10 things you can do to build self-esteem
Always remember that whatever you are feeling right now, everyone has felt it too, and will at some point in their life. Everyone struggles with themselves one way or another. Some people are just better than others at hiding it. Because they don’t want to talk about it, because they think it will make them weak, or because that’s just their way of handling that feeling. You are not alone, so open up to people you trust.
The second most important thing that you absolutely need to do, after remember that you are not alone, is building self-awareness. I mean, this article could actually stop right there. Self-awareness is a must for you to grasp the difference between what you think of yourself, and the facts, the reality. I think the lack of self-esteem comes from that, from having an image of yourself that is lower than the reality. So if you explore what it is that you think of yourself, and you also look at the reality, you will be able to make these two visions of yourself just one.
How do you look at reality? By observing how people are with you, by asking them what they think of something you did, by looking at your journey so far and how much of your success is due to you.
Working on your self-awareness will allow you to explore what your core values and your natural preferences are. This is who you are. You can change, you can improve, but this is the foundation. Do things and take decisions that reflect these values and personal styles. You will see the more you act in line with yourself, the more assertive you will be, because you will know the reason behind what you do.
With a lot of self-reflection and individual coaching, I was able to write down my three core values, around which revolve a lot of sub-values that are important to me. These three encapsulate all that matter. They are:
Since I’ve named them, I have felt stronger and more assertive about who I am, and what I want to do. I look for opportunities to learn more. I am making authenticity the theme of my work as a coach. And I have seen myself becoming closer to people who are dear to me now that I know that loyalty is a key element in my life. I can say that it has made my life easier because the decisions I take are connected to my core values.
A great way to build self-esteem is to become an expert in something others don’t know anything about, or do something people don’t usually do. By expert I don’t mean you need to win a Nobel Prize to be recognised as such.
Think about what you love to do in your personal time and at work. It can be running, knitting, cooking, reading, doing badminton (I know, it’s a bit random. I love badminton though) – or project management, spreadsheet, public speaking, etc. Find what you are passionate about, and do it all the way. Make a habit of doing it, practice and learn so you can then teach others.
For me, it was coaching (surprising, I know). I was the only one in the management group who was genuinely interested in coaching. I learned so much about it that I became confident when I was sharing resources to other managers to be able to coach their employees. That made me an expert in the group. In my personal time, I became quite good at cooking Italian food (the real deal) and I also know a bit about red wine (I practice red wine a lot ha). It matters too because I can have a knowledgeable conversation about both topics. I am ignorant on many other topics, but at least I know which ones I am comfortable with.
So we’ve explored how to develop your awareness and see what you are good at, but there might still be some things holding you back and bringing you down. From my personal experience and after talking to some people about it, I’ve come to realise that the best and safest way to explore why and let go of it is by talking to a therapist. There are some things that self-awareness will not uncover, yet these are very important for you to know.
It doesn’t have to be a lifelong psychoanalysis (but if it does, there is no problem with that), it can be a few sessions of cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT is a form of therapy that focuses on the thoughts and beliefs that impact your feelings and behaviour) for you to connect the dots and clear the air. You can also stop the therapy or change therapist if you don’t like it, but I’d recommend you give it a try.
Take care of your body and your mind to you can be comfortable with the way you present yourself. Eat well, exercise regularly, get some clothes you feel powerful in, get a nice haircut – anything that will make you feel better about yourself. It is more important that we’d want to admit, and it’s not necessarily for others. It’s first for ourselves. Treat yourself with nice things, you deserve it.
Don’t wait to be in a situation where your lack of self-esteem took the best of you, that’s when you are likely to feel really bad. Be proactive and start working on your self-confidence now to anticipate any moments where you are going to need to step up and show strength. I’ve done a podcast episode on proactivity and another one on time management if you want to get more tips.
Being in a negative and toxic environment will not help your self-esteem. Avoid people who are bringing you down, who are passive aggressive or manipulative. They will hurt you more than you will realise.
Be selective with the people who spend time with. Surround yourself with people who can support you grow your self-esteem by being there for you, listen to you, pay attention to you – and whom you also want to do the same with. And if you can’t get rid of the negative people (e.g. at work), find a way to limit interactions to the bare minimum.
You are not perfect. No one is. So embrace what makes you imperfect. Self-esteem comes with self-compassion. Be kind to yourself.
Having worked on my personal development almost every day for the last 2+ years, I can tell you that it was the first thing I made peace with. I will never be 100% happy with myself every day, and I will never please 100% of people every day. And that’s okay. As long as I am striving to improve and aware of my vulnerabilities and weaknesses, I am fine with that. And you should too.
Finally, put yourself out there. Look for opportunities to learn new things. You don’t have to go far from your comfort zone to challenge it. Take notes of what you try and how it made you feel. Be curious to learn more and never settle for what you think you know. That’s how you will extend your possibilities and make you feel stronger and prouder.