Self-esteem is how you feel about yourself as a person. Those with high self-esteem believe that they are adequate, strong and worthy of a good life, while those with low self-esteem feel inadequate and worthless. Low self-esteem can develop in childhood and continue throughout adulthood, causing great emotional pain. Therefore, it’s important to develop a healthy, positive sense of self.

Many people base their self-esteem on external factors, such as how much money they earn, how much they weigh and whether people like and appreciate them. If one of these external variables change, self-esteem can be broadly affected. For example, if your self-esteem is based on the fact that someone else loves you, then you risk feeling extremely vulnerable and worthless if that person’s love ends. By the same token, building self-esteem is not an easy task if you have been abused or have suffered years of personal or professional failure.

Building your self-esteem and creating a positive self-awareness comes from taking an inventory of your own strengths and abilities as a human being. Being at peace with who you are and what you have to offer the world is a major part of having high self-esteem. This “inner peace” does not mean that you are unaware of your weaknesses; it merely means that you accept who you are and genuinely like the person you have become.

You should think about yourself as deserving of attention, admiration and proper maintenance. Avoid the pitfall of paying too much attention to the happiness and well-being of others and too little to your own. Maintaining self-esteem involves becoming fully aware of your strengths and seeing challenges as opportunities to employ those strengths.

Low self-esteem is often linked to depression or anxiety. If your emotions feel overpowering or out of control, one way to build self-esteem around this issue is to learn to manage your mood and gain control over your feelings. Some people are able to do this with the help of friends and family. Others need to work with a mental health professional to manage the problems that may lie beneath the surface of low self-esteem.

If you struggle with low self-esteem, it is often helpful to connect with others with the same problem. Co-Dependents Anonymous, a self-help group, can be helpful in building the skills necessary to believe in your own wishes, needs and feelings. Other self-help groups may be located by talking with a mental health referral service or by asking a therapist or other health professional for a referral. In addition, you can contact your local mental health center about individual and group therapy. Clergy and pastoral counsel may also be of assistance. Other steps you can take to increase self-esteem include looking at community bulletin boards and newspapers for opportunities to demonstrate your skills and abilities, working with others to change the things you don’t like about yourself and meditating twice a day to increase your awareness of the current moment and of the goodness of being alive.

Beginning the inner dialogue about who you are and what you have to offer the world is an important process in building self-esteem. However, it is not unusual to have trouble defining your strengths and abilities. Sometimes it is helpful to talk to a therapist about this inner dialogue and about how you might come to the genuine feeling of being a good person who is worthy of the good things in life. Talking to friends, family and colleagues can also be useful in further defining who you are and what you have to offer. But remember that the most important conversation you have about self-esteem is with yourself. Become your own personal cheerleader. Don’t be afraid to celebrate even your smallest successes. Ask yourself what you fear, and search within yourself for ways you can cope with these worries and fears.

Learning to know and trust yourself is a long but worthwhile process. Throughout life you may need to search within yourself again and again to find your own empowerment and strength.