There was a time in my life when I didn’t believe in myself. Having grown up in your average dysfunctional family, I found myself in the role of peacekeeper and people pleaser from a young age.
I believed if I was compliant and accommodating, I could keep everyone happy and prevent the wackadoodle behavior going on around me. On a deeper level, I was afraid of being emotionally abandoned. When my efforts didn’t work, I tried harder. Needless to say, over time I trained myself to stuff down my own feelings for fear I’d rock the boat further.
In certain areas of my life, this pattern continued into young adulthood. During confrontational situations, I either backed down quickly or avoided engaging altogether. Although I was “rewarded” for being a pleaser, eventually my self-esteem began to waiver. I had false beliefs that I wasn’t good enough if I didn’t comply to the wants and needs of others. This mindset was unsustainable and soul crushing.
When you get to this point, your psyche — and sometimes your body — begin to revolt. My internal revolution burst forth as raging generalized anxiety, accompanied by weird, unexplainable physical pains. Fortunately, with the help of a caring counselor, I was able to break free from these self-destructive beliefs and behaviors to know exactly what I want and deserve for myself.
Whether you’re going through a low self-esteem phase in your life, or you just occasionally feel bad about yourself, it’s important to have some mental tools to help you recalibrate your thoughts so you can live with confidence and joy.
Here are 25 things to remember when you have low self-esteem:
1. You deserve more.
When you are having a low self-esteem day, remind yourself that you deserve more than the negative beliefs you cloak yourself in. You are as deserving of success, happiness, and love as anyone in the world, even if you don’t feel that way in the moment. Accepting this intellectually will help you change your thoughts when your beliefs try to pull you down.
2. You have one life.
As far as you know today, this is your one and only life. If you live to age ninety, figure out how many days left you have to live. Really, add it up. You have a limited number of days, so do you want to waste one of them feeling bad about yourself and not demanding the best life has to offer? Do you really want to let others determine how you will live, or give away your precious life to fear?
3. You can live with discomfort.
So many of my personal fears related to upsetting other people. It is uncomfortable to make people angry or feel their judgement or criticism. But you can live with it. If you stand up for yourself frequently enough, they’ll get the message. You’ll also feel incredibly empowered by speaking your mind and claiming your personal authority.
4. Mistakes and failure are good.
Sometimes we lack self-esteem because we’ve messed up in some way and therefore view ourselves as “worth less.” We think we’re worth less because we aren’t perfect. But anyone who is successful will tell you they reached success on the stepping stones of failure and screw-ups. Mistakes and failure reveal a willingness to take risk and try.
5. Thoughts and beliefs aren’t reality.
Low self-esteem is the result of years of messed up thinking. Something from your past contributed to your feeling “lesser than.” The triggering event is over, but your thoughts and feelings about it go on and on, making it feel like it’s as real as the original event. Thoughts and beliefs are nothing more than amorphous habits of consciousness.
6. Action always helps.
Rather than ruminating on how bad you feeling about yourself, do something positive and productive. This is particularly effective if the action you take relates to improving the area where you feel low self-esteem. If you’re feeling bad about your weight for example, go take a walk or exercise in some way. Action makes you feel in control of your destiny.
7. Beauty is overrated.
In my research on self-esteem, I found that most people hate their appearance and feel bad about themselves as a result. We live in a culture that worships youth and beauty, but in reality most people aren’t beautiful by the media’s standards. Everyone is physically “flawed” in some way. Imagine a life where it simply didn’t matter how you look. Then try to live that way.
8. Comparing is toxic.
How much time do you spend comparing yourself to other people and how they look, what they own, or what they’ve achieved? Comparing yourself to others is destructive to your self-esteem. Keep your eye on your own prize and stay focused on your goals and dreams. Live your one unique life the best way you can without worrying what others are doing.
9. Appearances are deceptive.
When we compare ourselves to others, we often get trapped in the false thinking that other people have perfects lives while we’re living our little crappy lives. Unless you are living inside another person’s home and have access to their thoughts and feelings, you simply don’t know the truth about their lives. Appearances are only a sliver of the truth.
10. Most fears are illusions.
This goes back to not believing your thoughts. Fear is aroused to warn you of imminent danger, but most of our fears relate to perceived events in the future. And most of these events aren’t life-threatening. You may always feel some amount of fear and anxiety, but you can use your logical mind to remind yourself that you aren’t going to die.
11. You have many accomplishments.
If you’re like most people, you probably spend far less time pondering your accomplishments than you do your failures. Turn that around. Focus on your accomplishments and successes, even the most insignificant. You have achieved so much in a lifetime. Take some time to write them down and savor them.
12. Healthy relationships begin with self-love.
When you have low self-esteem, your relationships suffer. A lack of confidence and neediness are unattractive and push others away from you, which only makes your low self-esteem worse. Practice self-love by honoring your own needs and desires, and by being compassionate and forgiving of yourself.
13. People pleasing backfires.
As I experienced myself, being a people pleaser doesn’t promote self-esteem or foster authentic, intimate relationships. You might get a temporary boost from the positive reinforcement, but over time you lose your sense of self and your respect for yourself. Please yourself first so you have the confidence to make sound decisions about dealing with the wants and needs of others.
14. Passive-aggression is unhealthy.
Those who suffer with low self-esteem often use passive aggressive behaviors when they feel angry or frustrated. They aren’t assertive enough to state plainly what they want or need. Sometimes passive aggressiveness erupts into unexpected angry outbursts. Learn about passive-aggressive behaviors and how you can practice healthier ways of communicating your feelings.
15. It’s okay to have boundaries.
Often people with low self-esteems are afraid to implement personal boundaries. In fact, they may not have defined any boundaries because they don’t believe they should have them. Remember, it’s not only okay to have them, but it is absolutely necessary for self-esteem and positive relationships. Other people may resist at first, but eventually they’ll respect you more for having boundaries.
16. Social skills can be learned.
If you feel unhappy with yourself because you don’t relate well to others or you’re social skills are lacking, don’t assume you have a personality or character flaw. Often people don’t learn these communication skills growing up and feel insecure as they get older. They fear reaching out for help since it would draw attention to their flaws. Social and communication skills can be learned by observing others, through reading and research, and with instruction from a therapist or coach.
17. You can let go of people.
When we’re insecure in ourselves, we often believe we are the cause for the bad behavior of others. They are angry, controlling, unreliable, or unhappy because we haven’t tried hard enough, or we did something wrong. Sometimes people simply have draining, negative personalities, and you don’t need to keep them in your life. It’s okay to let go of people who drag you down.
18. Your instincts and judgements are the best.
Do you find yourself frequently looking to others to reinforce your decisions or reassure you that you’re worthy and lovable? No one knows better what is best for you than you do. Practice making decisions without the input of others. Also, define what “worthy and lovable” mean to you, rather than looking outside of yourself for reassurance.
19. Your words are powerful.
If you say disparaging, unloving things about yourself, you are reinforcing your feelings of low self-esteem. The spoken word is powerful and cements your thoughts and beliefs more firmly. Putting yourself down also creates a negative perception in the minds of those who hear you. Remember when your mom would tell you, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything”? Well that applies to saying unloving things about yourself.
20. People don’t think about you as much as you fear.
Think about the number of times you’ve worried what other people must think of you or how they perceive you. The fear of other people’s perceptions holds us back from taking action and or being ourselves. However, most people are far too concerned about themselves to spend to much time focused on what you say or do. You don’t need to fret about this so much.
21. Life is more grey than black and white.
Those with low self-esteem tend to have rigid perceptions about how things are “supposed” to be, because they don’t trust themselves. Black and white thinking makes it easier to know what to do. This thinking often comes from blindly following authority figures. But there is so much more to life than your singular perceptions, and it’s empowering to discover the variety of possibilities in thinking and acting when you let go of rigidity.
22. Your true self is more interesting than your mask.
Whomever you might be pretending to be in order to feel better about yourself, this person isn’t nearly as appealing as the authentic you. Authenticity is one of the most attractive traits a person can have. Try dropping the mask and allow yourself to be real.
23. The present moment is reality.
Insecure people tend to dwell in the past and the future and ruminate about mistakes and worries. However, real life happens in the here and now. It’s the only reality, and it’s the only place to find peace, security, and happiness. How can you lack self-esteem when the present moment is perfect?
24. You’re more capable than you think.
If you set your aim low in order to protect yourself, then you never stretch to your fullest potential. If low self-esteem has held you back from taking chances or reaching for your dreams, you’ll never know how truly capable and talented you are.
25. Seeking help is courageous.
Some people view counseling as yet another sign of weakness or embarrassment. Actually, it’s a sign of strength and courage to acknowledge you want to change and to do something about it. A trained counselor can help you heal past wounds that triggered low self-esteem and work with you on new behaviors so you can love and respect yourself.
Rather than allowing feelings of low self-esteem to overwhelm you, take control of your thoughts by reminding yourself of these self-esteem truths. Consider printing this list to keep with you in your wallet or purse so you can refer to it when you have a bad day. As you learn new ways of thinking and behaving, you’ll begin to recover your self-worth and confidence.