Cultivating and Sustaining Self-Esteem

Written by: Pansiluni Hasanjana Weerawansa

Photo by Pawel Czerwinski on Unsplash

Lord Buddha once said, “You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.” It leaves us pondering over the concept of self-esteem. Being a significant factor that influences our life, it acts as a cornerstone upon which our emotional well-being is built. 

A large research review conducted by psychologists at the University of California, Davis, and the University of Bern suggests that high self-esteem can have a positive influence in many areas of people’s lives (UC Davis). Similarly, understanding the essence of self-esteem, its impact on mental health, and effective strategies for nurturing and preserving it is crucial for leading a fulfilling life. 

In essence, self-esteem is about giving respect and value to yourself. The American Psychological Association defines self-esteem as “the degree to which the qualities and characteristics contained in one’s self-concept are perceived to be positive.” 

First and foremost, it is vital to differentiate between the healthy and the unhealthy viewpoints of self-esteem. Whilst healthy self-esteem involves a balanced and realistic view of our strengths and weaknesses, unhealthy self-esteem often involves distorted perceptions, harsh self-criticism, and underestimating and devaluing oneself.  

Let’s dive into the amazing benefits of self-esteem. 

Psychological Resilience: Individuals with high self-esteem are better equipped to handle life’s challenges and setbacks. They have a resilient mindset, enabling them to bounce back from failures and setbacks more effectively as opposed to those who have low levels of self-esteem. Given that failures and setbacks are more common than we think it is crucial that we maintain a good level of self-esteem to help ourselves.  

Emotional Stability: Healthy self-esteem fosters emotional stability, reducing susceptibility to stress, anxiety, and depression. When we feel confident in ourselves, we’re better able to regulate our emotions and cope with life’s ups and downs. 

Healthy Relationships: The profound impact of self-esteem on relationships cannot be overstated. Individuals endowed with a robust sense of self-worth tend to navigate relationships with grace and authenticity. Rooted in a deep-seated appreciation of their own value, they are less inclined to seek external validation or approval. Instead, they approach relationships from a place of confidence and autonomy, nurturing an environment conducive to mutual respect and understanding.  

Pursuit of Goals: The indomitable spirit of individuals fortified with high self-esteem propels them toward the pursuit of lofty aspirations and audacious dreams. Endowed with an unwavering belief in their abilities, they embark upon the journey of self-actualization with zeal and determination.  

On the other hand, there are myriads of ways to boost one’s self esteem.  

Practising Self Compassion: Treat yourself with kindness and understanding, especially during times of difficulty or failure. We can begin by replacing our self-criticism with self-compassion in times of failure coming into the understanding that mistakes are bound to happen. 

Set Realistic Goals: Set achievable goals that align with your abilities and interests. Break larger goals into smaller, manageable steps, celebrating each accomplishment along the way. 

Challenge Negative Thoughts: Become aware of negative self-talk and challenge irrational beliefs about yourself. Replace negative thoughts with more balanced and constructive ones. Instead of saying “I failed this test, so it means I am incapable and a failure” replace it with “I experienced a setback, and I will use this setback to improve myself and grow.”  

Practice Self-Care: Prioritise self-care activities that nourish your body, mind, and soul. Healthy diets, exercise, adequate rest, engaging in activities that boost your happiness can be useful.  

Surround Yourself with Positive Influences: Surround yourself with supportive and encouraging individuals who uplift and validate you. Reduce and withdraw from exposing yourself to toxic friendships and relationships that harm your self-confidence and make you doubt yourself.  

By understanding the importance of self-esteem and implementing strategies to boost and maintain it, we can cultivate a more positive and fulfilling sense of self. Remember, building self-esteem is a journey, not a destination, and it requires patience, practice, and self-compassion.