Self-esteem and confidence
self; esteem; self-esteem; confidence; happy; happiness; youth; young people; misery;
"She probably has low self-esteem," I bet you've heard someone say that before. But what does self-esteem actually mean?
Your self-esteem is how much you value yourself. Most people have days when they value themselves highly, feel confident and believe in themselves. And most people have other days when they have some doubts and are unsure of their worth.
Some people have low self-esteem most of the time, often due to being put down all the time, or thinking that they should be 'better' than they are. Constantly comparing themselves to others can give some people low self-esteem. Looking at others and thinking 'why can't I be like them?' is a sure-fire way to make yourself feel bad.
High self-esteem can help us feel good about ourselves and the world around us. Having high self-esteem can mean:
- You believe that you are an OK person - consciously or unconsciously.
- You feel relaxed inside and respect your own value.
- You have positive beliefs about yourself and what you can reach.
- You feel confident, and the future looks promising.
- You have a sense of trust in the things in your life.
- You believe the world is able to meet your needs and desires.
- You feel more energetic about things, you have ideas, and you act on them.
- You feel proud, satisfied and happy as you achieve the things you set out to do.
- You know you have the personal power to make things happen in your life.
- You think of creative ways to get around things that get in your way to success.
- You see and appreciate your successes.
This is positive "self-talk" (the chatter inside of our heads). You can invite high self-esteem into your life.
High self-esteem can bring other things along with it.
- feelings of calm and relaxation
- a desire to look after yourself
- a positive attitude and a sense of being full of life!
- being open and communicative (see our topic Assertiveness)
- independence and self-responsibility
- a will to be sociable and get along with others
- continuous personal growth.
High self-esteem can be a great helper in your life. It can also make others feel safe, at ease, valued and stimulated when they are around you. Did you know that some studies have shown that you can play sports better by practicing positive self-talk? Why not give it a shot?
You have a belief that you are not OK as a person.
- You feel tense empty and stressed inside.
- You see yourself as having little value, eg. "I am useless", "I am stupid", "I always fail".
- You have negative beliefs about yourself and what you can do, eg. "I will never be able to…" "I can't do…" "That will never work".
- You lose confidence and the future looks like nothing will change.
- You have little trust in the things in your life.
- You believe the world can't meet your personal needs and desires.
- You stop bothering to try to achieve things.
- You notice you are less happy and successful than other people.
- You see other people as more capable or powerful than you are. You let them do things for you or take advantage of you.
- You silently get annoyed, resentful or disappointed with those people.
- You see yourself as nasty or "ungrateful" for having those thoughts about others.
- You tell yourself off. You punish yourself for being so horrible.
- When you see yourself, you see only the results of being abused by others or yourself.
- You develop a stronger belief that you are not an OK person.
- You push away self-esteem and prepare for this cycle to happen again and again.
negative self-talk happens
Some things you have experienced might have brought low self-esteem into your life!
- being constantly put-down or humiliated - this can happen at home, at work, at school, anywhere...
- having to take the blame for things that are not your fault.
- not having your emotional, social or physical needs met
- being abused in some way, eg. child abuse or relationship violence
- an experience of another kind of violence, eg. rape, harassment or discrimination
- having a "label" stuck to you by other people, eg. schizophrenic or disabled
- getting inconsistent messages about what is expected of you - this can be a big one for people who grow up with parents who have a problem with alcohol
- strong messages from the media (TV, movies, advertising) or the community about what you are "expected" to be like, eg. expectations about body image, sexual identity or employment status.
These are just some examples of things that can have a lowering affect on our self-esteem. We have articles about many of these examples as separate topics on this site.
These things that contribute to low self-esteem are not your fault. They might be things that someone else has done to you, or the way things in your culture are set up. You can't change other people. You can nurture and look after yourself. You also have control over the way you think, feel or behave in your life.
steps to misery
Want to know how to feel bad about yourself? This step-by-step guide is a 100% effective and is guaranteed to make you feel really, really bad about yourself!
- Compare yourself to everyone and everything around you. Pick out things they have that you don't. Think how "lucky" they are and how "unlucky" you are.
- Put yourself down at any opportunity possible. Avoid saying or believing you are an OK person at any time.
- Never ever take a compliment. Tell people that "it was nothing" or that you are not what they are saying you are. Don't thank anyone, always pretend you didn't hear.
- Tell yourself over and over again things like "I am horrible", "I am stupid", "I am ugly", "I am disgusting" or "I am useless".
- Hang around people and involve yourself in things where you are put down or disrespected. This helps make the things in step 4 sink in even more!
- Make a long list of all of your past failures, embarrassments, negative qualities, wrongdoings and stuff-ups. Pin it on your fridge, in your bedroom, behind the toilet door, in the front of your diary.
- Stick to yourself. Don't let anyone near you and never let people really know you. Avoid giving compliments, doing things for others or contributing to anything.
- Stay clear of anything that you enjoy or love doing.
- Try and live up to everybody's expectations. Make all your decisions based on what you think other people might approve of.
- Don't try anything new or take action in your life. Sit back and keep waiting for something to "just happen" to change things for you.
Sometimes, without even really knowing it, we can actively choose to be miserable! In reality, it is more likely that you would like to invite feelings of self-esteem into your life.
There are many ways you can invite high self-esteem into your life. Below are some tips for you to think about.
- Be nice to yourself! Stop giving yourself a hard time and start appreciating yourself as a unique individual.
- If you compare yourself to others you will always find things missing in yourself and your life!
- Use the cycles in "Positive self-talk" and "The ten steps to misery" to understand your self-esteem cycle.
- When do you notice you are giving yourself a hard time?
- What happens when you give yourself a hard time?
- Keep aware of the feeling of low self-esteem.
- Don't let it beat you by creeping back into your life!
- Negative self-talk might be something you have learned over time. Positive self-talk might also take time to learn, but with practice it will become the thing you do automatically. So be patient with yourself - you need time to make these changes.
- Think of times you have tried something new and succeeded.
- What did you do?
- How were you able to succeed?
- How did it affect the relationships you have with friends, family, partner, workmates, etc?
- How did you feel about yourself?
- What did you learn about yourself?
- Think about your past successes – make a list and refer back to it.
- Dream. Think about how you would like things to be in your life.
- Set yourself goals.
- Beware you don't "bite off more than you can chew" - sometimes we set ourself up to fail by taking on too much.
- Practice and try new skills. This could be anything from assertiveness (see our topic Assertiveness) to learning how to play chess.
- Challenge yourself.
- Test things out and learn what works for you and what doesn't.
- Celebrate your successes.
- Think about your qualities that have helped you in your life. Make a list and think about how you might use these qualities in the future.
- Get involved in life.
- Join a sporting team or join in other things in your community.
- Allow yourself to "give". Help someone do something.
- Tell someone they look nice or did a good job of something.
- Make a note of your contribution and the way it makes you feel about yourself.
- Do things that you love doing and you know you are good at.
- Accept compliments when people give them to you.
- Reply with a "thank you". Doing this gets easier the more you practice.
- Give yourself the right to make a mistake or to not be "perfect" - whatever "perfect" is!
- Mistakes are a great opportunity to learn about you. Don't waste the chance.
- Be true to yourself.
- You will never be able to make everyone happy or meet everyone's expectations about how you "should" be.
- Trust, look out for and protect yourself.
- Learn about what makes you happy.
- The Second Story Youth Health Service (TSS)
- Central: 57 Hyde St, Adelaide
- South: 50a Beach Rd, Christies Beach
- North: 6 Gillingham Rd, Elizabeth
- West: 51 Bower St, Woodville
- Youth Healthline 1300 13 17 19 (Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm)
- Kids Helpline Ph 1800 551 800.
- Your local Community Health Centre.
- Your doctor.
- Your school counsellor.
Braiker, H. The Power of Self-Talk. Psychology Today. Dec 1989; 23 (12); p. 23.
Lindenfield G (1995) "Self-esteem", Thornsons, Great Britain.
Matthews A (1988), "Being Happy", Media Masters, Australia.
Papaioannous, A. Ballon,F., Theodorakis, Y., Auwelle, Y. Combined effect of goal setting and self-talk in performance of a soccer-shooting task. Perceptual and Motor Skills. Feb 2004; 98 (1): p. 89.
The information on this site should not be used as an alternative to professional care. If you have a particular problem, see a doctor, or ring the Youth Healthline on 1300 13 17 19 (local call cost from anywhere in South Australia).