Self-esteem is an important thing to maintain. It can help us be happier and more resilient.
Some things that might make you feel bad about yourself during your years at school:
- Not doing as well at school as you’d like to, or feeling “stupid”
- Feeling unhappy with the way you look
- Feeling like your friends don’t really like you, or like other people better
I think that all negative self-esteem more often than not comes down to comparing ourselves to others – others who we admire or are envious of, and who we see we’re not like in a certain way.
It is much easier said than done that you need to stop comparing yourself to others. Although it’s a gradual process (I know I’m still learning it!) it’s something that will make you much happier with your life and who you are.
If you’re having a lot of negative thoughts about yourself, stop and consider whether comparing yourself to what others are doing is an appropriate response for an intelligent and special person! Even this simple acknowledgement of why you’re feeling this way can help you to overcome the negative feelings a little.
Just as important as it is to not talk your self-esteem down, it’s also not helpful to make yourself feel better by dragging others down. For example, if you’re feeling unhappy about the way you look, it’s definitely not helpful to think, “Well, I might have bad hair, but he has bad skin”. All you are doing is getting caught up in the cycle of comparing yourself to others, which is hot helpful or productive at all.
We all have something different and great to offer, so it’s important to remind yourself regularly that there are plenty of reasons why you’re interesting, fun, smart or a great friend. It is also useful to remind your friends of the reasons why they are special too. Everyone likes to feel that they are admired for who they are, and if you can promote a caring culture amongst your friendship group you will find that the respect becomes mutual.
Often achievements can affect our self-esteem, so something that can help is to set reasonable personal goals. Your goals shouldn’t be based on what others are doing, and they should be reasonable enough for you to achieve. So if you’ve really been struggling with a subject, you shouldn’t aim to get an A+ on the next test. However, you could set a goal of improving on your score from the last test. With a little hard work and concerted effort, you may achieve some quick wins, all of which will go to building your level of satisfaction.
You could also remind yourself of some of the positive things you’ve done. While it can feel silly or self-absorbed to think about good things you’ve done, it’s also a good idea to remind yourself that you’re not a bad person! Take a break and think of three good things you’ve done, like “I’ve been really supportive of my best friend recently”, “I wrote three essays this week”, or “I made a delicious dinner for my family yesterday”. The word ‘self’ relates to you, the person, so if you can’t say something good about yourself, then who can? The good news is I bet you won’t have to think hard about wonderful things you have done for yourself and others.
It’s also important to be able to embrace and overcome mistakes and failures. We’re all going to do something we’re not proud of or wish we’d done differently. It’s important to realise that a mistake doesn’t define who you are. It’s also important to reflect on what went wrong so that you try to improve in the future.
No discussion on this topic would be complete without discussing the need to learn to like the way you look and its role in building your self-esteem. The first thing to remember is that your appearance doesn’t define who you are, and there are much more important things that you will be valued for by those closest to you, such as being hardworking and/or a good friend. It’s important to appreciate that your body has a purpose other than the way it looks. However, if you wish to make some healthy changes to your lifestyle, then ‘yes’ you can set body-related goals, just make sure they are about what you can do, rather than what you look like. This could be something like “I want to be able to run 6 kilometres” or “I want to be able to climb the 1000 Steps”.
Finally, take a good look around you because if you’re around people who put you down or make you feel especially bad about yourself, it might be a good idea to limit your time with them and change your environment. Avoid spending time with them if you can, or if you are comfortable enough to do something about it, then standing up for yourself when they say something negative will demonstrate to them that you respect who you are.
To learn more about how you can take control and improve your self-esteem refer to this page for more tips.
Nobody can overcome negative feelings about themselves entirely. We all have days where we don’t feel like we’ve been the best version of ourselves. But the journey to positive self-esteem will help you feel happier in the long run.