The Long, Gradual Process of Building Self-Esteem
The process of building self-esteem can be a slow one because low self-esteem may have already caused many issues in your life, affecting your job, relationships, and personal development. When you instinctively view yourself in a negative, harsh way, this can also be a painful experience. This can lead to persistent feelings of sadness, depression, anxiety, anger, guilt, and shame. If you’re determined to build self-esteem and improve your mental health, you may want a quick fix. But it’s important to understand that the process of building self-esteem is often long and gradual. Here’s why.
Living with Low Self-Esteem
For many people (myself included), low self-esteem is a problem they’ve lived with for a long time. This is because the self-critical thoughts you have often originated in your early childhood and upbringing. This inner critic can also be strengthened by the kind of culture and society you live in, which has certain expectations and pressures about what a "successful" or "normal" life trajectory looks like.
Low self-esteem is a kind of habit. When stressful life events occur, it’s as if your mind is a record player, and your self-esteem is a record with grooves that will determine what thoughts are going to play out. However, new grooves can be carved out. The record doesn’t have to stay the same.
The first step in the process of building self-esteem is to realize that your attitudes towards yourself are unhealthy and that you want to change them. You need to understand that you are capable of viewing yourself differently, as well as the benefits that this will entail. But after that, the real hard work begins.
Accept the Process of Building Self-Esteem as Long and Gradual
Low self-esteem is not something that can be wished away or fixed overnight. It is extremely unlikely that you will have some sort of epiphany about your self-worth and that this will cause your low self-esteem issues to vanish forever. Challenging and reversing irrational beliefs about yourself takes time, effort, discipline, and practice.
The process of building self-esteem can take years for some people. That’s completely normal. So don't be disheartened if you struggle in this process and fall back into negative ways of thinking along the way. The most beneficial thing you can do is to stay determined, no matter how many times the inner critic raises its voice.
While there may be days when you feel on top of things, with your inner critic completely silent, this doesn’t mean low self-esteem has disappeared. You need to have resources, tools, and strategies that allow you to combat negative self-talk when it next arises. Nevertheless, the more times you challenge low self-esteem, the easier it will be to challenge it in the future. This is the logic that applies to adopting all habits. The more you stick to a positive habit, the less burdensome it feels, becoming more like a routine part of daily life.
Changing your diet or lifestyle in a major is always hard at the beginning but it eventually becomes second nature, given enough consistency and time. So think of building self-esteem in terms of changing your habits. Also, if you’ve lived with the unhealthy habit of low self-esteem all your life, then it will undoubtedly be difficult to break that familiar, comfortable way of thinking. But low self-esteem is not set in stone, no matter how persistent it is. It is always possible to gain a more balanced and realistic perspective on yourself. Learning to value yourself may be a long process but the rewards of self-discovery are certainly worth the struggle.
Woolfe, S. (2018, December 26). The Long, Gradual Process of Building Self-Esteem, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2023, December 11 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/buildingselfesteem/2018/12/the-long-gradual-process-of-building-self-esteem