If you know someone who is struggling with low self-esteem, you may have many instinctive reactions about how best to help him or her. Also, when that person is someone you deeply care about, you may think that you have to go to a lot of extra effort to boost his or her self-esteem; which is understandable – it just shows you’re trying to be supportive. However, for someone who has low self-esteem, there are certain things you might say which – although said with positive intentions – can be quite unhelpful. In fact, certain comments can make that person feel worse about themselves. Here are some examples of things to avoid saying to someone with low self-esteem.
Building Self Esteem
You might think relationships and self-esteem improve one another, and sometimes they do. But it's dangerous to rely on a relationship to boost your self-esteem. Here's why.
Bad habits--they're pesky little things, aren't they? I imagine just reading the phrase makes you picture one of yours. Maybe your bad habit is biting your nails, or not responding to texts, or leaving the dishes in the sink. It's the thing you do that deep down, you know you don't like. But sometimes our bad habits aren't just small annoyances. Sometimes they burrow into our identity and affect our ability to build self-esteem. When bad habits affect self-esteem, what do we do?
A toxic boss affects your self-esteem because, for many people, the workplace is a large area of their lives that affects their self-esteem. When you work in a healthy work environment, this can give you opportunities to build your self-esteem. If, on the other hand, you find yourself spending five days a week working with a toxic boss who tries to bring you down, then you may find yourself plagued by self-doubt and self-criticism. One of the most difficult things you might encounter in your career path is a bad boss – the kind of toxic boss who you dread seeing each day because you know those encounters will dampen your mood and hurt your self-confidence. If you’re worried that your boss is undermining your self-esteem, look out for the following tell-tale signs.
A quick story about toxic people and self-esteem: Imagine you decide to plant a tiny sprout in your garden. When it flourishes, it will bring you deep joy. But first, it needs your focus and care to grow. Those who come into your garden and see your sprout give you support and space, encouraging your progress. But occasionally, a different kind of person comes into your garden. Knowingly or unknowingly, they march across the soil, step on your plants, and in the worst-case scenario, grind your tiny sprout into nothing.
What is the crab mentality? When you have a bunch of live crabs in a bucket, you can notice something quite interesting. As a crab tries to escape out of the bucket, the other crabs will try to drag it back down into the bucket. This unique behavior of crabs has since been used as a metaphor for how many people behave when noticing the success of others. If someone else has made some great achievement or is making progress in some area of their life, there can sometimes be a tendency to diminish that person or their success. This is known as the crab mentality. And it may actually be a sign of low self-esteem.
How's your body image? Are you attractive? Do you like the way you look? Do other people think you're beautiful? It's hard to talk about body image without sinking deep into our most vulnerable places. As standards of beauty become progressively less realistic (hello Instagram filters, goodbye pores), being able to have an honest conversation with ourselves about our looks becomes increasingly difficult. Yet we each live within our own, unique bodies every day–being able to look at them in a realistic (and non-damaging) way is a valuable tool towards understanding who we are, developing a healthy body image, and ultimately towards building self-esteem.
Mental health support groups can help you improve your self-esteem. Although there are many different techniques to build self-esteem, from various forms of therapy to self-help exercises, mental health support groups could also play a part. They help because, sometimes, what we really need to build self-esteem is increased connection with others. For people living with low self-esteem, it can sometimes feel like you’re the only one struggling with this problem. But the reality is that many people also live with low self-esteem, whether that’s because of a mental health condition or as a standalone issue.
Do we have to conquer fear? I've gone through some changes in my life recently that have me thinking about fear. In particular, how we react to feeling afraid. Why are some fears considered perfectly acceptable, while others fill us with shame and demand action? Being afraid of an aggressive animal, an impending surgery, or a loved one experiencing harm are all considered rational and acceptable. Yet we tend to hide our fears of social interaction, object/behaviors that feel uncomfortable, or people who affect us. So, what makes certain fears unpalatable? What makes us decide a fear is unfounded or embarrassing? Why are some fears allowed, while other fears must be conquered?
There are many techniques that can help you build self-esteem on your own, but sometimes, therapy for low self-esteem is necessary. You might feel you need therapy for self-esteem issues if they are showing no signs of improvement. Also, your low self-esteem may be interfering with your life – you may be so self-critical that you notice this impacting your work, social life, and relationships. Therapy for low self-esteem can help you address the negative patterns of thinking and behavior that you’re trapped in, as well as allow you to address the root causes of your feelings of unworthiness.