Managing our self-esteem is something we all deal with at some point in our lives, if not something we battle with our entire life. Self-esteem is not to be confused with self-image. Self image(how I see myself) delves into the thoughts of "I'm a dog owner; I'm a man; I'm a father." These are often based on outer facts or roles that form a person's self-identity. Self-concept is like an apple. The image is on the outside, but the esteem is the core. Within the center of your self-identity is your self-esteem(how I feel about myself). These thoughts are "I'm a bad pet owner," or "I'm a terrible father," or "I'm a loser". They are judgements based on more emotion than fact.
But the truth is, what we focus on expands. If you have a negative belief about something and focus on thoughts such as "I'm a loser," you will inevitably find occurrences in your life to back up that belief. If you believe you're a winner, the same is also true. In fact, you will not only find but also create these circumstances to back the belief that you are either a winner or a loser.
We can talk about this subject in volumes of books and still not complete our conversation. But this is an article, not a 1000 page tome. So I will be brief and give seven fairly simple things that can cause low self-esteem and give simple solutions for improving yours. These are not in any order of importance. Nor is it a complete list, but I hope it can give some value.
1) Self Talk. What we say to ourselves is one of the major factors in low self-esteem. Your subconscious can't take a joke. If you say to yourself(whether out loud or silently) "I'm a loser," you're subconscious mind will say "Yes, I am." Whatever direction you tell it, it believes. It doesn't distinguish or judge or neglect anything you tell it, it merely takes it all in and makes it fact in your belief system. If you bump into a cabinet and blurt out "I'm such a clutz," your subconscious mind will say "Yes, I am." And it will actually cause things to happen that reinforce that belief. You stub your toe and it will say "See, I told you you're a clutz."
Solution: Watch your mouth. Start becoming aware of all your negative self talk. Next time you tell yourself something that is negative, notice it and change the conversation in your head and say "No thanks." Then change the self talk to "I'm getting better every day" and teach yourself to laugh at the mistake you made. When you start identifying with being able to laugh at your mistakes without judging them, your esteem will soar, because you realize that a healthy self image comes from being able to laugh at yourself(and most people aren't willing to do that). Confidence comes with the ability to laugh at yourself.
2) Procrastination: Procrastination is a form of psychological failure and damages you more than you think. Washing dishes. Putting your clothes away after the laundry. Doing the little things you need to do. You may think these are minor issues, but it's the little things that make a huge difference.
Solution: The two minute rule. If you can do something in less than two minutes, DO IT. Wash that dish when you're done with it. Hang up your clothes. It makes an amazing difference and has helped me personally to end procrastination. When I see something that I have to do I say to myself "I'll have to do it eventually anyway, let's just do it now and get it over with."
3) Not finishing. How many times do we start something and not finish it? I have a list of projects I started while in my early twenties that I never finished. Of course, we always have justification for why we don't finish. A big one for me in the past was "I got inspired by something else before finishing, so I moved on to the newly inspired project. So that means I'm meant to do this new project now, right?" Wrong. "I got distracted and lost momentum." "I don't have discipline." These are all common excuses we say that we actually believe to justify why we don't finish things.
Solution: Fall in love. Finishing isn't a process of discipline but of devotion. I spent a year and a half on one of my short films' digital effects. A YEAR AND A HALF. ON A SHORT FILM! That's just lunacy! You don't do that out of discipline. I was devoted to that project. It was my baby. And I wanted to see it birthed. I loved it into creation.
A problem is we often get new inspiration stirring for a new project or idea, so we start that one without ever having finished the last one. Getting inspiration isn't divinity telling you not to finish your current project. The inspiration came to you because you were open to it, but it has no meaning. Finish what you started then move to the next project. It will still be there for you when you're ready.
Also, if working on a book or creative project, stay in the momentum. Don't get distracted by other things that can take your attention. Your brain can only focus on one thing at a time. Ride the momentum whether you feel inspired to do the work or not. When you look back and see how much you've accomplished, you won't care about whether you felt inspired in the moment or not, you'll be proud at what you've accomplished and it will carry you to finish.
4) Lack of direction. When you don't have a definite purpose in life, or haven't yet discovered what you're passionate about, you're like a ship without a rudder. You're being pushed by the waves, and those waves usually come from other people's boats. Being aimless kills your confidence and self-esteem. Without clarity, how can you feel good about yourself?
Solution: Point in a direction and shoot. Find out what you're passionate about and pursue it. What are you willing to give your life to? What do you love to do so much you'd do it for free? It has to be something you're not willing to quit, something you're going to either do or die trying; something that, if you looked back when you're 90 years old and you never did it, you'd feel your life was a waste. It has to have that kind of intensity and importance to you. Anything less and you'll quit when it gets hard. When you have a direction you're pointed to and a goal you're working toward, it gives you unstoppable confidence. When you have a direction and purpose, you ride life rather than letting life ride you.
5) Lack of courage. Many people are afraid to say what's on their mind for fear of judgement or being laughed at. They're afraid of conflict, so they avoid problems and are inhibited when expressing what's on their mind. When you fail to express what's inside you, your self-esteem suffers.
Solution: Be brave with yourself and speak your mind. This doesn't mean rudely blurt out every thought that comes into your mind and insult people with a justification of "I'm just telling you the truth." What it does mean is being willing to speak up when you have a thought you want to express, or saying a joke even if you're afraid it may be inappropriate, or complimenting a stranger for the sake of making them feel good. It takes courage to act or speak your mind when you fear conflict or being judged or are afraid of what others might think of you. Every time you fail to act or express what's on your mind, you give into your insecurities and your self-esteem dies just a bit.
6) Failure. Often when we fail, we think it defines us. It doesn't matter how many times we hear stories of famous people who have failed their whole lives, when it comes to ourselves, we feel like a failure.
Solution: Fail your way to success. Use failure as a means to success. I often learn what works by doing what doesn't work. You will fail at things your whole life. Learn from them. If you fail 99 times and succeed once, the world will say you're an overnight success. Failure can make you strong. When you get up from failure and keep going, it shows your committment to the task at hand and expresses your resolve to keep going. This builds your dignity. And strengthens your spine. And forms you into the person you need to be for when you do succeed. Stop identifying with the failure itself and start identifying with the power and dignity it gives you.
7) Self control. We all have emotions tied in with our decision-making. But when you make decisions based on your emotions, it's rarely an empowered decision. Rationally, we make emotional decisions and justify those decisions with logic. "I really needed that purse that I couldn't afford it because my other purse is too small" or "I really wanted that triple-decker ice cream sundae because I deserve it."
Solution: Wait it out. Use emotion as the gas, not the steering wheel. Self-control really means controlling your emotions. If there's something you're really feeling emotional about doing or getting, wait a day or two until the emotion has passed. Then, if you still want to act, then do so. Your emotion is an energy meant to fuel your empowered decisions, they're not to make your decisions; they're not meant to drive your car. Don't be their slave. When you control acting on your emotions, they take a back seat to the real driver: you. This is the essence ofself-control.
I hope some of these concepts can help you, I know they've helped me.