"I have missed 9000 shots in my career. I have lost almost 300 games. On 26
occasions I have been entrusted to take the game winning shot...and I
missed. I have failed over and over again in my life.
And that's precisely why I succeed."
"The most important opinion you have is the one you have of yourself and the
most significant things you say all day are those things you say to yourself."
Did you know that even the most accomplished people have times of low self-esteem? For example, did you know:
- Walt Disney was fired by the editor of a newspaper as he had 'no good ideas'
- Michael Jordan was once cut from his high school basketball team because of his 'lack of skill'
- Steven Spielberg dropped out of high school. He was persuaded to come back but was placed in a 'learning disabled' class. He lasted a month then dropped out of school forever
- Charles Darwin's father told him he would amount to nothing and would be a disgrace to himself and his family
- Albert Einstein was four years old before he spoke. He was advised to drop out of high school and his teachers told him he would never amount to much
What is self-esteem?
Self-esteem is about how you feel, and the thoughts you have, about yourself. If you were asked to write a list of all the ways you would describe yourself, what would you say? Would your list be filled with lots of positive statements such as:
- 'I am a great team player'
- 'I can create some cool art or music'
- 'I am a good friend'
or would your list have more negative statements like:
- 'I suck at maths'
- 'I'm no good at sports'
- 'I can't seem to do anything right
Chances are, your list probably has both types of statements - most people's lists do! Most people have ups and downs with self-esteem. Some days you might feel really good about yourself, and other days, nothing seems right. There are lots of factors that influence this and there are things you can do to work towards having higher self-esteem most of the time.
Why is self-esteem so important?
People with healthy self-esteem:
- generally feel good about themselves and their accomplishments
- have pride in the things they do well
- can put into perspective the areas that they are not so pleased with
- feel more confident to try new things and challenge themselves
- are not frightened of failure
People with low or unhealthy self-esteem will:
- focus more on their perceived faults, failures and lack of success in their lives
- overlook their successes or minimise the areas of their lives they have achieved great things
- be more hesitant to try new things or meet new people, for example, starting a new job or beginning university
Where does self-esteem come from?
We all form opinions of ourselves based on our own thoughts, what we believe others think of us, how we interact with others, and our role within our family and community. While self-esteem is influenced by your own thoughts and feelings about yourself, it can also be moulded by the thoughts and feelings of family, friends, teachers and other people in your life.
Sometimes, the things that other people say about us can influence our self-esteem - in either a positive or negative way. Take some time to think about the people in your life and how they influence your thoughts about yourself. Do some people's opinions have more impact on you than others?
The concept of self-esteem can also vary from culture to culture. Some cultures focus more on the individual while other's focus on the collective or group, i.e. the community.
If this sounds complicated, that's because it really is!
How can I improve my self-esteem?
Getting to know yourself and having a good look at all the things you like and don't like, are good at and not so good at, and accepting all of these, can help improve your self-esteem. This is a great start towards feeling happy with yourself and where you are right now. Because that's who you are!
Other things that can help include:
- Celebrating your successes - take the time to reflect and feel good about even the smallest of successes. Give yourself credit for the things you do well and for the accomplishments that you achieve. Be proud of yourself
- Surrounding yourself with good friends - keep company with those who you feel good around. Friends will support your achievements, will be happy for you when you do well, and will help you see the positives about yourself
- Being a good friend yourself - try to help your family and friends see the things they do well and take time to celebrate their successes and happiness with them
- Going easy on yourself - reflect on the things that didn't turn out quite so well. Don't beat yourself up about them, but try to find a way of doing things differently next time. Use each opportunity as a chance to learn how to do something better
- Doing what you love - enjoy the things you like doing, whether they are artistic, musical, sporty, social or intellectual. Make sure you fit in some quality time for the things that you want to do
- Trying new things - you will never know what you can achieve until you try. Even if you are not great at something the first time around, you will nevertheless have learnt something new in the process of giving it a go
- Being able to walk away - when you find yourself in an uncomfortable position that threatens your self-esteem, consider walking away. This isn't always possible - it might be a school or family obligation that you can't get out of. However, if you can remove yourself from a situation, it might be worth it. For example, you may be around people who make you feel uneasy or you could be witnessing something that challenges your self-esteem in a negative way. Consider if you really are obliged to stay around or if you could simply take yourself away from the situation
- Enjoying special times - take time to celebrate birthdays, anniversaries and special holidays with friends and family. Feeling connected to others and happy in your important relationships is a big contributor to feeling good about yourself
- Accepting yourself for who you are - this might be easier said than done, but it is a key to boosting self-esteem. Know that you will be better at some things than others and give your attention to the things you do well rather than what you don't do so well. Also remember that inner strength comes from trying and learning, doing your best, and sticking to what you believe in - it doesn't come from doing things right every time
- Working out what is really worth caring about - just being able to say 'So what?', 'It doesn't matter today', or 'I don't need to care about that', can relieve a lot of pressure and worry
Who else can help?
Ultimately, creating and maintaining a healthy self-esteem is up to you, but there are people and resources to help you along the way.
The following web-sites have some helpful information on developing self-esteem:
If you would like to talk some more about self-esteem, you can call Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week or use our web or email counselling services. We will listen to you and help you work out what might help.
A final quote..
"Someone's opinion of you does not have to become your reality."
Published: 1 October 2010