Are you worthy? Are you deserving of love, happiness, and success? If you’re like many people, your rational mind says, “Of course!” But your subconscious may be saying something else.
We all have insecurities. Even the most confident person has some self-doubt. But if you have healthy self-esteem, you can prevent those insecurities from bringing you down.
What Is Self-Esteem?
Self-esteem is related to your self-respect, self-love, and self-worth. It’s the internal value that you place on yourself as a worthy member of this world.
Self-esteem means that you think about yourself in a positive way. You have encouraging beliefs about your appearance, personality, identity, and purpose.
According to experts, most people’s self-esteem increases until they reach the age of 60. After that, it generally remains constant. It might begin to deteriorate in old age, especially if you experience cognitive or physical decline.
Self-esteem isn’t a given, though. Once you have it, you can lose it. It fluctuates depending on your experiences in life. However, someone with high self-esteem can usually weather setbacks without taking a significant hit to their self-worth. On the other hand, someone with low self-esteem might rely on validation from external sources to prove their worth.
Ultimately, self-esteem is something that you have to find within yourself. All the praise in the world may not impact your self-worth if you have deeply rooted insecurities.
A variety of factors influence your self-esteem, including:
- Childhood mentors and role models – Did your parents, teachers, and coaches build you up or criticize you? When you look up to people who also have high self-esteem, you’re more likely to develop a strong sense of self-worth.
- Society – We are conditioned to believe certain things about our inherent value from an early age. Depending on the culture in which you live, you might receive messages that you have to have money, a great body, a partner, and a nice car to feel worthy.
- Media – The messages that we receive from magazines, newspapers, television, and advertisements impact your self-esteem. It seems as though marketers are always trying to play off of individuals’ insecurities to sell them products and services that will enhance their supposed value.
- Social circles – If the people in your life are accepting and supportive, you might be more likely to have strong self-esteem than you would if you were surrounded by critical, draining friends, and acquaintances.
How Is Self-Esteem Different Than Self-Confidence?
Self-esteem is similar to self-confidence, but there are some differences. Self-esteem is more deeply seated than confidence.
In other words, your self-esteem refers to the way that you feel about yourself overall. It’s the sense of value that is lodged in your subconscious and drives many of your behaviors, thoughts, and actions. Although it’s malleable, it tends to be more steadfast than confidence.
Self-confidence refers to the way that you feel about your skills and abilities. You might be a confident swimmer but not a confident skier. However, if you have a strong sense of self-esteem, you don’t judge or get down on yourself because you fall down every time you hit the slopes.
Sometimes, people find it easier to improve their self-confidence than to boost their self-esteem. However, enhancing your self-confidence may not affect your self-worth. For example, you might graduate from college with honors, get a high-paying job, get married, and buy a big house.
You’ve checked some achievements off of your list. But you’re just not happy. You know that you’re motivated and productive, but you can’t shake the sense that life should be more meaningful than this.
Having these feelings could be an indication that you need to work on your self-esteem. If you have high self-esteem, your sense of worth isn’t easily swayed by the certifications that you’ve earned or prizes that you’ve won. You know that you’re a valuable human on this planet just because you’re you.
Some people have high self-confidence but low self-esteem. They may constantly try to prove their value by acting like a clown, working hard, posting happy selfies on social media, or seeking jobs that pay high salaries. But these actions are masks.
They may think that if they look successful on the outside or get people to like them, their self-esteem will improve. But their self-worth will only shift when they accept and believe in themselves.
Why Is Self-Esteem Important?
Self-esteem motivates your behavior, actions, and decisions. It plays into your interpersonal relationships. It gives you the inspiration to move forward or stay stuck.
Some of the benefits of high self-esteem include:
- It encourages you to value yourself
- You think of yourself as worthy
- You consider yourself a capable problem solver
- You recognize where you could grow and develop
- You can use your skills to help others
- You feel that you deserve basic resources, such as respect, time, dignity, and shelter
- You can work through difficult situations more easily
- You’re less likely to stay in exploitive circumstances
- You take on challenges
There are plenty of reasons why self-esteem is important. We detail them below.
Self-Esteem Makes You More Likely to Take Care of Yourself
Are you a people-pleaser? You’re generous, you’re accommodating, and you go out of your way to help others. If that’s the case, you might have low self-esteem and rely on other people to enhance it.
If you turn to other people for approval, you might not take care of yourself in the way that you should. You might neglect your needs and put aside your passions to gratify others.
One of the deeply rooted beliefs that many people-pleasers have is that others deserve love, but they don’t. If this resonates with you, you might want to work on your self-love. When you believe in your value, you know that you deserve all of the good things in life too.
Self-esteem allows you to recognize that martyrdom isn’t noble. Putting your needs aside for other people isn’t selfless—it’s a way of falling into a trap that keeps you in a rut.
When you have high self-esteem, you’re more likely to do the things that you know are good for you. A good example of this is exercising. If you’ve ever started a workout regimen when you’ve been a bit out of shape, you might have felt out of place at the gym. It was probably hard to get the motivation to get started and feel confident on the machines.
After you’ve exercised consistently for a while, though, you begin to feel better about yourself. Sure, you might have bigger muscles and a more sculpted body. But you also appreciate the fact that you’re taking time to improve your mental and physical health. It becomes easier to show up for that self-care routine because you’re fueling yourself on a cycle of positive self-worth.
Self-esteem and self-care are a cycle. When you have higher self-esteem, you’re more likely to give back to yourself. The more that you pay attention to your needs, the higher your self-esteem is apt to be.
Self-Esteem Lets You Learn From Your Mistakes
Everyone makes mistakes. However, someone with high self-esteem won’t see their errors as failures. Instead, they’ll recognize the value in their blunders.
For someone with low self-esteem, imperfection can ruin their day. When something goes wrong, the entire world feels off.
When you value yourself, you recognize that you can only try your best. You can’t make everything perfect. Although people with high self-esteem are often high achievers, they realize that they can’t control the outcome of a situation.
Their value lies in the way that they show up for the world. When they put in the effort that they know is possible and live with integrity, they’re able to cope when things don’t go their way.
Having self-esteem lets you make mistakes without allowing them to derail you. You can find the positive in seemingly negative situations. Instead of letting your emotional reactions get the best of you, you can view the situation objectively.
Doing this allows you to gain some perspective. You can determine how to improve your actions next time so that you don’t make the same mistakes.
In contrast, someone with low self-esteem might become completely disrupted by a misstep. You’ve probably experienced this at some point. You can’t stop thinking about what you did wrong. You repeat your actions in your head, belittling yourself for doing the wrong thing. Instead of thinking positively, you get sucked into your destructive thoughts.
As you might guess, this pattern of thinking only serves to weaken your self-esteem. If you can’t get past your mistakes, you’ll likely allow them to unsettle you and build up as proof of your low self-worth.
Self-Esteem Helps You Reach Your Full Potential
Just like high self-esteem prevents you from dwelling in your failure, it encourages you to keep trying. Because of this, it allows you to reach your full potential.
Psychologist Abraham Maslow theorized that self-esteem has a lot to do with human motivation. In fact, esteem is one of the elements of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. This hierarchy depicts the different factors that motivate humans to work on themselves.
At the base level of this pyramid is the need for air, water, food, shelter, sleep, clothing, and reproduction. At the top is self-actualization. You can’t reach self-actualization, or your full potential if you don’t satisfy the needs below it.
Not surprisingly, esteem needs fall just below self-actualization. These needs encompass:
Maslow recognized that you need to get some esteem needs from external sources, but you must also elicit them from within yourself. As you satisfy your needs, you’re less likely to be motivated to meet them. In other words, you begin to fulfill them automatically so that you can move past that level on the hierarchy and grow.
He said, “It’s quite true that a man lives by bread alone – when there is no bread. But what happens to man’s desires when there is plenty of bread and when his belly is chronically filled?”
The answer is that he can move onto bigger and better things. He can work on reaching his full potential.
To look at it another way, think of self-actualization as the desire to become everything that you’re capable of becoming. If you have low self-esteem, what do you imagine that you’re capable of becoming? You might not believe that you can get your dream job or find your soul mate because your low self-esteem keeps you contained in a box of limitations.
People with low self-esteem tend to live their lives avoiding the negative. Those with high self-esteem usually take action toward the positive.
Self-Esteem Helps You Avoid Anxiety
People with anxiety disorders often struggle with low self-esteem. Some self-esteem theories posit that our self-esteem is generated by the way that people react to us. Because people with anxiety tend to worry more than others, they may have inaccurate views of how others see them. They may think that they’re being judged and criticized more than they actually are.
It’s human nature to focus on the negative. When you’re rejected, it can stick with you more intensely than when you’re praised. Therefore, low self-esteem can reinforce the situations that are leaving you feeling anxious.
Self-Esteem Stops You From Comparing Yourself to Others
Something that can prevent you from stepping into your full power is comparison. If you’re always comparing yourself to others, you may never measure up. There will always be people who have more money, a bigger house, and more happy photos of their family on Facebook. That doesn’t mean that you’re any less deserving of a fulfilling life than they are.
Everyone has strengths, and everyone has faults. People with low self-esteem might compare themselves to others and see where they fall short. They may also try to outdo others by trying to demonstrate how they’re better than someone else.
Either way, this practice triggers shame, which blinds us to our actual value. When you compare, you devalue yourself, and you fall into the cycle of self-doubt.
Comparison also creates disconnection, which further causes your self-esteem to plummet. If you compare yourself with someone else and feel inferior, you tend to want to pull away from the other person.
You want to retreat so that the world doesn’t see how substandard you are. Isolating yourself promotes the cycle.
Comparing yourself to others also leaves you at the mercy of caring what other people think. When you allow others to influence your decisions, you don’t live according to your own desires. You also make yourself vulnerable to searching for your self-worth outside of yourself.
Self-esteem allows you to make choices that serve you. You’ll make the best decisions for your needs instead of catering to everyone else’s.
Self-Esteem Can Help You Manifest Abundance
If you don’t believe that you’re worthy of health, happiness, love, or money, you’re going to have a hard time attracting those things into your life. According to the Law of Attraction, the thoughts, beliefs, and attitudes that you encompass put out a certain frequency.
The universe provides experiences to you that match that frequency. If you have low self-esteem, do you think that you’re putting out thoughts such as the following?
- I deserve to be rich
- I am worthy of love
- I am completely lovable
- I deserve for people to treat me with respect
- I deserve to have the healthiest body that I can
- I am worthy of being blissfully happy
Test it out by noticing how you feel when you read those statements. If you feel some resistance in your belief of each one, you might want to challenge yourself to uncover where you might have insecurities.
The beautiful thing about self-esteem is that it is fluid. You can change it. If you notice that you have some shame or self-doubt surrounding something in your life, you can heal it.
One of the first steps to healing is to accept where you are. Don’t try to hide from the fact that you might have shame or judgment surrounding some of your qualities, traits, or beliefs. Allow yourself to feel the feelings. Accept yourself for who you are.
When you do, the low vibration of disapproval falls away from you. You love yourself more. Your entire frequency is higher. Therefore, you attract higher frequency things.
If you believe that you deserve abundance, you will attract abundance. If you’re walking around with low self-esteem, the chances are high that you don’t feel as though you deserve the full potential that is available to you.
How to Boost Your Self-Esteem
Now that you’ve learned more about the importance of self-esteem, you might wonder how you can raise yours.
Improve Your Self-Care Regimen
Just as you’ll take care of yourself better if you have high self-esteem, taking care of yourself can boost your self-love. Think of how much time you spend doing things for other people. What if you put enough value on yourself that you devoted that kind of effort to your own needs?
Nurturing yourself is a crucial step toward boosting your self-esteem. Some ideas for promoting self-love through self-care include:
- Being in nature
- Taking a bath
- Allowing yourself to feel your emotions (positive and negative)
- Asking for help
- Enjoying delicious, nourishing food
- Taking yourself on a date
- Writing in a journal
- Spending time with supportive people
When you’re feeling burned out and full of self-doubt, it often means that you need to do some self-reflection. Consider taking time away from social media and giving yourself more moments of peace. You might take long walks, meditate, or just wake up earlier so that you can have a moment to think before you start your daily routine.
Getting in touch with yourself can help you find acceptance, security, and love within so that you have a deep store that you can draw from any time.
Change Negative Stories
Most people have limiting beliefs and negative stories that prevent them from stepping into their full power. How many times have you told yourself things like:
- Good things happen to other people, not to me.
- I’m not good at that.
- I always make mistakes.
- I’m lazy.
These thoughts are learned through conditioning. However, you may have run them through your mind so many times that you believe that they’re true. You are not your thoughts. You can change your negative beliefs by replacing them.
Every time you tell yourself a negative story, change it up. Use an affirmation to counteract the belief. Say things like:
- Good things happen to me.
- I’m good at learning new things.
- I try until I succeed.
- I allow myself time to rest when I need it.
You may not believe these statements at first. But, just like the negative stories have been repeated so many times that you have come to believe them, you’ll need to repeat the positive affirmations.
You can rewire your brain to follow different thought processes in response to the challenges in your life. As you do, you’ll notice a shift in your self-esteem.
Look on the Bright Side
We discussed earlier how people with low self-esteem might let their mistakes drag them down. One way to boost your self-esteem is to focus on the positive side of things.
When you do something wrong, you should certainly take responsibility for your actions. But don’t let yourself dwell on the mistake. Instead of concentrating on the negative, encourage yourself to look on the bright side.
Doing this can feel difficult at first. If you’re used to beating yourself up over your slip-ups, you might resist feeling any positivity surrounding your mistake. As you get into the habit of seeing the beauty in your errors, though, it will come more naturally.
If you’ve made a faux pas, ask yourself the following questions instead of lingering on the feelings of disappointment and self-doubt:
- What did I do well in this situation?
- What could I have done differently?
- What can I learn from this mistake?
Write the answers down if you have to. Sometimes, our minds can fool us into thinking we’re doing the work when we’re not actually doing it. You can come back to this exercise as a practice to rewire your brain and enhance your self-esteem.
Focus on the Present
If you have low self-esteem, you may get caught up ruminating about the people who have rejected you or the negative interactions in your life. This can increase your anxiety and loneliness, which in turn lowers your self-esteem.
You may fear that if you don’t replay the negativity, you won’t be prepared for future setbacks. However, going over what you did wrong won’t set you up for success. (Go back to the section Self-Esteem Lets You Learn From Your Mistakes to remind yourself of a constructive way to let your errors guide you). You need to move on.
Focusing on the present can relinquish you from the cycle of low self-esteem. You can’t dwell on the past while you’re being mindful of where you are now.
Some questions that you can ask yourself to raise your self-esteem in the moment include:
- What do I love about myself right now?
- Where am I feeling any pain or tension at the moment? (Don’t judge these feelings; just notice them)
- Where am I feeling pleasure at the moment?
- What do I see, hear, taste, feel, and smell?
These questions encourage you to focus on the current moment without passing judgment. They encourage you to use your senses to notice objective qualities about the world around you so that you don’t get caught up in self-doubt.
Learn a New Skill
When you challenge yourself, you build your self-esteem. Take the opportunity to use a new skill that aligns with what you’re capable of and interested in. You’ll feel more competent when you’ve set yourself up to try something new.
The trick to this is to do something that’s difficult enough to challenge you but simple enough to give you a good chance of doing it well. If you’ve tried some of the suggestions for boosting self-esteem that we’ve included in this article, you’re probably ready for this step.
If you’re at the beginning of your self-love journey, you might want to wait to try this step. If you’re still in the habit of judging yourself, you might be hard on yourself if you try a new skill and don’t feel confident about it. However, getting into the habit of challenging yourself is an excellent way to grow and maintain your self-esteem throughout your life.
One way to work up to challenging yourself more is to write down the things that you’ve already accomplished in your entire life. What are you proud of? When did you overcome an obstacle? When did you succeed after being challenged?
Keep that list somewhere that you can refer back to it. It’s a good pick-me-up when you’re feeling the self-doubt creep in.
Doing something new usually feels uncomfortable. Don’t let that discomfort prevent you from stretching yourself. If you stay small, you’ll feel small.
Play big to extend your self-esteem and live life to the fullest.