What self-esteem is and how to improve it.
Think about your perception of your actual self – how you view yourself to be right now. Now think about your perception of your desired self – how you believe you should be. How well do these two self-concepts compare with each other? Is there a large or small discrepancy between the two? The difference between these two concepts are what researchers say determines your self-esteem. The greater the discrepancy, the lower the self-esteem.
Miller, Perlman, and Brehm (2006) state that self-esteem is defined as how a person evaluates him or herself. When skills and traits are judged by oneself as favorable and positive, he or she will have a greater likelihood of a higher self-esteem. Miller and colleagues (2006) also report that we measure our self-esteem by the quality of relationships we have with others. When others like us, we tend to like ourselves; whereas, if an individual feels that he or she does not interest others, then his or her self-esteem will be lowered (Miller et al., 2006).
Sparrow (2005) states, “A healthy self-esteem allows us to go on trying things we’ve failed at, to strive when we haven’t reached our full potential, and to take on new challenges” (p. 62). These things are important when we are working toward achieving our goals! So how can someone with low self-esteem go about increasing it to live a happier and more fulfilling life? Research gives us lots of options, and I will discuss a few here:
Increasing Positive Connections:
People with chronic low self-esteem often have a history of receiving insufficient acceptance and appreciation from others (or at least feeling that way!) (Miller et al., 2006). Steese and colleagues (2006) report that one way to improve self-esteem is to build positive connections with others. One way to go about this is to join a support group for people with similar experiences or feelings as yourself. Sparrow (2005) states that accepting comfort from others is a healthy way to build self-esteem because it lets the individual know that someone else understands what he or she is going through.
Not only that, but support groups also help individuals with low self-esteem develop better empathic listening skills. Miller and colleagues (2006) report that individuals with low self-esteem tend to make a big deal out of things that individuals with high self-esteem would shrug off. Those with low self-esteem tend to respond with self-defeating hurt and anger that causes an adverse reaction in others instead of the reassurance they crave (Miller et al., 2006). By learning to listen empathically, individuals with low self-esteem can learn to respond better to others in a more positive way (Steese et al., 2006). This in turn will help create a more positive connection and interaction with other individuals.
You can participate in a Self-Esteem Building support group conducted through Google messenger on-line hangouts by visiting www.LifeGoalSolutionsInc.com.
Another way to increase self-esteem is by developing resiliency. One study conducted by Wick, Wick, and Peterson (1997) found that by participating in just six half-hour activities geared toward developing trust and coping strategies (like life-coaching) can help build an individual’s self-esteem! Some coping strategies as listed on http://au.reachout.com/Building-better-coping-skills include suggestions like seeking help from someone you trust, self-talk to overcome negative thought patterns, increasing optimism, considering the big picture, honing your communication skills, and even simply walking away from a situation. The key is to have a plan in place before you need it so that you have it to use when needed. When you know how to get through a tough situation, you feel more competent and confident.
Develop Your Talents and Skills:
Baumeister, Campbell, Krueger, and Vohs (2003) report that research has for the most part suggested a direction of causality between the correlations of high self-esteem and high performance levels. Basically, what they are trying to say is that high performance leads to high self-esteem, and not the other way around as some might believe. This means that individuals can raise their level of self-esteem by doing well at work, attaining a desired achievement, or being recognized for something he or she has accomplished. It can also be done by honing your skills for a particular task or knowing that you are good at something (and actually doing what you are good at). The more we feel we have something positive to contribute or that we are evaluated positively by others, the more self-esteem we will have.
Baumeister, R. F., Campbell, J. D., Krueger, J. I., & Vohs, K. D. (2003). Does high self-esteem cause better performance, interpersonal success, happiness, or healthier lifestyles? Psychological Science in the Public Interest, 4(1), 1-44.
Miller, R. S., Perlman, D., & Brehm, S. S. (2006). Intimate Relationships (4th ed.). Boston, MA: McGraw-Hill Higher Education.
Sparrow, J. (2005). Self-esteem. Scholastic Parent & Child, 13(1), 60-63.
Steese, S., Dollette, M., Phillips, W., Hossfeld, E., Matthews, G., & Taormina, G. (2006, Spring). Understanding girls’ circle as an intervention on perceived social support, body image, self-efficacy, locus of control, and self-esteem. Adolescence, 41(161), 55-74.
Wick, D. T., Wick, J. K., & Peterson, N. (1997, October). Improving self-esteem with Adlerian adventure therapy. Professional School Counseling, 1(1), 56-56.