Most of us have a tendency to put ourselves down, to see our weaknesses instead of our strengths, to compare ourselves unfavourably with others. All of these are consequences of upbringing, peers, environment and choices, but you can make a few small changes to your life which can help overcome feelings of low self-esteem and low self-confidence.
Here are 4 simple strategies that if you practice daily will gradually increase your self-esteem levels and build self-confidence.
1/ Stop comparing yourself to others.
This may sound easier said than done but it really is feasible. The first thing to do is to monitor your thoughts and feelings, notice when you feel inferior and look minutely at the thought-process that led you there. You will almost always notice that you are making an unfavourable comparison to someone else in your life, a parent, sibling, friend or colleague. At this point, you have already made a huge step forward by simply noticing the thought-process.
The next step is to ‘tweak’ the thought. You do this by questioning the comparison. How useful is that particular comparison? How does it help you to be happier and more satisfied in your life? Can you learn something useful from it? Is it a fair comparison when you take into account all the differences between yourself and the other person including age, background, upbringing, opportunities, education etc.? You will often notice immediately that the comparison is unfair and useless and should be discarded.
2/ List your best attributes.
This is an effective way of reminding yourself of all the good things you have to offer. They can be absolutely anything so be sure to make as long a list as you can. Are you kind? Generous? A good listener? Have a rapport with animals? Good at mental arithmetic? Have a nice singing voice? A good knowledge of gardening, cooking, DIY, car repairs, computers…? Good with children or older people? Do you make the best coffee and cakes? Can you put others at ease or make them laugh? We are all special and unique in different ways. So make the list, pin it on the fridge and revel in what makes you the wonderful person you are!
3/ Get to know yourself.
Self-discovery is something that has been mocked in recent decades. It is sometimes seen as something that only teenagers explore, or just for people who are going through a mid-life crisis, but ‘finding yourself’ is actually a very potent way to strengthen your belief in yourself, solidify your self-identity and thereby overcome feelings of inferiority and low self-esteem. By getting to know yourself more fully, you will discover more strengths and unique qualities that you didn’t know you had. You will change your habit of looking at other people’s attributes (and comparing yourself unfavourably) to noticing and appreciating your own achievements, qualities and skills. You may also see things that you wish to improve or build on, but make this an exercise in looking at the positives, not finding faults. If it inspires you to take a class or a training course, practice a musical instrument or a foreign language, then that’s great too, and in doing so you will discover more about yourself. But make sure you see this as building on skills and attributes you already possess, not fixing something that’s not good enough. We can all improve but we should give credit to ourselves to being who we are in this moment.
4/ Have reasonable expectations.
When we have self-expectations that are unreasonable and unrealisable, we set ourselves up for failure and feelings of low self-esteem. When we fail, our self-esteem plummets and this affects our overall view of life, ourselves and how we perceive we compare with our peers. Look carefully at what you are expecting from yourself, scrutinise your goals and aspirations. Consider the pressure you are putting on yourself in all areas, whether it be your career, your relationships, your appearance, your social skills or simple things such as cooking or managing your household chores. These are all areas where sensitive people set goals that are unobtainable. Perfectionism is exactly what it seems – the strive for everything to be perfect – and it is an impossible goal that can only lead to disappointment and feelings of inferiority and low self-esteem. Changing this habit will go a long way to changing your view that you are not good enough. It may be useful to make a list of areas in your life where you expect overly high outcomes. As you notice these, adjust your expectation. Be as kind to yourself as you would be to a best friend. You wouldn’t expect perfection from them so why ask that of yourself? Slowly lower the bar and cut yourself some slack. It will take practice and time to firstly become fully aware of the expectations you are making on yourself and then to adjust them effectively. But it will be time and effort well spent as you will feel a weight lifted from your shoulders as you begin to feel more and more satisfied with your performance in various areas of your life.
We must systematically change our thought processes and scrutinise our habitual reactions to gradually change the habit of inferiority. Challenge unfair comparisons, concentrate on your best qualities, invest in some self-discovery and always have reasonable expectations of yourself. These changes will have a powerful impact and will gradually reduce your feelings of inferiority and have your low self-esteem re-established back to normal levels for a more satisfying and happier life.