3 Steps to Build Yourself From a Lack of Self-Esteem

Updated: 5 days ago

This was originally posted on March 24, 2017.

This post contains affiliate links at the end. For more information, see my disclosure here.

Before I get started, let me ask you this:

Are you here because there were negative events that happened in your life or you grew up in a negative environment?

Regardless of your answer is, if it involves anything negative that is affecting your current mindset, you've come to the right place.

I was in that same place myself too, one that lasted throughout my childhood to more than half the time I was in college. But I eventually overcame it with the guidance of people I've encountered in my life and I will be helping you do the same.

In this guide, I will be helping you with:

  • Tracing Back the Development of Your Self-Esteem

  • Understanding the Effects of Key Figures and/or Influences In Your Life

  • Actions You Can Take to Increase Your Self-Esteem

Furthermore, I will be sharing with you:

  • My Personal Story on Development (For Those Who Need Someone to Relate and Connect)

  • Expectations When You Encounter People Who Are or Have Been on the Same Path as You Are


Tracing Back the Development of Your Self-Esteem

Since self-esteem can be defined as your own self-worth or your own self-image (or both), the development of it can traced back to the environment you grew up in most of the time. For other cases, it can be very stressful events that happened later in life.

For factors that play in your childhood or much later, they can be:

  • Unsupportive parents or guardians

  • Friends or higher authoritative figures (such as your workplace) who influence bad behavior and thinking, typically causing misery for other people to make feel better about themselves and/or talking down on you

  • Stressful life events such as divorce or moving houses

  • Trauma or Abuse

  • Bullying or Loneliness

For other influences in life, they can be:

  • Ongoing medical issues

  • Belief systems

  • Society and the media (typically negative since it gets more attention than positive things)


Understanding the Effects of Key Figures and/or Influences In Your Life

By having low self-esteem, it's very easy to succumb yourself to having negative thoughts and feelings about your worth and value as a person.

This eventually leads to more than one of the following:

  • Constant self-criticism that leads to persistent feelings of sadness, depression, anxiety, anger, shame or guilt

  • Low levels of motivation and interest

  • Inability to deal with normal levels of frustration and anger

  • Poor performance at school

  • Fear of trying [low resilience] - doubting your abilities or worth and avoiding challenges

  • Avoiding new things and opportunities in life [neophobic]

  • Fear of judgement - being very self-conscious and stressed around others while constantly looks for ‘signs’ that people don’t like you

  • Fear of failure

  • Setting unrealistic goals and expectations which leads to perfectionism

This type of negative thinking and behavior will cause problems in developing and keeping relationships with other people such as:

  • Feeling unloved and unwanted

  • Difficulty making friends

  • Constantly comparing yourself to other people which ultimately leads to dissatisfaction (parent, guardian, or a higher authoritative figure can do this to you also)

  • Constantly blaming others for their or your own mistakes

  • Unable to take compliments and show mixed feelings of anxiety or stress instead

This can and may ultimately lead to the following types of behavior if not taken care of and continued throughout life:

  • Lack of self-care – neglecting or abusing themselves such as alcoholism

  • Thoughts of self-harming behavior [ex: eating disorder, drug abuse or suicide]


5 Actions You Can Take to Increase Your Self-Esteem

Other than the high recommendation of seeking help from a therapist (and psychiatrist if necessary), here are the 5 actions I will be showing you to change your mentality:

  1. Start Treating Every Mistake as a Lesson

  2. Instead of Thinking What Things Could Go Wrong, Start Seeing What Things Could Go Right

  3. Remembering You Always Have A Choice In Every Situation in Life

  4. Cut Out Negative Influences In Your Life

  5. Learn A New Skill That Improves Your Life


1. Start Treating Every Mistake as a Lesson

You've made a lot of mistakes in life but did you take the time to reflect on that mistake in life or did you just shrug it off and wait for it to happen again in life once encountered?

When you start taking the time to reflect on every mistake you can remember and analyzing it, think to yourself:

  • What was the problem?

  • Who was involved in this problem

  • How did this problem exactly start?

  • Do I have the ability to be able to stop this problem from happening again?

  • If yes, how can I stop this problem from happening again? What steps should I take to prevent this? (get creative and think outside the box)

  • If I take responsibility for this problem, will the source of the problem completely stop? [answer this question only if you've answered all the questions above]

When you've finished answering all the questions for each mistake you've made in your life, it's time for you to turn those reflections into actions for the future that will help you grow and change as a person.


2. Instead of Thinking What Things Could Go Wrong, Start Seeing What Things Could Go Right

When you see only the the things that could go wrong, it tends to be very unrealistic and overexaggerated due to your imagination and maybe, that's how you were taught to think by someone.

But when you start to see what things could go right, you're rewiring your brain from thinking so negatively to thinking more positively. And once you make a habit of thinking more positively, your brain is completely rewired to avoid thinking negatively again.

Furthermore, once you're thinking more positively, you'll naturally have more self-confidence and your body language improves.

The opposite can hold true if you're trying to improve your body language first but that method would require more effort so I highly recommend trying to rewire your thought process instead with baby steps.


3. Remembering You Always Have a Choice in Every Situation in Life

There will be times where you don't feel like you have a choice, especially when you're a negative thinker.

When you've trained and disciplined yourself to think more positively, that limiting factor of one choice starts to significantly increase because fear limits the number of options onto ourselves as if we're fighting for our survival and research has shown that negative thinking has the ability to do brain damage to ourselves.

When we're thinking positively, it increases our creativity since our neurons are communicating more effectively so the possibilities of what we can do in each situation increases


4. Cut Out Negative Influences in Your Life

Is there any benefit left to having those negative people or things in your life? Is there anything left that they can provide for you that can positively impact your future?

Once you've taken the time to reflect and finalize your decisions on whether or not to cut them from your life either temporarily or permanently, you should start seeing an improvement in your mood and productivity in your life.

For my case, I had a friend from my childhood who had very negative thoughts that lead to overexaggerated outcomes in varying types of situations and he refused to learn from his mistakes and take responsibility.

After a bit of time of blaming me for his mistakes and his actions, I temporarily cut ties with him in my life, telling him to stop talking to me for X amount of time and reflect all the things he's done in his life. I told him that because I had hopes that he would change and the best apology for me is not with words but on his effort for the actions on trying to change himself.

Another person in my life would be my dad. Same case scenario but instead of cutting contact with him, I simply wanted him to reduce a significant amount of contact I get from him in my life.


5. Learn a New Skill That Improves Your Life

You might be wondering why I would ask for you to learn a new skill.

When you're learning a new skill, it increases the growth of your mindset. You'll start realizing your potential and start seeing that this is something you can actually do. It will increase your self-confidence because you start seeing your own progress with changing your life.

If you can give that skill to other people, do it! Not only will it bring them joy, it will actually bring you more joy to yourself.


My Personal Story on Development

(For Those Who Need Someone to Relate and Connect)

For my story, I originally submitted it at Quiet Revolution in February 2017 as my original blog post after putting a lot of effort into my writing during my spare time both during school and at home.

Unfortunately, I didn’t receive a reply back and I assumed that my story wasn’t good enough.

But even though my philosophies have changed since I identify myself as more of an extrovert than introvert now (being around people gives me more energy), I thought it would be in my best interest to share it knowing that people can use it to learn and connect from it.

Plus, I don't really talk to my dad that much now based on how his mind works.


Being born and raised with an authoritarian dad, most of my personality was heavily shaped by him: I was treated in a strict and harsh manner as I became socially withdrawn and extremely quiet as a child.

During elementary school, I received counseling because I wasn’t speaking in class. It wasn’t that I couldn’t speak, it was just that I felt that I didn’t have the need to. I kept a lot of thoughts to myself—with my voice being silenced, my mind was used to listen.

There wasn’t anything I did wrong to anyone; yet, it caused trouble with certain people and I was picked on for being different and weird.

In 5th grade, speaking was a requirement which was letter graded—getting myself to talk and participate in class was something I didn’t want to do.

Although I grew comfortable sharing my weekend with the class every Monday, there weren’t any specific guidelines on how to get an A because of how society naturally favors extroverts over introverts.

During college, I eventually learned that forcing yourself to change from an extreme introvert to an extrovert was no easy task.

Even though I enjoyed pushing myself by making video blogs about my personal life and acting as an extrovert for club activities, it quickly drained my energy as I became unhappy at the end of the day. I simply wanted to change myself for the behavior my dad has ingrained into me.

But I’ve later learned a truth:

“People change for two reasons: they have learned a lot or they have been hurt too many times.”

This was months after becoming severely depressed from the effects of authoritarian parenting as an adult. Being forced by my dad to do something extroverted such as getting anxiety for calling a stranger on the phone that you’re going to be late to an appointment, my dad truly didn’t know me at all after all these years.

Although I now identify myself as an ambivert after long periods of self-reflection and learning, it was my introversion that eventually helped me get through my depression. I’ve tried many ways to cope with it—counseling, advice from friends, writing blog posts online about my negative feelings.