Strengthen self-esteem: In 10 easy steps

Victor Fleming is the director of, what is perhaps, the most famous movie of all time: Gone with the Wind with Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh. With the film, the creative Californian, who incidentally began his career as a racing car driver, created a wonderful lesson about self-esteem – he also overstrained the patience of some colleagues on the set and the budget: This is what his heart attack producer, David O. asked him. Selznick, why is it necessary that Scarlett and her sisters have to wear petticoats made of precious, hand-made Belgian lace? After all, nobody would see that in the cinema seat or under the clothes. “But the actresses know,” Fleming is said to have replied. “And because they know that petticoats are sinfully expensive, they feel like they are supposed to play: spoiled, rich landlord’s daughters.” It’s all a question of that self-esteem …

How self-esteem works

Of course, it was wasted, but this story shows that you need a certain attitude towards yourself to radiate self-confidence.

“Of all the judgments we come to in life, none is as important as the one we make about ourselves,” writes Gerlinde Unverzagt. The way we judge ourselves, the relationship with ourselves, affects whether we are successful at work, whether we have a happy relationship and how we deal with challenges.

Self-esteem works like an inner protective shield. It is inseparable from the belief in one’s possibilities.

People with a healthy sense of self-worth are convinced that they can influence themselves and their environment. This belief provides strength and energy and it makes it possible in the first place to overcome difficulties and challenges.

“When we don’t believe in ourselves, that we are effective, nor generally good, nor lovable, the world we live in is a frightening and cold place,” writes the Californian psychotherapist Nathaniel Branden.

Recognition from outside influences self-esteem, because people want to be valued for what they give and achieve.

It starts in early childhood.

Often, the reasons for poor self-esteem lie in childhood when one’s needs have not been met. The parents have a particularly important role in the development of healthy self-esteem: You are the first that one can convey that you are a valuable person who is loved. That strengthens from within and gives security.

But the way parents treat the child also plays a role. A lack of respectful interaction and being mocked or exposed as a child damages self-esteem. You then develop the conviction that you are not right the way you are.

This belief persists even as an adult.

Anyone who uses the profession for self-realization risks a crisis of meaning

My house, my car, my job – for many people these are important values ​​that define themselves. This is how they determine their status, their position in society.

Of course, everyone is free to define what they use to define themselves. But in turbulent times, in which things like this can easily falter, many people’s self-esteem also fluctuates considerably.

  • The job crisis quickly turns into a veritable personality crisis.
  • The loss of a job becomes a loss of face, a social disgrace.

What humiliation when you can suddenly only shrug the answer to the question “And what are you doing?” At social events.

Repeated success, years of an upswing, steady growth – as happy as prosperity and prosperity can make you: they also pose a danger, namely when they lead to excessive expectations. If we assume that all of this, the money, the success, the recognition, is taken for granted and must go on and on.

The mistake of thinking that many commit: They no longer see these things as a result, as a collateral product of their actual efforts and goals, but raise them to a level that they take for granted, a standard that they don’t want to fall below again.

The more we use our profession for self-realization, the more it advances to become the yardstick of self-affirmation. And that can be misleading: no job, no self-actualization, no self-worth. End of the line crisis of meaning.


Understand self-doubt

People with low self-esteem are eaten away by their self-doubt. Your inner voice is like a strict parent who ruthlessly puts your child down for poor performance.

  • If you have low self-esteem, you constantly hold on to your weaknesses and mistakes. You find it difficult to accept compliments and enjoy happy moments.
  • Often they also feel uncomfortable being the center of attention. They expect to experience rejection from those around them, for example, they refer to a lack of recall from friends and acquaintances and automatically think they have done something wrong.
  • Those who have low self-esteem unconsciously look for evidence that supports the poor judgment about themselves.
  • Often these people lack experiences in which they have seen themselves to be successful; Moments in which they could find that they can master challenges.

Beliefs that sabotage our self-esteem

  • I’m not good, smart, beautiful enough.
  • I did not deserve that.
  • I’m already too old for that.
  • I could fail.
  • It matters what others think of me.
  • I don’t have a chance anyway.
  • Nobody likes me.
  • I am a victim of my circumstances.

The consequences of low self-esteem

  • You stay below your possibilities.
  • You are in a vicious circle because you do not dare to achieve a goal and because you do not trust yourself, you do not achieve it in the end.
  • You avoid situations that are new and unfamiliar.

Even more: people who appear to be more self-assured than they are, make life unnecessarily difficult, according to a study by the University of Georgia in Athens: “People with hypocritical self-assurance compensate for their self-doubt by developing exaggerated defense strategies” says research director Michael Kernis. That in turn is perceived by others as hypocritical and unsympathetic. A downward spiral emerges.

Many are thus victims of the brainwashing they have subjected themselves to: “In the age of the mass media, we are constantly comparing ourselves with the incomparable – and that does not encourage us; that makes us jealous, indolent, angry, envious, ”said Norbert Bolz, a media professor at the TU Berlin, for example.

Not infrequently behind this is the fear of rejection. At least we want to keep up so as not to pant afterward. But ultimately that’s exactly what we do. Because our self-worth is largely dependent on the encouragement of others. A more than questionable foundation.

As the name suggests, we are responsible for our self-esteem. So self-worth is a question of (one’s) yardstick. Until then, however, you have to come first. It’s easier to write than to live. But maybe the following recommendations will help …


Overcoming Self-Doubt: How to Boost Your Self-Esteem

Those who do not believe in themselves and their abilities are not convinced of what they can do and create, whatever they set themselves up to do, will not achieve as much in their lives as they could.

You also radiate success, but glamor and glory always begin within. That sounds terribly like esoteric Li-La-Laune gurgling, but it’s not. You just have to look around: In fact, almost all great personalities in history have one thing in common: they believed in themselves (unreservedly). And that wasn’t something they were born with. You had to learn. And everyone else can do that too. The essential lessons about this:

Receive compliments with pleasure.

  1. It is particularly difficult for those with low self-esteem. In his famous inaugural address in 1994, Nelson Mandela said: “It is not our light, not our darkness that frightens us most. We ask ourselves: Who am I to be brilliant, great, talented, and powerful? ”It is precisely these doubts that torment many people. If they receive a compliment, a defensive reaction occurs at the same moment. “I can’t possibly be meant by that”. The devastating judgment that one has made of oneself prevents the compliment from being accepted. But Mandela also knew the solution to this problem: “Better to ask: What are you doing to avoid being all of this?” It will help you accept compliments.

Stop comparing yourself to others.

  1. Continuously comparing yourself with others makes you unhappy in the long run and promotes self-doubt. “Why can’t I have what he has?”, “Why am I not so successful?” Or “Why don’t I have such a beautiful house?” – in the end, most conclude that they don’t deserve it or do something wrong. We tend to exaggerate the other and don’t see the big picture. Your self-esteem should come from within and not rely on doing better than others.

Look at what you can do – everyone can do something.

  1. Realize your strengths and successes. Here we are not talking about clumsily telling yourself “I am great” or “I am strong”, but rather to look at specific situations in which one was proud of oneself. If you can’t think of anything straight away, because many people tend to block and say there is nothing, ask your family and friends about it.

Provide little sense of achievement.

  1. Set realistic, achievable goals and document your progress. By taking responsibility and seeing success, you strengthen faith in your abilities. For example, to speak in the team meeting or to make a suggestion. If you experience at such a moment that you are taken seriously by the boss and colleagues, this will motivate you to face new challenges because you believe you can master them.

Prepare yourself for critical situations.

  1. Everyone has experienced a situation that has shaken their self-esteem, such as being hurt or being rejected by a fellow human being. Remember such situations. Pick out those that have occurred frequently and play them through again in your mind. For example, a customer who often hits below the belt in his criticism. Often you are dissatisfied with your reaction in such situations. How would you have liked to react? Define a limit for yourself that nobody can cross. Prepare words for such a situation. That gives security.

Appease the inner critic.

  1. Every time you judge yourself harshly and feel like a failure, try to look at the situation from the outside. How would you react if the same thing happened to a friend? With other people, many react more empathically and are less merciless. Try to treat yourself like you would treat a friend.

Help your fellow human beings.

  1. University of Michigan psychologist Jennifer Crocker experimented by observing freshmen sharing an apartment. A roommate had the task of providing targeted support to the other, encouraging him. It soon developed into a community that helped and supported each other. She found that this experience greatly increases self-esteem. In her opinion, the responsibility for this is giving. Because doing something good for others makes you feel good about yourself.

Maintain contact with people who are infected with your positive attitude.

  1. Those who constantly surround themselves with complainers become one themselves because a bad mood is contagious. The more you grumble and nag, the more you get into the situation. You concentrate completely on the bad aspects of something and lose the ability to put the whole thing into perspective and see it in context. In this way, a small annoying affair becomes infinite agony. Instead, surround yourself with positive people.

Reward yourself and your daily work. Celebrate successes.

  1. Far too seldom is what one has achieved celebrated. In particular, people with low self-esteem tend to focus on the negative things in your life. Make a conscious decision to change that and celebrate the beautiful moments.
  2. This “memorandum” also helps to motivate yourself to remember your goals and why you can achieve them. 

Do what you love as often as possible.

  1. What you love and what you enjoy fills you and ensures inner satisfaction. Especially if you are in line with your values. Because the gap between what we do and what we want is what makes us unhappy.

The emotional roller coaster ride in crises

“When the self-esteem is cracked, many no longer trust their feelings, thoughts, and physical signals,” said the psychotherapist and book author Bernd Sprenger. The result is stress “which can make you physically ill in the long term because, among other things, it weakens the immune system”.

Such crises of meaning or life usually follow a typical pattern – it ranges from paralysis and sadness to anger or depression. Psychologists also know these phases as the so-called Roller Coaster Ride – a roller coaster ride of emotions, depending on how many efforts and defeats follow. That doesn’t necessarily make it easier for those affected, and it isn’t a real recipe for avoiding trauma either. But crises can at least be mitigated in this way: If you are aware of which phase you or a good friend is going through, you see yourself in a different light and can (you) get better help.

The typical crisis phases (see graphic) are:

emotional roller coaster model

  • 1. Premonition: The person concerned anticipates an imminent dismissal and calculates possible reactions, but also his financial situation.
  • 2. Termination shock: The termination has been pronounced, now it is official. Immediately afterward, a shock usually sets in. The person concerned needs time to fully grasp and cope with his situation.
  • 3a. Recovery phase: There is a slight recovery, sometimes relief. The person concerned takes time out, takes care of what has been left behind, comes to rest.
  • 3b. New efforts: Now new plans are being made. What’s next? Usually, job advertisements are now searched in job exchanges: What is offered? What am I worth in the job market?
  • 4a. Denial: If the first spontaneous attempts to get back to work are unsuccessful or if the market situation is desolate, the situation is often talked about – especially in private.
  • 4b. Anger: There is no progress. That frustrates. The termination is reflected once more. Now bad feelings come into play: The boss, the colleagues – how unfair did they behave? The termination seems like a common betrayal – “and me of all people!”
  • 4c. Renewed action: there is no such thing as impossible. Don’t give up! The person concerned encourages himself and tries again. Adapts to the market, maybe further educates. And if successful, go to point 6.
  • 4d. Acceptance: nothing helps. No matter what the person concerned does, he remains unemployed. Applications come back, rejections follow. At some point, he gives up and gives up.
  • 4e. Depression: Depending on the importance of work and career before, it is linked to a lot of self-esteem. Long-term unemployment can therefore lead to depression.
  • 5. Subdued hope: A ray of hope – maybe a friend gives courage, he could find a job or the person concerned has discovered the prospect of a job himself. In this case, new forces are mobilized and efforts are made.
  • 6. Enthusiasm: It looks good – the new job is within your grasp. So everything is brought into shape: CV, outfit, appearance, family life.
  • 7a. New employment: It is done, the new contract is signed. The job can start …
  • 7b. new 4-cycle: But nothing! At the last moment the wick that should ignite the second career glows. The deeper the crash is now: Am I a failure?
  • 8. Depression or even apathy: (like 4e – or worse)