Do you try to be perfect whenever you do a task because you believe deep down that you aren’t good enough? It might be a sign that you lack self-esteem.
Many of us feel that way. The truth is that we all lack confidence in some areas of our lives. Maybe you have no confidence in your ability to cook. Or perhaps you don’t feel confident enough to speak up during a meeting.
In this article, I’ll share with you how self-esteem works and provide you with 4 tips that will help you build a higher self-esteem and feel confident in yourself.
You don’t lack self-esteem
The first thing to realize is that you don’t lack self-esteem. Self-esteem is not something outside of you that you need to catch. In fact, your self-esteem is determined for the most part by your personal way to interpret your own actions. It results from the filter you put on what you do. Some people use the filter, I can do that, or I feel good in my own skin. Other put the filter I’m not good enough, I’m not worthy enough on everything they do.
Is your self-esteem tank full or empty?
Is your self-esteem tank full or empty? Do you feel like you’re not good enough each time you fail to do a tiny insignificant thing? That’s a sign your self-esteem tank is empty. Does it feel like you’re always the one who doesn’t know how to do things properly, fails at everything, and experiences self-doubt each time he/she takes action? You probably lack self-esteem.
Are you distorting reality?
People with low self-esteem constantly bend reality looking for evidence they aren’t worthy. They often compare themselves to more successful people looking only at their best side. Then they wonder why they don’t fair well. But how could you feel good about yourself when you create an image of Mr./Ms. Perfect that you can’t live up to? You have sure recipe for low self-esteem here.
On the other hand, people with high self-esteem look at reality more objectively. They don’t feel like they have a sword of Damocles Sword hung over their head each time they make a mistake. They acknowledge the fact they’re doing well in some areas of their life and value their current skills and strengths. While they understand they have weaknesses and shortcomings, they refuse to dwell on them knowing they can always improve if they choose to. Understanding how pointless it is to compare themselves to others, they refrain from such destructive activities.
In short, because they focus on all the things they’re doing well, high self-esteem people’s tank is full. They aren’t on the verge of being attacked by sudden feelings of unworthiness each time they make a mistake. Because they don’t try to be perfect, they can handle failures with grace without the need to question their worthiness as human beings.
People with low self-esteem, however, try to live up to the Mr or Mrs perfect’s image they’ve created in their mind. Beware. If you act in a similar way, you risk perceiving yourself as unworthy for the rest of your life.
4 tips to fill up your self-esteem tank
Are you one event, comment or setback away from deep feelings of unworthiness? If so, have you ever thought of filling up your self-esteem tank? What if you could stop feeling unworthy whenever you do something wrong? What if you could handle failures without questioning your self-worth?
To build self-esteem you must start looking at yourself in a more objective way. You must learn to acknowledge your accomplishment and appreciate the fact that you’re doing your best. Now, let’s have a look at a few things you can do to build your self-esteem.
Tip #1 – Acknowledging your successes
Lack of self-esteem often results from your inability to acknowledge all the things you have going on for you. To fill up your tank, I invite you to do the following exercise.
Self-esteem jar exercise
Every day write down your accomplishments on pieces of paper and deposit them in a jar you can clearly see (for instance, on your desk or in your bedroom). Write down every accomplishment or thing you want to acknowledge no matter how small they are. They don’t have to be tangible accomplishments, but you want to make sure they are specific.Then, choose a piece of paper and read it every day when you wake up and go to bed. Below are some examples of what you can write on the piece of paper:
- I woke up on time
- I finished project A
- I exercised 20 minutes
- I helped John
- I cooked a nice dinner
- I arrived at work ahead of time
- I cleaned the kitchen
- I ate fruits
As you can see, it doesn’t need to be anything extraordinary. The point is to acknowledge the fact you do myriads of things throughout your day and, most of them, well. Isn’t feeling good enough subjective anyway? More often than not, it results from comparing yourself to other people with a totally different background and story. Such comparison is not only meaningless but also counterproductive.
Realize that many of the things you can’t do well are no big deal. In fact, it’s often better to ignore them. Because let’s be honest, you can’t be good at everything. And if you choose to get better, you certainly can.
If I were to write down all the things I’m not “good enough” at, I would have to write a 10-volume encyclopedia.
Remember that self-esteem is a perception game. Some very successful people have deep feelings of insecurities, even though they have incredible skills or a vast amount of knowledge. Others have high self-esteem for seemingly no specific reasons. This goes to show that self-esteem is not just about what you do, it’s also—and mainly— about how you perceive what you do.
The bottom line is that you do thousands of things well every day. Focus on them, not on the things you can’t seem to do well.
Tip #2 – Keeping promises to yourself
Do you doubt your ability to complete a task you were assigned? Do you often procrastinate because you’re afraid you won’t do a good job?
People with high self-esteem are confident they can get the job done. Now, you might wonder, how can I feel that way as well?
The answer is: by starting small and being consistent. As you keep achieving small tasks every day, you start trusting yourself. You now know you can keep a promise to yourself and accomplish (most of) your tasks. And if for whatever reasons, you don’t, you accept it rather than beating yourself up—you’re not anymore one mistake away from feelings of unworthiness.
I invite you to set small daily goals you know you can achieve. It could be just one simple task such as waking up at a certain time, stretching for five minutes, reading for ten minutes or eating a fruit. Avoid breaking that daily habit for as long as you can. Start with one week, then extend it to a month, six months, one year and even beyond. Then, see what happens.
Tip #3 – Developing self-compassion
Having self-compassion is a sign of a healthy self-esteem. After all, nobody is perfect. Showing compassion to yourself is acknowledging you’re doing your best with what you have. It’s recognizing you aren’t perfect and, as any other human beings, have shortcomings. It’s loving yourself for being such an imperfect being. No, you’re never going to be perfect and that’s okay. You’re going to procrastinate. You’re going to be scared. You’re going to make mistakes, to be cold, and even sometimes, to be mean. You’re going to suck so badly you’ll have no choice but to laugh at yourself. And you should because life is not that serious.
In the end what matters is not whether you’re perfect. It’s your intent. Is your intent pure? Are you trying to do your best with what you have? If so, why not acknowledge that and feel good about yourself?
Tip #4 – Understanding you can always improve
We have the incredible power to learn and evolve like no other living beings can. These days, I’m comfortable doing a poor job—perhaps, I even like it—because I know I can always grow. In fact, I deeply enjoy the process. Learning is fun. And, as I improve my skills, I progressively build my self-esteem.
I’m certainly not the best writer in the world, and I’m a rather poor public speaker. But, for the first time in life I’m content with the work I’m doing. Rather than thinking, it’s not good enough, or I need to become better, I think to myself, it’s actually good.
Of course, it’s far from being perfect, but I don’t blame myself for not creating (yet) the quality of work I want to produce. My focus isn’t on what I lack, but on what I can learn and how exciting the journey is going to be. I don’t compare myself to the best writers or public speakers; that would make me feel like a failure. Instead, I compare my current self with my self six months ago.
The point I’m trying to make is that a healthy self-esteem also results from believing in your ability to grow and make progress. When you have a high self-esteem, you trust yourself knowing you can become better. Instead of feeling like you aren’t good enough, you look forward to developing new skills.
To use the words of the self-esteem expert Nathaniel Branden’s, it’s the new “reputation” I’ve acquired with myself that allowed me to develop a healthier self-esteem. By consistently setting daily goals and achieving (most of) them, I’ve learned to trust myself and, as a result, built more self-confidence. One of my daily habits is to write 500 words per day. That may not sound like a lot but that amounts to 180,000 per years.
What about you? What small daily habit could you implement in your life? What if, instead of focus on where you are now, you focus on where you can be in the future as you keep learning and growing?
To sum up:
Remember the following points:
- You don’t lack self-esteem: Self-esteem is always there, it’s just your current interpretation of your actions that makes it seem like you’re not enough.
- Distortion of reality lead to low self-esteem: You’ve been distorted reality by focusing on things you don’t do well.
- Look at reality objectively: The objective reality shows a different story. While there are things you don’t do well, there are also myriads of things you’re good at.
To build your self-esteem do the following:
- Fill up your self-esteem tank: Your self-esteem tank is empty and it’s time you fill it up. Start acknowledging every single of your accomplishments. Write them down in a notebook or on pieces of paper you put in a jar. Reread your notebook every day or take a piece of paper from the jar and read it.
- Keep promises to yourself: Remember that self-esteem is the reputation you acquire with yourself. Make it a habit to achieve small goals regularly and keep promises to yourself.
- Have self-compassion: You’re not perfect and you’ll never be. Love your imperfections and, when everything seems to go wrong, laugh at yourself. Life is not that serious.
- Keep learning and growing: Acknowledge the progress you’ve made and enjoy the process of never-ending growth. Don’t compare yourself to others, compare your current self with your past self. Remember: you can always learn an improve.
Conclusion: You’re more than enough
I would like to finish this article by reminding you that you’re enough! You’re not perfect, but nobody is. Nevertheless, you’re more than enough. Fill up your self-esteem tank and don’t let sneaky comments or temporary setbacks affect your sense of self-worth. You’re enough so refuse to let anyone telling you the opposite. You’re not only enough, but you also have incredible room for growth.
Remember, life is not that serious so enjoy the journey.
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- Why We Should All Stop Trying to Be Good Enough
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I just received a copy of your book “Master Your Emotions.: I am a newly licensed therapist that works with 10 teenagers. Self-esteem improvement is one of my main goals for my clients. Thanks for the article. I will try to use some of the self-esteem building exercises.