem, like any other skill, is learnable. Through sustained and continued effort, and the following four proven and actionable techniques, you can give your self-esteem a much-needed boost.
Embrace—and Invest—in Yourself
To counter the negative self-thoughts that characterize low self-esteem, start by accepting and committing yourself to continuous self-improvement.
Remind yourself that we are all works-in-progress and that our imperfection makes us humans. Sometimes, we find the greatest enjoyment in life, not from what we already have, but from the time we spend investing in and seeing ourselves grow.
Feed your mind, body, and spirit continuously. How often do you read good books? Do you eat and sleep well? Is exercise part of your weekly routine?
These may sound mundane, but they are powerful self-esteem boosters. Research shows that reading can lower heart rate, stabilize blood pressure, and increase empathetic skills.
While we can’t control whether we were born with the perfect physical characteristics or outstanding intellectual capacity, treating ourselves well and investing in our minds is a choice.
Unlike many gurus, I won’t recommend you stand before a mirror and repeat positive things about yourself, because that may do more harm than good. Positive affirmations may inadvertently reinforce one’s self-defeating subconscious beliefs.
But really, why would a good-looking man repeat day and night, “I am handsome?”
Rather than lying to ourselves that we are the best, I find it more commonsensical we accept ourselves the way we are. No amount of positive self-talk, expensive plastic surgery can remedy a broken self-image.
The bottom line is to see yourself as a half-full glass with the ability to improve. Accepting yourself unconditionally and taking action to develop yourself will beget a sense of agency that can boost your self-esteem.
Don’t Compare Yourself with Others
About three years ago, I consulted with a teenage boy suffering from a lack of self-esteem. His mother had told me he has been disruptive at home. He became intolerant, impolite, and withdrawn. He needed help.
I agreed to meet with him.
During our conversation, he confessed he hated his parent because they weren’t as wealthy as his classmates’. His friends had beautiful homes. They would go on exotic vacays and were enrolled in many extracurricular courses. His parents couldn’t afford such a lavish lifestyle.
Envying his friends’ lifestyle made him feel inferior. Therefore, he became resentful of his parents.
This was perhaps one of the fastest coaching sessions I conducted. I asked him one key question. Would you trade your parents for your classmates’?
As he ponders my question, I can see the confused look on his face. That was an effective tool to make him realize he was setting himself to unreachable standards.
No matter what he did, he could never lead his classmate’s lifestyle.
Comparing ourselves to others is often one of the main triggers of self-deprecating thoughts peculiar to low self-esteem.
Avoid comparing yourself with others. And if you want to compare yourself with someone, remember that the glamourous lifestyle they show is only a part of the story. These people—just like you and I—have their own shortcomings and insecurities.
I coach teens and adults who hate themselves because they don’t have the perfect perky bottom, the ripped physique, or the spotless face of their Instagram idols.
Often they overlook the many makeup artists, stylists, photoshopping involved in creating those faultless images.
You will find Steve Jobs’ famous quote “Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life,” very important to remember whenever you catch yourself overvaluing others and undervaluing yourself.
Learn to Listen Intently
If you have been in the presence of someone with high self-esteem, you may have realized their uncanny ability to listen empathetically.
The oxford dictionary defines “listen” as “giving one’s attention to a sound.” While elegantly put, this definition is incomplete. Besides auditory perception, listening involves opening our hearts, maintaining respectful eye contact, understanding, and caring.
When you cultivate the ability to listen to others with compassion, you give them the opportunity to feel loved and understood. Making others feel appreciated will make you feel good about yourself.
Develop the Habit of Speaking Up
Just like two wings of an aircraft are necessary for it to fly, the ability to speak up coupled with effective listening skills is important to build self-esteem.
There is one crucial caveat to this advice: speak up to make yourself heard only when you have something valuable to say. Practice the WAIT principle which stands for “Why am I talking?”
Contributing meaninglessly to conversations is a surefire way to alienate others, which will, in turn, undermine your self-esteem.
I struggled with low self-esteem during my adolescence because I was always bullied for being skinny, morbid, and short.
It was not until I learned to challenge my negative beliefs, accept myself unconditionally that I felt good in my skin.
Don’t wait for you to reach your goal to love yourself. Start loving yourself now and experience a tremendous boost in self-esteem.