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6 simple ways to build lasting self-esteem

Low self-esteem can contribute to depression or anxiety, and the truth is it’s important to feel good about yourself. Here, clinical psychological Cliff Battley reveals the simplest ways that can help boost your confidence.  

We are an incredibly simple species who all want the same two things:

1. To be happy within ourselves

2. To be happy with others

But in my two plus decades of helping people to build and experience happiness, I have come to understand that those who struggle in the relationship they share with themselves, tend to encounter difficulty in gaining and maintaining successful relationships with others. In psychology, we describe the relationship with ourselves as our self-esteem: simply meaning how much you enjoy being yourself. Or better still, how much you value yourself.

People with higher self-esteem are more likely to enjoy healthier relationships. When we are feeling less than special, downright angry or disappointed in ourselves, we can show-up that way to others.

Here are six powerful strategies you can begin using today to build the relationship you share with yourself, which will dramatically improve the ones you share with others.

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6 simple ways to build lasting self-esteem

1. Know the rules of fear

Every time you face and overcome a challenge you build your self-esteem. Every time you ‘handle it’ you gain a growing sense of self-confidence. You become increasingly certain that you will survive. Once you understand this, then you can embrace fear. You will hunger for the challenges of life, knowing they are rocket fuel for your self-esteem. Being afraid will be reason enough for you to test yourself.

Here’s a little inside information for you. I have never met a person who has not experienced fear. Neither have you. I have worked with thousands of people and every one of them has expressed fear in some way or another.

If you refuse to quit you cannot fail. So you have nothing to fear. You can handle it. You always have, you always will.

2. Manage your relationships

The quality of our relationships often reflect the types of people we are. Self-confident, happy people, tend to have strong and healthy relationships.

Think about someone you know who is happy most of the time. Notice how they relate to others. Are they in conflict? Rarely. Do they repeatedly complain about their friends and associates? Rarely. Do they commonly blame others for their problems? Not likely. Now think of someone whose personality is punctuated by drama, tension or anger. Now answer the questions above. Do you get some different answers?

You get the picture.

3. Believe in a manner which makes you proud to be you

If you want to build your self-esteem, behave in a way that makes you proud to be you. Whether you are alone or with others, be this way. Set your standards and live true to them. If you admire and respect genuinely kind, caring, honest and hard-working people, then be that yourself. This is how you realise your potential. This is your life purpose. To be someone you would want as a best friend.

Deep within you, is the knowledge you require to do this. You were born with it. All you need to do is behave that way. Practice it and you will become an expert at being an authentically good human who leaves everyone better than you found them.

4. Walk tall, walk proud

Speak and act with confidence. Walk purposefully with a confident stride. You don’t have to feel confident to do these things; it’s a decision you make, and although it may be uncomfortable at first, you will warm to it quicker than you expect.

Here are a couple of top tips I give my clients to effectively improve their self-esteem.

If you want others to see you as capable then be frank with your knowledge

If you don’t know the topic, or the answer to a question, respond with a calm, “I am unsure about that.” People with healthy self-esteem are well aware of the impossibility of knowing everything about everything.

Focus on the person speaking and make strong eye contact

When you pay close attention to another person they will notice you are connected to them. They will read you as interesting, focused, appealing and confident.

Stop worrying

Public affairs, or meeting new people can be daunting and more often than not we can be guilty of comparing ourselves to others. We may fear not being good enough and so worry we don’t fit in with the rest of the room. Worry no more. I have a secret weapon for you. It is one of my all-time favourite self-esteem building strategies. I call it ‘The Great Evener’. Here’s how it works.

Walk into any room full of strangers and say to yourself, “Everybody here has loved something, lost something and is afraid of something.” You’ve instantly made sure they are all on the same level as you. You are all one and the same. I’m giving this to you so you can use it whenever you need. I promise you, the effect it will have on your confidence and self-esteem is priceless.

5. Manage your addictive tendencies

Every intelligent person knows that excess stimulation, through alcohol, narcotics, sex and any other addictive behaviour will eventually destroy the body, the brain, motivation, discipline and creative effort.

Addiction is a behaviour that controls you. You decide to allow these behaviours to override your better reasoning and judgment. This is toxic for our self-esteem because in a sense we are treating ourselves as if we are not worth fighting for. Addiction is real but it is also treatable. Manage addiction and you manage yourself. Few things will give you more self-confidence than overcoming addiction.

6. Understand love is a behaviour

If you want to build your self-esteem you must know love is a behaviour. Love is not a feeling. It is a series of behaviours which you combine in your head and equate as love. The feeling is happiness and the thought is one of joy, safety and belonging. The most pure behaviour you can choose is the loving one. In fact many would say love is the only permanent facet of life.

Those with higher self-esteem behave lovingly toward themselves. They know it is their behaviours on which they must focus and are brave enough to deliver, receive and be accountable to them. If you want higher self-esteem, then be proactive with your self-loving behaviours.

Tell yourself every day, “I love you” and be the first to say it to those you love. When you match it with loving behaviour, you make others feel safe and worthy, and you become powerful and loveable. This is how you offer your best to the world. In this place you can realise your true potential for creating greatness. You will find yourself easy to like. Every time you show love, your self-esteem will grow.

Cliff Battley is a Registered Clinical Psychologist with over 25 years of experience working in physical and mental health. Find more of his tips for happiness and building self-esteem in his new Ebook.