How to Improve Your Self-Esteem

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How to Improve Your Self-EsteemThe word esteem comes from the Latin word aestimāre, which means to fix the value of something. Using this definition, self-esteem can be said to describe how one values one’s self.

Nathaniel Branden, a founder of the self-esteem movement in psychology, has defined self-esteem as the sum of self-confidence (a feeling of personal capacity) and self-respect (a feeling of personal worth). Accordingly, the concept of self-esteem not only encompasses one’s ability to cope with the challenges of life but also one’s sense of being worthy of happiness.

Thus, while most people equate self-confidence with self-esteem, although related they are not the same.

In fact, many self-confident people suffer from issues of low self-esteem. One need only think of the numerous celebrities, politicians, and other public figures that exhibit complete self-confidence in front of others who are extremely unhappy and have a very low opinion of their self-worth when not in front of an audience or camera.

Fortunately, the ability to develop a healthy sense of self-esteem is inherent to all human beings. And the mere fact of being alive is the foundation of your right to pursue happiness.

Since self-esteem is simply how you value yourself, you have it within yourself to improve your self-esteem whenever you’re willing to undertake the work necessary to do so.

And, since your self-esteem and your ability to live a happy and fulfilling life are directly linked, the sooner you work to improve your self-esteem the sooner you can move forward in life with confidence and optimism.

Causes and Symptoms of Low Self-Esteem

Unfortunately, low self-esteem issues are quite common. Issues of negative self-worth affect people regardless of their gender, race, culture, class, or even their success.

It is not uncommon for self-esteem issues to be related to a particular aspect or sphere of one’s life. For example, you may feel that you are in the top 1% of professionals in your field but feel unworthy of love and affection in your personal life.

Similarly, self-esteem issues are commonly caused by specific occurrences, such as a job loss, the end of a relationship, or the death of a loved one.

This being said, more often than not our self-esteem and our ability to bounce back from negative life events are determined by our childhood experiences with parents and other significant adults.

Children are completely dependent on adults to meet their needs and so, in a very real sense, they are shaped by the ability of their caretakers to meet those needs. Children whose needs go unmet and who are not valued for who they are often develop low self-esteem.

Because they do not value themselves, they often see unfair treatment, criticism, blame, and rejection wherever the go. They may also feel “bad,” like “failures,” and “unlovable,” as well as experience unhealthy feelings of depression, guilt, and anger that they express in destructive ways toward themselves and others.

Additional indications of self-esteem issues include a lack of motivation and enthusiasm about life, commonly feeling tired, thinking negatively about your opportunities and abilities, or feeling depressed or hopeless.

If you’re suffering from low self-esteem, you may:

  • Believe that you have to meet certain standards or achieve certain objectives in order to feel good about yourself
  • Feel that how other people view you and whether or not they approve of you determines your self-worth
  • Think that trying to change who you are is a hopeless endeavor
  • Judge those who fail as unworthy and deserving of failure
  • Focus on the negative when trying something new, taking a risk, or when describing yourself to others

Focusing on the negative and always believing the inner critic can keep us from experiencing all that life has to offer. If you believe others’ opinions of you or your performance determines your self-worth, you’ve got a lot to learn.

Fortunately, there is a lot of hope for change, if you’re willing to do some work.

Improving Your Self-Esteem

In order to improve your self-esteem you have to learn to accept your shortcomings, identify and appreciate your positive attributes, as well as change your thinking and perspective.

While there are numerous techniques and self-help resources that can help you improve your self-esteem, there is little in the way of a replacement for the benefits brought by attending professional self-esteem counseling or psychotherapy.

Let’s face it, if you could have improved your self-esteem on your own, you likely would have already done so.

A professional counselor or therapist can help you challenge the negative thoughts and beliefs that lead to low self-esteem, change the way you talk to yourself about yourself, and reconnect with your authentic self rather than focus on the person you believe you’re supposed to be.

Self-esteem is a fluid concept. It is not a goal in itself that, once achieved, unlocks the key to happiness. We are all, in a sense, a “work in progress,” and learning to develop and maintain a healthy self-esteem takes hard work and practice.

In the end, it is entirely up to you whether you decide to go through life with a low sense of self-worth or develop a healthy self-esteem that allows you to live life to its fullest.

Self-esteem cannot be “given” to you by anyone. You must first take it upon yourself to improve your self-esteem if you’re serious about improving your life. When you’re ready, optimism, confidence, and happiness can be yours, and professional self-esteem counseling and psychotherapy can help.

If you have any questions regarding this article, or if I may be of any other assistance, please don’t hesitate to connect with me at or call me anytime at (714) 974-1621, to ask any questions, have a free phone consultation, or set up an initial office consultation. I look forward to hearing from you.

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Tricia Buttkus, LCSW – Licensed Psychotherapist
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