"Be yourself." "You do you." "Listen to your heart." The messages behind authenticity are beautiful ones: you are the center of your world and you are the only voice that matters. But while such phrases are inspiring, we live in a world that bombards us with beliefs, opinions and general emotional noise. This creates a dilemma that many of us struggle with–how do I think like myself when everyone and everything is trying to tell me how to think?
If I could talk to the teenage version of myself about authenticity, I know what I would say. I would tell her the very things she is afraid make her "weird" are actually the things that make her awesome. I would tell her to stop wasting energy being afraid of judgment, and to put that energy towards enjoying the things that make her happy.
Failure. It's not a nice word, is it? For many of us, we see failure as a glaring red stop sign. "Go no further," failure tells us, "You are not good enough to succeed." But did you know Walt Disney's first animation company was dissolved within six months? That J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter was rejected by 12 publishers? For both, failure was not a stopping point–they continued to try until they found success. How did they keep believing in themselves, instead of seeing failure as a message they couldn't succeed? They separated their work from their self-worth.
What is self-worth? How does self-worth show in our actions? I recently met two students who had both received a B+ on a test. While the first was practically jumping with joy, the second was more subdued. When I asked the latter if she felt the same excitement as her peer, she responded, "I can't stop thinking about how many questions I missed. I'm an idiot." Though both earned the same grade, one saw it as a sign of her worth, while the other saw it as a sign of worthlessness. This led me to think about, how do we define self-worth? What is it that makes one person believe they are worthy, while another that they are worthless?
Explore your low self-esteem? How do you do that? Picture a road map. On one side is a bright red dot, labeled "High Self-Esteem." This is our destination, the place we dream of arriving. Our map is covered in routes that twist and turn, approaching the red dot from all different directions. On our journey we will be able to explore these, finding the ones that lead us closer to our goal. But in order to begin, we need to find the dot labeled "You Are Here." We have to know our starting point. We have to explore the starting point of our low self-esteem to know how to raise it.
You might be prone to feel jealous of other people's success and to feel worse about yourself if you suffer from low self-esteem. This is why it’s important to perceive other people’s achievements in a different light. Not only is it unhealthy to let your self-esteem be swayed by what other people are doing, it is also wasteful and unproductive to be jealous of other people's success.
It's hard to feel confident around others when you're feeling insecure or anxious. Many people struggle with finding the right words, talking too much or not enough, which makes everyone uncomfortable. It's very common to feel insecure around new people, in work or academic situations or when you're in the presence of a strong personality. It's possible to feel more confident, even in the most intimidating circumstances, with this quick communication tip.
Self-esteem impacts career success and low self-esteem can be one of the countless roadblocks that you will encounter when you follow a particular career path. Whether you’re setting up a business or developing a skill that you’re passionate about, there can be a lot of hardship involved – you may make disheartening mistakes and be confronted with serious financial struggles (Emotional Resilience: Bounce Back from Difficulty). When you commit yourself to an authentic career path, low self-esteem is another major setback you may have to contend with. It can make you give up when the going gets tough and cause you to doubt your abilities. It’s imperative to shake off this mental baggage causing low self-esteem that hinders career success.
Building self-esteem in relationships requires effort. People may wonder, therefore, what they will actually gain by digesting all of this information and advice on building self-esteem and changing their habits of thought and behavior. Of course, we should promote healthy self-esteem not just because it changes how you see yourself but also because it can drastically improve your life in so many ways. Let’s focus on self-esteem in relationships as an example.
Depression and low self-esteem can be closely connected, and boosting your self-esteem when they both appear can be difficult. When you live with low self-esteem for a long time, you may come to believe that you are inherently worthless, and this deep sense of worthlessness is a common symptom of depression. Conversely, if you’ve lived with depression for a long time, your self-esteem can be impacted. Perhaps when the motivation and energy are drained out of you, you lose confidence in your abilities and value. Boosting your self-esteem then can be particularly challenging.