SELF-ASSESSMENT

I don't like myself: how to boost self-esteem

When everything goes off plan, whether it's work troubles or failed romantic relationships, the thought "What's wrong with me?" may cross your mind. For some, this can spiral into a closed loop of self-blame and searching for flaws, leading to a plummet in self-esteem. It starts feeling like the source of all your troubles is within yourself. However, healthy self-esteem doesn't fluctuate based on your achievements or failures; it remains stable.
With adequate self-assessment, you can recognize both your strengths and weaknesses, and your self-worth becomes unconditional and independent of changing circumstances.
Rejected by a company you were excited about? It doesn't mean you are a failure and a poor professional. Perhaps it's worth working on your self-esteem because it shapes your worldview and your perception of yourself. Let's explore how to boost self-esteem and where it originates.

The causes of low self-esteem

First, let's discuss what might have formed this unhealthy self-perception in the first place. Our self-image is shaped unconsciously, often in early childhood. Authoritative figures, usually adults, become mirrors for children, and later, teenagers. Knowing little about ourselves, we rely on their reactions to our actions. Eventually, this formed self-perception carries into adulthood.

If, at this stage, adults ignore us, do not acknowledge our emotions and needs, a sense of "smallness" and insignificance can develop. This is how low self-esteem is born: you believe you don't deserve attention and love just for being yourself. Hence, the lack of self-love and insecurity in interacting with others. Here are a few scenarios of how adults can influence self-esteem; you might recognize yourself in one of them.

Strict rules

Parents with rigid views on right and wrong, proper and improper behavior, often restrict a child. The child's appearance, behavior, and choices are subject to rigorous family rules.
Harsh rules and prohibitions can make a child feel that their desires and choices are unimportant.
Imagine a situation where a mother forbids her daughter to cut her hair, believing that girls should have long hair. The child wants to express herself freely, so she cuts her hair without her mother's permission. She might face a very emotional reaction, being called a disobedient daughter or accused of disrespecting the family rules. Growing up, she might still feel unrecognized in her desires due to this experience.

Child as an extension of self

Parents who did not fulfill their dreams and desires in their youth often see their continuation in their children. A father didn't finish football academy – then his son must. A mother did not become a professional dancer – so her daughter will fulfill this dream. At this moment, nobody cares about the child's wishes.

In such a scenario, the child falls into the trap of parental expectations, which shame and criticize any mistakes on this path. Painful feelings of shame, self-criticism, and perfectionism can haunt a person into adulthood.

Hypercare

Excessive anxiety and care from parents can create a sense of inadequacy and uncertainty in one's abilities. If parents do not allow trying the unknown and making mistakes, how can a person dare to take risks in adulthood?

Devaluation and comparison

Two more tools for self-esteem loss are devaluation and comparison. The belief that you are never "enough," even with the first place in the tournament or excellent grades in the school report.

At the same time, the smallest mistake can grow into a catastrophe and be considered unforgivable. Parents can also compare their child's achievements with the successes of other children, believing that this motivates them for higher achievements. In reality, it lowers the child's self-esteem, making them feel constantly "not good enough."

How does healthy self-esteem develop

Healthy self-esteem is also formed from early childhood. Here are some conditions for its prosperity:
  • The child receives unconditional care and affection from parents.
  • Parents respond to the child’s needs and pay attention to them.
  • Love from parents is unconditional, and it doesn't need to be earned.
  • The child is allowed to try new and interesting things, and parents provide conditions and encouragement.
  • Parents trust and support the child's ambitions, fostering a positive self-perception and belief in one's abilities.
Of course, the scenario described above is an ideal one for the development of stable self-esteem in childhood and its transition into adult life. A mature person with a healthy psyche will build their world based on their self-esteem, develop opportunities, and realize plans and ambitions.
In one sentence, healthy self-esteem is: "I am okay, no matter what difficulties may arise on my path."
However, for people with low self-esteem, believing in such a positive self-image can be much more challenging.

How to boost self-esteem and accept yourself: methods and support

Low self-esteem can act like distorted lenses, skewing your perception of reality. It breeds disbelief in your own abilities, limiting yourself from full realization in life. A person lacking self-esteem doesn't trust themselves, refraining from taking risks and achieving their goals, remaining trapped in a closed loop of negative self-perceptions.
Individuals with low self-esteem often lack a sense of self-worth, leading them to "diminish" themselves in the eyes of others and the world.
Another symptom of low self-esteem is harsh self-criticism. Such individuals condemn themselves, finding external criticism unbearable. This leads to a sense of guilt, with the person trying to reconcile for their perceived wrongs through harmful relationships, dangerous situations, or instability, as if punishing themselves. They may not believe they deserve anything better — positive, caring, and loving treatment.

So, what should you do if you find yourself in this situation?

Low self-esteem is not a verdict, but it's not something you can change with a magic wand either. There's no single panacea or method; psychologists affirm that merely telling someone that "everything is okay" is insufficient to boost self-esteem. It's essential to identify the root of this deep self-doubt.

There are simple psychological exercises to improve self-esteem that you can do on your own:
  • Cultivate the habit of acknowledging your successes and achievements.
  • Consider the positive aspects of yourself and your admirable qualities.
  • Pay attention to your desires and needs. Allow yourself to do what you enjoy and find interesting.
  • Don't take into account everything others say; determine whose opinion and authority truly matter to you.
Remember that your sense of insignificance and worthlessness says nothing about who you truly are. It is a sum of all your experiences that have shaped an unhealthy perception of yourself.

Keep in mind that low self-esteem can be corrected, but it requires regular work on yourself, which can be particularly effective in collaboration with a professional. To rid yourself of this harmful mindset and rediscover self-love, consider seeking help from a psychologist. This will allow you to regain a sense of self-worth and restore positive self-esteem. Fill out a brief questionnaire on our website, and we will quickly connect you with an effective psychologist tailored to your needs.
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