Self-esteem affects all areas of your life. What you do, how you do it, how you treat yourself and others and how much you enjoy life are all impacted by your self-esteem. If you have low self-esteem, you’re unlikely to be as motivated to take care of yourself physically or achieve your goals, as someone with higher self-esteem; and that also means weight control will be more difficult for you.
Test your self-esteem
Before you read on, try this three-step evaluation to determine the state of your self-esteem.
1. What sort of person are you? The first thoughts that come to mind in response to this question will give you some insight into whether you have high or low self-esteem.
If your first thoughts are along these lines: “I’m not really good at anything, I’m not very smart, I’m a negative person, I’m unattractive…” then it’s safe to say that you probably have low self-esteem.
If your first thoughts run along these lines: “I really like myself, I’m competent, I measure up reasonably well when it comes to most things in life,” your self-esteem is fairly high.
2. Put this analysis to a further test by answering these questions:
- Do you deserve to be happy?
- Do you feel competent and comfortable in most situations?
- Do you think you can manage life’s basic challenges?
The higher your self-esteem, the more likely you are to answer “Yes” to these questions. If you have lower self-esteem, you’re more likely to respond to these questions negatively.
3. Which of these traits would you expect to see on a “report card” about yourself? You’re likely to have a mixture of responses, but the balance will give some indication of the level of your self-esteem.
|High self-esteem traits||Low self-esteem traits|
Involved in healthy relationships
Someone who exercises good judgment
Willing to take risks
Able to handle criticism well
Someone who takes pride in accomplishments
Caring of myself and others
Fearful, especially of failure
Unable to readily set or achieve goals
Rarely able to look people in the eye
Susceptible to eating disorders, drug abuse or violence
Over-analytical of myself
Disrespectful of myself and others
A blame-shifter. I have trouble saying “sorry”.
Lacking in confidence
Doubtful of myself and others
Always trying to impress people
What is self-esteem?
Self-esteem is a difficult concept to define, but it has to do with the way you perceive and experience yourself and your life. It is evident in the attitudes, beliefs, and opinions you have about yourself, and affects all aspects of your life including what you think, how you act and feel, and how you interact with others.
If you have good self-esteem, you believe in yourself and have confidence in your ability to think and make good decisions. You also value yourself and know you’re valuable to others. This shows in the way you take care of yourself and those around you.
If you have low self-esteem, you tend to doubt yourself and your ability to achieve things. You focus on all your negative characteristics, while ignoring or invalidating your positive characteristics. This thinking is often reflected in destructive behaviour toward yourself and others.
What self-esteem is not
People often confuse high self-esteem with happiness or outgoing confidence. But high self-esteem is not just about “feeling good” or being a loud, outspoken person.
Lots of things make us feel good for a while, but most of them are external to ourselves and eventually pass. The euphoria you feel from a drug, a compliment, or falling in love, for example, is not the same as the experience of consistent affirmation that comes from high self-esteem.
Plenty of people appear confident, even overly so, and others tend to equate this thinking with “high” self-esteem. But high self-esteem is not just ego-driven; it’s demonstrated in positive thoughts and actions towards others as well as yourself. Anyone who is egocentric, conceited, boastful, bullying, or takes advantage of or harms others, is actually exhibiting signs of low self-esteem, or pseudo self-esteem.
Weight Control Made (More) Difficult
Losing weight is challenging at the best of times, but with poor self-esteem it becomes even more difficult. If you don’t believe you deserve to look and feel good, why bother trying?
Poor self-esteem encourages a negative and distorted body image, meaning you drastically undervalue your body and appearance. This in turn discourages you from taking care of yourself. And if you don’t want to take care of yourself, how are you meant to feel motivated to take control of your weight?
If you have low self-esteem, it’s also likely that you don’t give yourself enough credit for your achievements, focussing on what you haven’t done instead of what you have. For example, if you go for a twenty-minute walk, you tell yourself you should have gone for forty minutes, or jogged instead of walked. This self-discouragement can be a major problem when it comes to achieving your goals; who wants to keep trying when they feel they are constantly failing?
On the other hand, if you have high self-esteem, you believe that you deserve to feel and look better. You congratulate yourself for small achievements, and believe in your ability to eventually achieve your long-term goal of permanent weight balance. Taking care of yourself and your body is a natural extension of high self-esteem.
7 Steps to Better Self-Esteem
Self-esteem isn’t something set in stone or fixed. If you want to improve your self-esteem, you can! But it also doesn’t happen overnight. Finding the skills to improve your self-esteem takes time, commitment, support, and sometimes professional assistance.
Ultimately, improving your self-esteem is about changing your frame of mind. The best way to do this is to consistently reaffirm yourself, while acting in ways that you find praiseworthy and which support your idea of what makes a good person.
For inspiration and guidance on improving self-esteem, here are seven helpful strategies. Dig deep with these; they may seem simple, but if you truly follow them they’ll have a dramatic impact on your self-esteem.
1. Redefine yourself. How do you see yourself? List your five best qualities. Now list your five worst qualities. If it took you a long time to come up with five good qualities, what are you forgetting? Have you overlooked the fact that you are a good friend, co-worker, sibling or parent? Have you remembered your intelligence and sense of humour, or the way people know they can depend on you?
Select positive aspects of your self-description and repeat these to yourself every day. When a weakness or flaw rears up, decide if, in the grand scheme of life, it’s worth the effort to change. If it’s worth changing, set some goals and work on it. If not, stop clinging onto it as evidence to support your low opinion of yourself!
2. Live right. Improving your self-esteem is not just about thinking positively, it’s about engaging in the kind of behaviours that will make you proud of yourself. This doesn’t imply that you have to climb Mt. Everest or earn six figures to be proud of yourself. It’s the small behaviours that matter.
Many people ignore the fact that having strong self-esteem is largely about doing the right things in life; about being true to your own values, taking risks, accomplishing what you set out to accomplish, keeping promises, practicing tolerance, and treating other people well.
Live right, and the next time you tell yourself how worthless you are, you’ll have concrete proof that your self-perception is inaccurate.
3. Respect yourself. You’re worth it. Respecting yourself means valuing your body, thoughts, and feelings. All of these affect your self-esteem in the long term. If you’re exhausted, respect your body by getting a good night’s sleep, and skipping a day at the gym if needed. If you have an opinion on something, respect the value of your thoughts and don’t be afraid to share them. If you’re feeling stressed out, listen to your emotions and give yourself a break. Would you make excessive demands of a friend who was feeling tired and overloaded? Remember that you are valuable and worth taking care of – don’t discount yourself and your needs.
4. Accomplish goals; acknowledge achievements. Setting goals and achieving them is vital to improving your self-esteem. It doesn’t matter how small your goals may be. Get started by doing something that you have been putting off – wash your car, call that friend, read that book, plant those flowers. Take note of all your accomplishments, no matter how small! This way, when you start tearing yourself down and saying you can’t do anything, you’ll have proof that you are wrong!
5. Be good to yourself. Being good to yourself means treating yourself as the valuable person that you are. It means eating well, exercising often, spoiling yourself sometimes, relaxing when you need to, and doing things you enjoy and that are important to you. It’s helpful to write down at the end of each day how you’ve treated yourself in terms of your health, what you’ve done for yourself, and how you’ve affirmed yourself and your actions throughout the day.
6. Accentuate the positive. Walk, talk, and dress in ways that accentuate everything that is positive about you, and everything you like about yourself. Avoid clothes, posture, and self-talk that emphasise your flaws. We all have flaws, but people with healthy self-esteem don’t dwell on them.
7. Recognise your talents and abilities, and use them! Find the things you have a flair for, and do them for your own enjoyment and satisfaction – not to impress others. Everyone is good at something. What are your talents? Are you using them? Do you like to paint, write, garden, or play the guitar? Are you good at sports? Do you enjoy the outdoors? Are you a good listener? A devoted friend? An encourager? Remember, you don’t need to be Michelangelo, Mozart or Mother Teresa to use your gifts!