March 14, 2024

The Building Blocks of Self-Esteem

By Alex Stewart
Identity Development
Mental Health & Wellbeing

Our self-esteem can be seen as one of the foundations of life and how we navigate the world. It influences every aspect of our lives, including our relationships, professional choices, and our overall well-being. Often, we are encouraged in society to find validation from external sources, but it is imperative that we are able to build genuine, positive self-esteem. In this blog, we’ll explore feasible strategies to cultivate and nurture self-esteem and positive self-image through all stages of life.

What is Self-Esteem?

Self-esteem is our perception of self, bound to our beliefs, values, capabilities and worth. It is how we negatively or positively view ourselves. It is important to remember that focusing on building self-esteem is a delicate balance of monitoring the line between realistic, compassionate threshold of positive perception and troubling arrogance. Being able to assess and maintain that balance can optimize personal growth.

Cornerstones of Building Self-Esteem:

Embracing Self-Compassion

How often have you been able to extend kindness and compassion to others when they are experiencing something painful, made a mistake, or didn’t reach a goal they set? We support others in our lives day in and day out. Now what would it look like to extend that same compassion to yourself? Establishing that kindness with yourself promotes safety within yourself. With this safety, there is room for exploration of self and personal growth. (Tip: Finding it difficult to embrace self-compassion? It can be helpful to put the language of treating yourself like a friend or family member into action. Questions like “how would I support a friend?” or “what would I say to a friend?” are a great place to start!)

Setting Realistic, Attainable Goals

It is important to set realistic goals no matter what they pertain to. Without setting goals that are realistic for where you are, a self-fulfilling prophecy around failure and worth can further negatively impact self-esteem. Establishing achievable goals will foster feelings of accomplishment, build autonomy and confidence which reinforces a positive perception of self. This can look like setting smaller goals or breaking bigger goals into specific steps– in both cases, it can be important to set aside space and time to celebrate these goals, no matter how small they may feel.

Positive Self-Talk & Affirmations

Negative self-talk is a champion of viewing oneself as less than. It can be easy to get lost in the habit and not realize just how toxic our own thoughts about self can be. Targeting and challenging negative thought patterns is incredibly helpful in promoting a healthy self-esteem. This can start with engaging in mindfulness activities  and meditation to identify these thoughts. Once these thoughts are identified, replacing and/or meeting these negative thoughts with positive affirmations or self-gratitude promotes optimism and are a start towards building a positive self view.

Having a Support System

Leaning on a support system can often create inappropriate feelings of shame and guilt which are huge hits to self-esteem. Humans thrive on connection and community; there’s no shame in needing help. Prioritize building a community of friends, family (chosen or biological), mentors, or coworkers that are positive and uplifting. Surrounding yourself with positive relationships provides additional foundation for one’s self-esteem in their differing perspectives and support, while increasing internal positivity.

Openness to Learning

Being able to learn from past experiences that were difficult, painful or were labeled a failure. Allow yourself to process the negative emotions that come with these experiences in order to eventually view them more practically, learning lessons for the future and personal growth. Remember that everyone makes mistakes and no one is perfect – mistakes do not warrant negative self-talk despite being examples of where a person can grow.

Nurturing Self

Simple self-care can be powerful when framed as nurturing activities that a person deserves. Prioritizing taking care of physical and mental health is a basic building block of self-esteem. Engaging in healthy habits (moving your body, restful sleep, fueling your body, and mindfulness), allowing yourself to feel, and doing hobbies or activities that you enjoy are imperative to having a positive self-image. (Tip: It can be difficult to engage in these activities when mood and/or self-esteem is low. Connecting self-care to the Positive Self-talk & Affirmations can be helpful.)

The processing of building and maintaining self-esteem is a long, ongoing journey that never ends. It requires patience, openness to be self-reflective, compassion and dedication. There will be days where cultivating self-esteem will feel like a breeze, while other days it will feel completely impossible. It is important to remember that journeys such as these are not linear– building self-esteem is often part of healing from the past and breaking habits that cultivated negativity.

Feel like you’re struggling with a negative self-view and building self-esteem? Reach out to connect with one of our therapists.

Written By

Alex Stewart

Ready to set up your first appointment?

If you haven’t been in touch with us yet, you can get started by filling out our intake form.