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People with good self-esteem have positive, yet realistic expectations about themselves. They tend to believe that they can accomplish the things they want to in life. Even when things go poorly, people with self-esteem can feel bad about these situations, but they do not believe that it impacts their worth as a person. They tend to take risks, even ones that scare them. While they value love and acceptance from others, their actions aren't guided by the approval of others.
Many different factors can impact how our self-esteem develops. These include messages we may have received from our family, our experiences in school, as well as messages we receive from society. In turn, we may internalize these messages and feel bad about ourselves. Or, alternately, set unrealistic expectations for ourselves.
These unrealistic expectations may include:
- If I am not loved and accepted by everyone, then I am worthless.
- If I am not perfect, then I am worthless.
- Because of the bad things that have happened to me in the past, I am worthless.
Improving Self-Esteem, Improving Self-Compassion
There are many strategies for actively improving self-esteem. However, we want to highlight an alternative approach: Improving self-compassion.
While self-esteem focuses on positive evaluations of ourselves, self-compassion focuses on our relationship to ourselves. People are deserving of love and respect not because they are special. Rather, they deserving of love because they are human beings.
- Self-kindness. Talk to yourself as you would a friend, rather than as a critic.
- Recognizing our common humanity. Feeling weak or imperfect doesn't make you different. In fact, it makes you human like everyone else who struggles.
- Mindfulness. To move past difficult feelings, we must first acknowledge that they exist.
To learn more about self-compassion, as well as why negative self-criticism doesn't work, watch Kristen Neffs TED TALK
Self Esteem Journal