What Really Strengthens Self-Esteem

By Margarita Tartakovsky, M.S.

Find out who you are. A healthy self-esteem also means having a quiet gladness about who you are, Schiraldi said. But first you need to know who that person is. “Every individual must determine his or her own values, principles, and moral standards and live by them,” Firestone said.

What do you value in life? What matters to you? Once you can pinpoint your values, you might even realize that the very things you beat yourself up about have nothing to do with your goals. For instance, one of Firestone’s clients berated himself for not earning a high enough salary. But when he and Firestone explored his goals and dreams, he realized that doing meaningful work, helping others and spending time with his family were all more important than earning a specific income.

Getting to know yourself better also helps you assess your traits and determine which are in line with the kind of person you’d like to be, Firestone said. Another client realized that one of his core values is to be kind. But his interactions with his wife were antagonistic. He was so worried that his wife would attack him that he’d make preemptive strikes. He worked on finding ways to avoid being on the offensive.

Again, a healthy self-esteem doesn’t mean thinking you’re flawless; it means knowing realistically what you need to work on and making the necessary changes, Firestone said. If you’d like to be more social, start volunteering and join a book club. If you have a short fuse, see a therapist to work on your anger issues. If you don’t like that people walk all over you, read up on setting boundaries.

Learn what lights you up. People with low self-esteem often have a long can’t-do list, Firestone said. They may have incorrect ideas of what they’re capable of. What helps is to challenge these thoughts and try new activities. For instance, Firestone always thought of herself as a shy person until a friend encouraged her to try public speaking. She started slowly by doing presentations with her friend, attending other presentations to see what worked and practicing at home. Now, public speaking is a passion of hers. “Doing things that matter to you helps you build up confidence,” she said.

Appreciate your body. “The way we experience our bodies often parallels the way we experience our core selves, “according to Schiraldi. So if you’re tough on your body — bashing your weight, shape or wrinkles — you’ll likely be tough on your core and have a conditional self-esteem.

Appreciating your body with all its imperfections can help you cultivate a more accepting view of yourself as a whole. In The Self-Esteem Workbook, Schiraldi explains how amazing the body really is. For instance, did you know that the heart, which weighs just eleven ounces, pumps three thousand gallons of blood per day? “Technology cannot replicate the heart’s durability. The force of blood hurled against the aorta would quickly damage rigid pipes, while the flexible, tissue-thin valves of the heart are sturdier than any man-made materials,” he writes.

Accept your imperfections. Think of your best friend, partner or kids. Why do you love them? Undoubtedly it has little to do with their flawless traits. We don’t wait to love others until they’re perfect. If we did, as Schiraldi said, then no one would be loved.

“Love is a choice and a commitment that we make each day, despite our imperfections,” Schiraldi said. And we can make the same choice and commitment to love ourselves as well, warts and all. According to Schiraldi, what helps to cultivate self-acceptance is mindfulness, which teaches compassion for the self and others along with the ability to sit with painful emotions. (Here’s another way to cultivate self-compassion.)

Again, having a positive self-esteem isn’t selfish. It’s important for leading a fulfilling, healthy life, which in turn helps you help others.

Here are signs of low self-esteem. If you see yourself in them, you can use the tips outlined here to help.

 

APA Reference
Tartakovsky, M. (2012). What Really Strengthens Self-Esteem. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 25, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/lib/what-really-strengthens-self-esteem/00010884
Scientifically Reviewed
    Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 30 Jan 2013
    Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.

 

 

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