Mind Your Mind: How do you build self-esteem?

Today, I am going to talk about self-esteem. The reason I chose this topic is because I recently bought The Self-Esteem Workbook, 2nd edition, written by Glenn R. Schiraldi, PhD. My goal is to build more confidence in myself, so I thought I could use some guidance. Self-help workbooks are a great starting point for some of us, so if that resonates with you, I encourage you to give them a try!

What is self-esteem?

There are many ways to define self-esteem, but this particular book defines self-esteem as “a realistic, appreciative opinion of oneself.”

Note that self-esteem is different from self-defeating shame or humility (feeling like the dust of the earth) and self-defeating pride (arrogance, narcissism). Self-esteem, then, is walking the middle path. People with self-esteem “are deeply and quietly glad to be who they are.”

What are the foundational elements of self-esteem?

The three main components required for building self-esteem include unconditional worth, love and growing. There are specific sets of skills that can help you build that strong foundation, and I will explore them in subsequent articles.

What is the first step toward building self-esteem?

So, the first step if you want to build self-esteem is to check in with yourself. Try reflecting on the following questions:

  • Do you think you are worthwhile as a person?
  • Do you consider yourself a valuable person as anyone else?
  • Do you have qualities about yourself that you enjoy?
  • Mostly, are you happy to be who you are, or do you feel like a failure?

Regardless of what happens, people with self-esteem love and support themselves, even in the face of rejection. A good indicator of self-esteem is whether you respect yourself and don’t wish to be someone else.

What are the pros and cons of change and building self-esteem?

Some people can be hesitant when it comes to building self-esteem, including me. I find change to be scary and uncertain, so it’s normal to be anxious about the overall process. The book suggests doing a cost-benefit analysis. List the pros and cons of disliking versus liking yourself.

Examples from the book on the advantages of self-dislike that resonated with me included:

  • No risk. I have no expectations of myself, nor others.
  • It keeps me from developing self-defeating pride.
  • The world is predictable. I understand when people don’t accept me because I don’t accept myself. I understand not having to try.

On the other hand, the disadvantages of self-dislike cited in the book include:

  • It is very painful.
  • Life is no fun.
  • It creates a vicious cycle: because I have low expectation of self, I don’t try. Then others treat me poorly. They interpret my pessimism and apathy as indicators of incompetence. Their poor treatment confirms my low opinion of myself.

Those examples above resonated with me, and I came to the conclusion that despite the challenges, there are several benefits of emotional change. Right now in my life, I think that disliking myself is a problem that I would like to solve. I hope that once I build more self-esteem, I will be less driven by fear, more motivated, happier and more comfortable making mistakes. The benefits for me also include worrying less and cultivating healthy relationships.

If you feel stuck right now and wonder if self-esteem is a problem for you, I invite you to do a self-esteem check up. Be honest with yourself.

If you’re still unsure, try making a list of pros and cons. What are the benefits of building self-esteem and how would your life be different?

At the end of the day, it’s up to you whether you want to change. But I do believe that everyone has what it takes to make an inner commitment and follow through. We all have the capacity to make wise choices and choose what’s best for us.

Stay tuned for more articles on skills for building self-esteem!

The authors of this column are not mental health professionals. If you need additional support, please contact Student Health Services, Sexual Assault Support Centre and/or the Wellness Centre. In case of an emergency, call 911.