It’s quite common to want a slightly smaller nose, or thicker hair, or be slightly taller, but what if you’d rather be a totally different person? What does this say about your self-esteem?
Self-esteem is about the judgment we make of ourselves. When asked, most people can think of something they’d like to change. Some will point to career aspirations, some to education, and some to the size of their feet. This suggests that self esteem is actually made up of a number of different facets. We may have a generally good opinion of ourselves in some respects but not in others. Professor Susan Harter, a developmental psychologist, suggests five separate domains for assessing a child’s self esteem. It’s interesting to reflect on just how many of these we retain as adults and whether the list develops as we age:
- Scholastic competence
- Athletic competence
- Social acceptance
- Physical appearance
- Behavioral conduct
Our self-esteem is also determined by the extent to which we differ from our personal ideal. It’s the size of the gap between our real-self and our ideal-self that indicates our self-esteem. The bigger the gap, the lower our self-esteem.
If we accept that self-esteem is built up from a variety of different things, it follows that everyone is different, and no one answer will work for everyone. Understand that self-esteem is a little like the stock market in that it can rise and fall. Unlike the stock market there is no reason for it to crash. The higher your self-esteem, the more robust it becomes. Your self-esteem is with you for life and just a few small changes can quickly make you feel better about yourself. Here’s a couple of ways to get started:
List your achievements. People with low-self esteem often dwell on the negative and this is something that needs to be challenged. Everyone has accomplishments they can be proud of and nothing is too small. You may think boiling an egg, or making a bed, or drawing a picture is nothing, but plenty of people can’t do these things. Instead of focusing on what you think you can’t do, refocus on what you can. This will begin a change of mindset towards a more positive way of thinking.
Treat Yourself With Respect. A good place to start is by personal grooming, a good diet and some daily exercise. Just these three things done consistently will raise your self-esteem.
Treat Yourself. Sometimes this follows treating yourself with respect, as in allowing yourself some indulgence because you’ve earned it. Sometimes it occurs during, as in paying out for a new item of clothing, or maybe tidying or improving your surroundings.
Do Things. This is the part where you decide what you’d like to do. Is it joining an adult education class, taking up a hobby, meeting up or making friends? Low self-esteem and low motivation are good friends. You can break up this toxic relationship by getting involved in something. To start with it can be really quite simple. Bake a cake, go for a bike ride, organize the kitchen cupboards, invite a friend or relative over you haven’t seen for a while. If opportunities present themselves to you why not take one or two up? Make some phone calls to friends or relatives. Help a elderly person with shopping.
Raising your self-esteem is about getting involved and setting small goals. Once you’ve started you may be surprised just how far your journey takes you.
Jerry Kennard, Ph.D., is a chartered psychologist and associate fellow of the British Psychological Society. Jerry’s clinical background is in mental health and, most recently, higher education. He is the author of various self-help books and is co-founder of positivityguides.net.