5 Tips to Transform Self Fear to Self Esteem.
“How do I get self-esteem?”
This is one of the most frequent questions my clients present with in our sessions. It is also one of the hardest skills to transform from theory to practice. Mainly because it requires time, patience and hope to build a sense of confidence and esteem. But, if you stick with it and practice the strategies that elusive self-esteem will grow and flourish.
Self esteem, by definition is your opinion of yourself. It is built on the many experiences, cognitions, interactions we have with others and the foundations of love from our childhood. Self esteem is our self-reflection and personal interpretation of what we do and what we can’t do.
Intellectually, we understand the idea behind confidence, but healthy self-esteem can, so easily, become swallowed up with self-fear. A harsh criticism, a broken heart, a demotion at work can shift a positive self-regard to despair and self-dislike. Our esteem is at the mercy of life but only temporarily. Like a trampoline, our confidence can be pushed down by life’s events but should bounce back, higher and faster if we stay focused.
We are affected by what happens around and to us, having said this, we also have more ability to deflect negativity about our worth than most of us actually apply. This is in part, because we often don’t understand self esteem as a characteristic of how strong we are in factors of adaptability, flexibility and autonomy.. Self-esteem, like happiness, is a fluid and ever-changing part of the human existence. We do not have a consistent stable sense of esteem. It waxes and wanes as life throws challenges at us, we fail, relationships break down and jobs we wanted are terminated. Self esteem needs feeding and watering, much like a tempestuous plant that demands good soil, the right amount of shade and plenty of sunlight. We need to nourish our confidence and look after it. Even in the good times when we feel strong and positive. Self-esteem is a muscle that needs to be exercised and kept in shape.
You can check how good your self esteem is by the following examples of how someone with high self-esteem functions in our world. Do you:
- Talk about yourself in positive ways, even when you make mistakes.
- See failure as growth instead of loss.
- Walk with an air of strength in the world (good posture, shoulders back, good eye contact, head held high)
- Have friends and relationships that demonstrate respect and leave abusive people.
- Take risks and challenge themselves to excel
- Find life fun, are excited and passionate about many things and participate in life.
Of course, what is obvious by this list is the more you engage in all these behaviours the higher your esteem is likely to grow. The same, but in reverse, occurs for those with low self-esteem. Someone struggling to gain confidence usually starts to feel worthless, inadequate and incompetent which hinders self-esteem building actions and interactions.
You can check if your esteem is too low (self-fear) with the following characteristics. Do you:
- Talk about yourself in a negative way and quick to put yourself down needlessly.
- See failure as evidence of low self-worth and inability to succeed.
- Walk with an air of defeat in the world (hunched shoulders, low eye contact, drooping head).
- Refrain from socializing, making friends and allow people around you to be disrespectful or abusive.
- Avoid risks and challenges limiting success.
- Find life anxious, prone to moodiness and mental health issues.
- Withdrawn from participating in life’s opportunities.
Self-esteem is a skill that everyone can learn to use. It isn’t easy at times and it does require you to put in regular maintenance. Self-esteem isn’t a glove fits all option. We all have varying levels of esteem and show it in different ways. Shy and more introverted people often have excellent self-esteem that they demonstrate in a quiet confidence, great listening skills and attention-avoiding success. More extroverted types often show their esteem in the way they appear and socialize. Their success is often attention-seeking. All self esteem (as long as it is coupled with being humble and good natured), is good for the soul.
If you find it hard to like yourself and battle self-fear with self-esteem, here are my starter tips to get you thinking and acting in ways to build your self-esteem.
Happy Jar Your Esteem
Every day write 3 things you did well and put it in a jar. On days that you might struggle to feel you are good at anything, you can dip your hand into the jar and like a positive lucky dip, remind yourself of what you are proud of, what you got right or something wonderful about yourself. To add another dimension, get friends and family to write down a couple of positive things about you too. It can be a well needed surprise when your self-esteem is low, and yourself fear is high.
Much as we know offering others compassion for their mistakes and failures is healthy all too often we forget to give ourselves the same goodwill. Be kind and supportive to your esteem when you make a mess of things. Offer consolation and understanding just as you would to another whose life wasn’t panning out how they wanted, or whose ego had taken a few harsh knocks.
Be your own best friend
This is an easy yet under used method to build self-esteem. Treat yourself with the nurture, self-care, kindness, forgiveness and the wonderful ‘snap out of it’ push only our closest friends can give us when we get stuck, wallow to much in negativity or need to be reminded of all the great things we have going for us.
Mirror on the wall
Most of us have a whole mental cupboard full of things we don’t want anyone to know that are, generally, just errors, doubts and adolescent shame that is part of growing up and learning to be human. We build locks and bars and steel doors over these cupboards as if those moments of growth are horrors too harsh for anyone to know. We all have things we would do differently. Self-esteem is built on eradicating self-fear. Look in the mirror. Acknowledge what you fear and place it in context with the challenging journey of self-discovery and learning. No one gets it right and no one is perfect. If you can face the mirror with those niggling self-doubts and self-punishing fears, then you can face the world fearless of what others may discover about you. In other words, own your stuff and move on. It can only harm you if you still fear it.
Know your values and morals. Understanding what you stand for helps build autonomy and independence. Two factors that are crucial in self-esteem. The more you are clear on what is important to you the better you are at standing up for your rights, which grows your confidence and demonstrates to others who you are. Values add strength of character, direct and fortify our esteem by giving us a platform to develop identity. Make a list of your values and work towards upholding them in every day interactions and thinking.
Even reading this article has added to your self esteem building. Learning and doing something new is also a great way to rid yourself of self-fear and build self-esteem.