You can develop self-esteem and confidence by long-term and consistent conscious effort.
Self-esteem is a psychological concept that can be defined as the ability to like oneself as one is and to give oneself enough value.
To improve our self-esteem, we must act in the present, not dwell on the past, and implement new ways of being that improve our quality of life. Such psychological change is only possible with long-term conscious effort and repeated practice.
Read on to understand why we must take care of self-esteem and how to develop it favorably.
Table of Contents
- 1 How to develop self-esteem & confidence: Introduction
- 2 Why is it essential to take care of your self-esteem?
- 3 What does working on your self-esteem look like?
- 4 Tips and tricks to improve self-esteem
- 5 Developing lasting self-esteem is a long road, but there is a road nonetheless
- 6 Creating a psychological atmosphere conducive to change over time
- 7 How to develop self-esteem & confidence: Conclusion
How to develop self-esteem & confidence: Introduction
People with good self-esteem are naturally convinced that they have a right to happiness and can enjoy the good things in life.
Therefore, they will act in their daily life to develop their abilities, succeed, and progress in their personal and social life.
But can self-esteem be improved in the long term?
This is entirely possible in two ways:
- Personal development, if the problems are not severe.
- Psychotherapy, if they are complicated by psychiatric symptoms such as depressive disorders, phobias, eating disorders, etc.
As far as self-esteem is concerned, the process of change is composed of several steps. One of these steps is understanding:
- That which no longer depends on us, such as our past, its sufferings, and deficiencies.
- That which we do have control over, such as the relationship to this past and the conduct of our daily life.
Depending on the person, the efforts will focus on a genuine construction or reconstruction of self-esteem and sometimes more simply on self-development.
Why is it essential to take care of your self-esteem?
Several fundamental questions can be asked:
“If you don’t take care of yourself, who will? Who else but yourself can know what is necessary for you and especially for your well-being?”
Generally speaking, everyone spends their time avoiding this self-reflection, and our lives and personalities are mostly run on autopilot.
Indeed, we get carried away by circumstances and outside influences from the past, our loved ones, environment, or society.
Moreover, the result is likely to be very poor unless we have been fortunate to have received everything in our childhood and continue living in an environment of love and harmony.
And again, if there is no personal choice and sense of self-determination, even in environments defined as healthy, these may not be so conducive to self-esteem.
What does working on your self-esteem look like?
First, we should not confuse the efforts to get closer to happiness (which is necessary for our life) with the obsession to achieve happiness (which can be toxic). The same principle applies to self-esteem.
In fact, problems related to self-esteem are not a disease but the result of a set of ways of being, protecting, and promoting oneself that are not adapted.
This is why there are a few rules to know to lead an effective change.
Today, there are many studies in the field of self-esteem development, in the area of psychiatric disorders, or for “normal” people who do not have a specific disorder but are looking to improve their personal well-being.
It is essential to know that our past leaves us with doubts and weaknesses in our lives, but the present can repair and sometimes even heal them as long as we really live.
But to live is to act, discover oneself, reveal oneself, take risks, let go, and let go without wanting to control and master one’s image at all times.
If we protect ourselves too much, life will not do this work of repair and maturation in us.
And this is the case for vulnerable, suffocated self-esteem, solidified in its defense mechanisms.
To want to change is to identify and defuse these protections that have become prisons and free oneself from them.
Therefore, when it comes to self-esteem, it is preferable not to use the word change but rather the term evolve, which implies a favorable progression.
- Fennell, Overcoming Low Self-Esteem, Robinson, 2022
- Carlock, Enhancing Self Esteem, Taylor & Francis, 2013
Tips and tricks to improve self-esteem
Here is a series of tips that will help you develop your self-esteem:
Learning to want to change is essential
One of the most important discoveries of recent years in psychotherapy is that change can be learned.
The model of psychic change by sudden awareness or revelation of erased memories from the past does not work, except perhaps in the field of cinema.
Imagine the cliché:
- the music reaches a crescendo,
- the eyes of the hero become blurred, and
- a scene from his past flashes before his eyes.
This sudden discovery makes the hero cry and heals him forever from his wounds.
This model of sudden awareness is very caricatural and does not work in real life!
Personal change, especially regarding self-esteem, is more like musical training.
Generally, you don’t learn to play the guitar simply because of a personal decision or because you’ve freed yourself from the ghosts of your past, but because you’ve taken lessons and practiced the guitar daily.
One does not master an instrument by a sudden illumination but rather by perseverance and repeated practice.
The same principle applies to self-esteem, which follows the same rules. Indeed, we must understand where our limitations and mistakes come from.
But, above all, we must work and implement new ways of being.
Understanding the past is not enough to change the present
Our level of self-esteem and how we protect it is influenced by our past, such as how our parents made us feel secure with their love and encouragement, etc. However, the psychological present is not only dominated by the past.
Indeed, it is also influenced by the present. If we don’t make conscious efforts daily, we will always remain on autopilot (set up in our childhood), or we will remain at the whim of social influences.
Self-esteem difficulties can stem from flawed foundations in our past and from their misuse in everyday life.
We must therefore understand our past but act in the present to develop our self-esteem.
Understanding is good, but acting and practicing are even better
Even if you read all the books on self-esteem and attend all the conferences given on this topic to understand all its mechanisms, nothing will change in you until you have practiced and tested the teachings of change in reality.
To change, we must act and, more precisely, constantly go back and forth between action and reflection.
It is necessary to change into intelligent action because self-esteem problems tend to prevent action or stereotype it. This translates into either not acting or acting the same way all the time.
Don’t expect to completely eradicate all self-esteem problems
Getting rid of self-esteem problems forever is a myth maintained by some psychotherapists. In a more or less explicit way, these may claim that one must “get to the root of their problems” to achieve lasting wellness.
However, no one can guarantee any “root of the problems” exists, especially regarding self-esteem.
In addition, therapies that claim to help get to the bottom of things will often risk getting stuck. In fact, once you have reached the bottom, you might not get back up either…
Self-esteem work might be more like what is offered to people with diabetes, asthma, or high blood pressure.
Such treatments are organized to ensure that the disease does not alter the quality of life and does not prevent one from leading an everyday and pleasant life.
This principle can also be applied to self-esteem: we make changes that will help us improve our lives and have more confidence in ourselves.
Wanting to change is most essential
Psychological change is an effort that is more like a long-distance run than a sprint.
And change is not complicated! It is almost always about doing simple things (as in most effective strategies in psychotherapy).
There are many tips and tricks to increase self-esteem! But the only problem is that you have to apply them all, for a long time and especially regularly.
The change takes place step by step, sometimes tiny and sometimes dramatic.
But let’s not forget that what seems small today can become gigantic tomorrow. And wanting to change a little is already a lot!
Developing lasting self-esteem is a long road, but there is a road nonetheless
Wanting to change implies regular effort, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you need to wait to get started. Indeed, wanting to get better can start today.
Typically, you will feel the benefits of your efforts soon enough.
However, these will not yet be resistant and automated because only the regular practice of these efforts will transform them into automatisms less costly in psychic energy.
Relapse is part of the game
A classic source of de-motivation in our efforts on this long road of change are those moments when our old demons rear their heads.
But it is essential to know that backtracking is normal in any learning process.
Even well-directed change efforts with sincerity and willpower, with the correct method, will not prevent the return of old demons.
They can appear under the effect of fatigue, repetition of problems, confrontation with a situation that leaves us helpless, or simply due to negligence.
But don’t worry, this is normal: these “awakenings” of evil do not mean that our efforts are useless or that change is impossible.
It just means that life is not easy, and when you are more fragile and vulnerable, you must take care of yourself.
Process of ongoing self-improvement
The objective of the evolution of self-esteem is not to become someone else and to transform oneself totally, as if by magic. Nor is it to go from our greatest doubts to the most solid certainties.
The goal of a self-esteem evolution is to be a better you. Try to be a little more confident, a little more serene, a little more daring, and a little more indifferent to looks and judgments.
And to be this new version of ourselves, we must consider our personality traits. It is useless to hope to become a flamboyant and social character if our basic personality is somewhat reserved.
Sustainable development of self-esteem
There is an ecology of self-esteem where we can apply the principles of sustainable development. In effect, this would require:
- Taking into account the terrain (environment).
- Considering the costs of development efforts.
- Thinking about the pros and cons.
- Not sacrificing the future for the present (nor clinging to the past at the expense of living in the present).
By considering all these parameters, we will evolve towards higher self-esteem and, above all, towards better self-esteem.
It is therefore vital to work on the connection to oneself, i.e., to stop harming oneself, devaluing oneself, and hiding oneself.
This approach is essential but not enough: developing self-esteem is not only about taking care of yourself. It is also about progressing in your relationship with others.
Therefore, it will be necessary to work on the type of link we set up with others, whether at the level of real or imagined connections.
We must learn to:
- stop trembling at the idea of rejection,
- assert ourselves without conflict, or
- accept these conflicts if they are inevitable.
Reflect, act, and repeat
Acting and thinking are not enough! We must think, act, and repeat if we want to evolve!
Our brain is designed for action before being designed for thought. This is why even if you have understood everything, you will not have understood anything in reality.
You especially won’t have changed anything as long as you have not transposed the learnings from your reflections into actions.
In addition, once the thoughts have been put into action, this process must be repeated several times.
The most important work to do is stop thinking about yourself. Indeed, the future of self-esteem is to be forgotten, just like we no longer pay attention to breathing but do it automatically.
Breathing will be regulated or sometimes calmed down, which does not require vigilance or effort.
It is the same thing for self-esteem: to estimate oneself as one breathes is to forget oneself and turn towards everything else, namely other people and life.
Creating a psychological atmosphere conducive to change over time
While self-esteem work is exciting and successful, it requires consistency and continuity.
In these long-term efforts, where one has the role of both master and disciple, it is essential to treat oneself well.
The regular exercises that change requires can be quickly abandoned if:
- it happens in a bad atmosphere,
- we berate ourselves for failure, or
- we make ourselves feel guilty.
Therefore, there is an absolute need for a long-term climate of tolerance for the inevitable difficulties.
Indeed, it is expected that there are periods when old habits come back and impose themselves again.
Learning to speak a foreign language or play a musical instrument takes years. And self-esteem is the same thing. It will take time and effort to learn how to master it.
For these prolonged efforts not to be painful, it is necessary to adopt a code of good conduct towards oneself, i.e., to learn self-respect and self-acceptance.
How to develop self-esteem & confidence: Conclusion
Self-esteem requires a continuum of care and attention to develop sustainably.
It is possible to improve self-esteem in the long term.
Still, to do so, it is necessary to understand what we can no longer control (our past) and what we do have control over (our relationship to this past).
In the difficulties of self-esteem, the past is a complicated parameter that is essential to understand.
To improve our self-esteem, we must also act in the present and implement new ways of being so that our self-esteem difficulties do not spoil our quality of life.
Change is a regular effort. Indeed, psychological change is possible, but it will take time for it to happen. There are several tips for feeling good about yourself, but it takes time.
It is also essential to create a psychological atmosphere conducive to change over time, a climate of tolerance for its difficulties.
And finally, the most important thing is to learn to accept yourself and stop thinking about yourself.
Don’t constantly think of self-esteem; instead, turn your attention towards living your life, experiencing friendship, love and relationships with others.