Self-esteem. This is something that’s been on my mind a lot recently.
Admittedly, it can be a slightly uncomfortable topic to discuss, and I think this is especially true for women.
With society’s many pressures and changing expectations placed on women, we often find ourselves trying to balance the “right amount” of self-esteem.
If we have too little self-esteem, we’re seen as weak. When we have too much, we’re criticized for conceit.
But what is “too little” or “too much?”
Do we have to have one or the other?
Today I want to suggest no, we don’t.
In fact, I want to challenge this accepted belief system by presenting a third alternative, which is having a healthy self-esteem.
A person with healthy self-esteem is someone who can celebrate their strengths and recognize areas for improvement.
A person with healthy self-esteem doesn’t expect perfection from themselves, because let’s be honest; perfection is a unicorn, and it doesn’t exist.
Instead, a person with healthy self-esteem stays true to who they are. They show up in the world as the best version of themselves, and they know that they’re enough.
In order to discover and embrace this healthy self-esteem, however, I think it’s important that we dive into low self-esteem a bit further.
Because so many of us struggle with low self-esteem without even knowing it.
So today I want to explore 3 signs of low self-esteem, and then offer actionable strategies to kick each situation to the curb.
Are you ready?
Let’s do this.
3 Signs of Low-Self Esteem and How to Overcome It
#1 Sign of Low Self-Esteem: You’re Lost in Shame
Ah, shame, that horribly uncomfortable, yet all-too-familiar feeling with which we all struggle at different times.
According to shame researcher/storyteller Brené Brown, shame is that “intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging – something we’ve experienced, done, or failed to do makes us unworthy of connection.”
Shame is that ugly feeling that makes you want to hide. You might hide emotionally by covering up your unique personality. You might hide physically by hunching your shoulders, walking with your head down, or avoiding eye contact. And you might try to “cover up” the shameful areas by overcompensating in different areas of your life.
How to Deal With Shame
If you ever find yourself falling into a shame spiral, the first step is to recognize this downward momentum and stop it in its tracks.
Think about the factors that are causing your feelings of shame – are they internal, external, or both?
Reach out to someone you trust and share those feelings aloud.
Let this person know that you’re dealing with some shame and you need to talk it through. Tell them know you don’t need a solution, and that you’re looking for someone to listen and truly hear your situation.
You see, often voicing these feelings to another person, making that deep connection, and exchanging feelings of empathy and understanding, are all it takes to help reverse that shame spiral and start pulling you out.
If you find yourself falling into the shame spiral frequently, I cannot recommend the work of Brené Brown enough. Her research has had a profound influence on my life, and I highly encourage you to check it out.
Here is a fantastic video to get you started:
And if you want to dive deeper, I recommend checking out The Power of Vulnerability. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve listened to this recording. It’s seriously life-changing.
#2 Sign of Low Self-Esteem: You Fear Failure
Growing up in our society today, it is easy to fall into the belief that what we do is who we are.
Just think about it. When you meet someone for the first time, one of the initial questions we ask is: “what do you do?”
Similarly, when we introduce ourselves, we often say something like, “Hi! I’m Paula, I’m a teacher, a blogger, and a coach.”
Rarely do we say, “Hi! I’m Paula. I love walking with my dog, Bruno, in the afternoon. My husband and I love quoting movies and song lyrics. And I have an obsession with yoga pants.
Both of the above introductions are true, but as a society, we focus much more on what we do as a representation of who we are.
Because of this thought process, that means if we mess up, if we make a mistake, if we fail, we are – fundamentally – a failure.
UGH – what a horrible thought! What an unhealthy and painful idea!
Yet, so many of us struggle with not being “enough” every day.
So how can we overcome that fear of failure?
What can we do to move past that hurdle, break through the low self-esteem, and feel a sense of confidence again?
I like to move in three stages:
- Worst Case Scenario
- Positive Affirmation
I’ve talked about the values of visualization in the past, and I think it’s especially powerful in helping us break through the fear of failure.
Take some time to visualize the best-case scenario surrounding the project or situation that’s causing you fear. Allow yourself to dream about all of the wonderful opportunities that will come your way if you took that chance, started that project, or accepted that job offer.
By practicing this visualization process, you see all of the incredible opportunities you might miss if fear maintains control. What’s more, you also boost your excitement about the opportunity, which further motivates you to get going.
Worst Case Scenario
Okay, so we talked about visualizing the ideal situation, now let’s talk about the worst-case scenario.
I realize this might seem counterintuitive but stick with me for a minute.
Take some time to understand what the absolute worst-case scenario actually is. Think it through, recognize the true source of your fear, and then tell a friend about it. (Promise me that you won’t skimp on the details.)
As I mentioned in my post about overcoming anxiety, by talking with a friend and sharing your (often outrageous) fear, you quickly realize how unlikely it is that the situation will happen. By speaking your anxieties aloud to someone else, you minimize fear’s power, which allows you to focus on the good instead.
Once you know the worst-case scenario, then it’s time to practice if-then statements.
What’s an if-then statement? Great question!
An if-then statement is an easy strategy to help you create a plan and silence your fear. All you need to do is state your obstacle, and then offer a solution. It’s as simple as that!
For example, IF [worst case scenario X] happens, THEN I will [insert your plan here.]
By coming up with a plan, you kick fear to the curb, and you silence those worrying thoughts that paralyze you from taking action.
I know, I know. Sometimes our fears are so big that positive affirmations sound like a joke. Perhaps you’re thinking, there’s no way positive thoughts are going to boost my confidence and self-esteem surrounding this situation. It’s way too intense.
I hear you. I felt the same way for years.
But then I gave it a try and I quickly changed my tune.
So, before you write positive affirmations off completely, do yourself a favor and give it a try for a little while. I’ve found they are a truly powerful way to silence even the most negative thoughts and replace them with empowering and motivational beliefs.
And best of all, it’s so simple to do!
Every time those disparaging thoughts creep into your head, shove them aside with a positive affirmation.
Now admittedly, for many of us (myself included), this practice might feel uncomfortable at first. And this is especially true if you state your affirmations out loud (the most effective approach.) But the more you practice, the easier it gets, and the more wholeheartedly you embrace those positive beliefs.
As you create your affirmations and begin the process of repeating them every day, keep these four tips in mind:
- State your affirmations in the present tense. This commands your mind to believe them in the here and now.
- Strive to truly believe these affirmations. It might not come easily at first, but don’t give up.
- Remember, affirmations don’t need to be your present reality. In fact, many people argue that affirmations become true; that’s what makes them so powerful.
- Repeat them every day – multiple times a day, if necessary.
Need help thinking of positive affirmations? You got it! Grab 40 effective positive affirmations here and start shifting your mindset today!
#3 Sign of Low Self-Esteem: You Can’t Say No
Calling all people pleasers. This section is for you.
While “yes” can be a powerful word filled with promise, for many of us who struggle with low self-esteem, it can be destructive.
When we feel obligated to say “yes” even when we don’t want to, we sacrifice our own wants, needs, and wellbeing for the sake of others.
And as I continually remind everyone who will listen, you can’t pour from an empty cup. Self-care first.
As Shauna Niequist wisely reminds us, “you can’t have yes without no…if you’re not careful with your yeses, you start to say no to some very important things without even realizing it.”
You start saying no to you. To your family. To your deep values and beliefs.
So today I challenge yourself to push aside your concerns about what “other people think.”
I challenge you to brush off that need for approval from others and start listening to your gut.
Start saying yes to yourself, and watch your personal transformation start taking shape.
And there you have it, friends. 3 strategies to recognize low self-esteem and replace it with healthy, positive, confidence.
How do you practice healthy self-esteem? Do you ever use positive affirmations? How do you make sure you’re making your best “yeses?” Share your thoughts below!