Liking ourselves is very important. But it’s not as straightforward or easy as that. Sometimes, we compare ourselves to others and worry we’re not good enough. And at times we can be hard on ourselves or try to be someone we’re not, so people like us more. So, how can we stop the worrying about self-criticism and build self-esteem instead?
What is self-esteem?
Self-esteem is being happy with who we are on the inside and being proud of our successes. It also means being kind to ourselves and accepting when we make mistakes or mess up. Since no one is perfect, it’s important to accept ourselves for our strengths and our weaknesses.
If you have low self-esteem you are likely to judge yourself harshly and because of this, you are likely to feel not good enough and not like yourself very much. People with low self-esteem can feel sad because they compare themselves to others who they think are “better” and they may wish they were someone else altogether. Feeling badly about yourself a lot can turn into a cycle where, because you expect yourself to be no good, you start to behave in ways that match these ideas (like not going to a party because you feel you’re no good, when actually people would like to see you there).
We are all naturally different shapes and sizes and there’s very little we can do to change that. However, we often focus on the parts of our bodies we don’t like and undervalue the bits we do like. In addition, lots of the bodies we see on TV, in films, magazines and online are based on one standard of beauty. These images are frequently air-brushed or altered – a person’s spots may have been removed, or they may have been given a ‘thigh gap’ that isn’t real. That means we are often comparing ourselves to something that’s impossible!
Unfortunately, many of us tend to compare ourselves to these unrealistic images of beauty so we feel “less than” next to them. It’s not easy, but rather than focusing on these impossible standards, start to focus on all the great things about you, inside and out. Always remember that people respond to the whole person – not just a nose or a tummy. See yourself for the whole package, be sure to be kind, respectful, and a good friend, and then people will like you for who you are, not what you look like.
Top Tips for boosting your self-esteem
- Focus on the amazing things about you. Write a list, or draw a poster of all your good points (even if they seem trivial) – you might be great at music or art, be a good listener or be kind. Whatever it is, it’s part of what makes you unique and special.
- Stop comparing yourself to other people. Remember it’s a good thing that we are all different, our unique qualities make the world an interesting place.
- Give your friend(s) a compliment every day – you might not realise it but you will probably make their day!
- Be yourself and be kind to yourself. Nobody’s perfect so if you mess up or make a mistake then don’t worry. We all make mistakes; the important thing is to learn from them. So think about what you’d do differently next time and then move on.
- Try not to judge yourself, or others, on looks. Focus on your inner qualities instead.
- Listen carefully to the way you speak to yourself in your own head. Are you talking to yourself like a good supportive friend, or your own worst enemy? When you notice you’re talking yourself down, give yourself a break, and find a way to support and be kind to yourself.
- Try something new – whether it’s a club or a sport or drama – getting out and about and meeting new people can be exciting and make you feel happier.
Finally, if you feel bad about yourself a lot then speak to someone you trust about how you’re feeling, a friend, parent or guardian, or teacher, or ask at school about counselling. It’s important not to keep your feelings to yourself but to get help so you can start to feel better.
For information about organisations which can offer more advice on a range of issues, check out the advice helplines page.
And for loads more about all kinds of emotions, try the Lifebabble guide to feeling good.