How to improve self concept

Improving Self-Esteem | Skills You Need

Self-esteem is how you feel about yourself, or the opinion you have about yourself. Everyone has times when they feel a bit low or find it hard to believe in themselves. However, if this becomes a long-term situation, this can lead to problems, including mental health issues such as depression or anxiety. Some of the symptoms of low self-esteem can also be a sign of these problems.

Self-esteem is often the result of a lifetime of experiences, and particularly what happened to us as children. However, it is possible to improve your self-esteem at any age. This page provides more information about self-esteem, and some actions that you can take to improve it.

Understanding Self-Esteem

Some people think of self-esteem as their inner voice (or self-dialogue) – the voice that tells you whether you are good enough to do or achieve something.

Self-esteem is actually about how we value ourselves, and our perceptions about who we are and what we are capable of.

Self-esteem is not about ability

Self-esteem is often not associated with either your own ability, or other people’s perceptions of you.

It is quite possible for someone who is good at something to have poor self-esteem. Conversely, someone who struggles with a particular task might generally have good self-esteem.

  • People with good self-esteem generally feel positive about themselves, and about life. This makes them much more resilient, and better able to cope with life’s ups and downs.

  • Those with poor self-esteem, however, are often much more critical of themselves. They find it harder to bounce back from challenges and setbacks. This may lead them to avoid difficult situations. That can, however, actually decrease their self-esteem still further, because they feel even worse about themselves as a result.

  • A lack of self-esteem can therefore influence how people behave, not to mention what they achieve in their lives.

    You may find it interesting to read our page The Importance of Mindset for more about how attitude influences behaviour.

    Why Do People Experience Low Self-Esteem?

    There are many reasons why someone might have low self-esteem. However, it often starts in childhood, perhaps with a feeling that you were unable to live up to expectations. It can also be the result of adult experiences such as a difficult relationship, either personal or at work.

    Self-esteem, domestic violence and abuse

    The victims of domestic violence and abuse often have low self-esteem.

    This may be because their abuser has spent time belittling them and making them feel bad about themselves, reducing their self-esteem. However, it may also be that their low self-esteem made them more vulnerable to being abused because they did not feel that they were valuable.

    Nobody should have to suffer from abuse or violence.

    If you, or anyone you know, is in this situation, you should seek help.

    • In the UK, sources of help include Childline, telephone 0800 1111, the NSPCC , and the National Domestic Violence Helpline, 0808 2000 247.
    • In the US, Government advice is that you can call the Domestic Violence Hotline on 800-799-SAFE (7233).

    Stressful life events, such as a divorce or bereavement, can also have negative effects on your self-esteem.

    Improving Your Self-Esteem

    There are a number of ways in which you can improve your self-esteem.

    1. Identify and Challenge Your Negative Beliefs

    The first step is to identify, and then challenge, your negative beliefs about yourself.

    Notice your thoughts about yourself. For example, you might find yourself thinking ‘I’m not clever enough to do that’ or ‘I have no friends’. When you do, look for evidence that contradicts those statements. Write down both statement and evidence, and keep looking back at it to remind yourself that your negative beliefs about yourself are not true.

    2. Identify the Positive About Yourself

    It is also a good idea to write down positive things about yourself, such as being good at a sport, or nice things that people have said about you. When you start to feel low, look back at these things, and remind yourself that there is plenty of good about you.

    In general, positive internal dialogue is a big part of improving your self-esteem.

    If you catch yourself saying things like ‘I’m not good enough’ or ‘I’m a failure’, you can start to turn things around by saying ‘I can beat this’ and ‘I can become more confident by viewing myself in a more positive way’.

    To begin with you will catch yourself falling back into old negative habits, but with regular effort you can start to feel more positive and build your self-esteem as well.

    3. Build Positive Relationships—and Avoid Negative Ones

    You will probably find that there are certain people—and certain relationships—that make you feel better than others.

    If there are people who make you feel bad about yourself, try to avoid them.

    Build relationships with people who make you feel good about yourself and avoid the relationships that drag you down.

    4. Give Yourself a Break

    You don’t have to be perfect every hour of every day. You don’t even have to feel good about yourself all the time.

    Self-esteem varies from situation to situation, from day to day and hour to hour. Some people feel relaxed and positive with friends and colleagues, but uneasy and shy with strangers. Others may feel totally in command of themselves at work but struggle socially (or vice versa).

    Give yourself a break. We all have times when we feel a bit down or find it harder to maintain our self-belief.

    The key is not to be too hard on yourself. Be kind to yourself, and not too critical.

    Avoid criticising yourself to others, because this can reinforce your negative views—and also give other people a (possibly false) negative opinion of you.

    You can help to boost your self-esteem by giving yourself a treat whenever you succeed in doing something hard, or just for managing a particularly bad day.

    5. Become More Assertive and Learn to Say No

People with low self-esteem often find it hard to stand up for themselves or say no to others.

This means that they may become over-burdened at home or at work, because they do not like to refuse anyone anything. However, this can increase stress, and make it even harder to manage.

Developing your assertiveness can therefore help to improve your self-esteem. Sometimes acting as if you believed in yourself can actually help to increase self-belief!

Our pages on Assertiveness provide more information about this, including how to improve your assertiveness.

6. Improve Your Physical Health

It is much easier to feel good about ourselves when we are fit and healthy.

However, people with low self-esteem often neglect themselves, because they do not feel that they ‘deserve’ to be looked after.

Try taking more exercise, eating well, and getting enough sleep. It is also a good idea to make time to relax and to do something that you want to do, rather than something that someone else expects you to do. You may find that simple changes like this can make a huge difference to your overall outlook.

You may like to read our pages on The Importance of Exercise, Diet, Health and Nutrition, What is Sleep? and The Importance of Sleep for more information. You might also like our page on Relaxation Techniques.

7. Take On Challenges

People with low self-esteem often avoid challenging and difficult situations.

One way to improve your self-esteem can actually be to take on a challenge. This doesn’t mean that you need to do everything yourself—part of the challenge might be to seek help when you need it—but be prepared to try something that you know will be difficult to achieve.

By succeeding, you show yourself that you can achieve.

This challenges your negative beliefs and will therefore improve your self-esteem.

Further Reading from Skills You Need

The Skills You Need Guide to Personal Development

Learn how to set yourself effective personal goals and find the motivation you need to achieve them. This is the essence of personal development, a set of skills designed to help you reach your full potential, at work, in study and in your personal life.

The second edition of or bestselling eBook is ideal for anyone who wants to improve their skills and learning potential, and it is full of easy-to-follow, practical information.

The Importance of Small Steps

It is very unlikely that you will go from poor to good self-esteem overnight.

Instead, you will probably find you make small improvements over a period of time. The key is to look over the long term, rather than day-to-day, and focus on the big picture, not the detail of how you felt at a particular moment yesterday.

When you feel good, or you do something good, celebrate it—but don’t beat yourself up if you occasionally slip back into negative patterns of thinking. Just pick yourself up again and try to think more positively. Eventually, this will become a habit and you will find that your self-esteem has quietly got better.

6 Essential Ways to Instill a Positive Self-Concept

With that in mind, a positive self-concept is a strong predictor of long-term mental health and overall wellbeing. A positive self-concept is attributed to resilience—one’s ability to achieve positive outcomes despite negative or challenging experiences.

On the other hand, a positive self-concept is a critical construct in educational psychology. As such, fostering a positive self-concept is often regarded as a goal of education, and it has been linked to a variety of educational outcomes.

Some of the educational benefits of a positive self-concept include:

  • Higher academic achievement
  • Improved persistence
  • Improved approaches to learning, and
  • Improved coursework choices

A healthy self-concept also has a major influence on psychological and social outcomes—it encourages the healthy development of:

  • Personal and social abilities
  • Coping skills
  • Social interaction
  • Overall happiness
  • Emotional adjustment and socialization, and
  • Parent-child relationships

With this in mind, educators and parents need to work together to help school-aged children develop healthy self-concepts.

Let’s delve deeper into how self-concept is formed.

Factors That Shape Self-Concept

Self-concept can be shaped by feedback received from parents, siblings, teachers, community, and coaches. Temperament, context, cultural heritage, gender, life experiences, and the media can also shape who a person thinks he/she is, and even how they feel about themselves.

According to self-comparison theory, comparisons to other people have a major influence on self-concept. Individuals describe and assess themselves based on how they compare themselves to other people.

Early childhood years can also influence an individual's self-concept. Under the right circumstances, one's self-concept can be transformed regardless of how it was created.

Evidence-Based Interventions for Self-Concept Development

Developing a positive self-concept should start at an early age—from when a child is an infant. In addition, interventions for building self-concept require a solid working theory, receptive and informed participants, thoughtful planning, and consistency.

Below are tips that educators and parents can utilize to develop a positive self-concept in children and youth:

Promote a Healthy Self-Image

Self-image refers to the way an individual sees themselves both mentally and physically. Self-image is based on self-perception, including how one perceives one's appearance, beliefs, feelings, and behaviors.

Self-image can be shaped by learning, and by personal experiences with parents, teachers, and significant others.

Accordingly, early childhood influences can have significant effects on a person’s self-image. Interactions with others can affect how children or youth think or feel about themselves. Consequently, the level of self-image can affect mental health during childhood, and into adulthood.

Self-image also influences school achievement and academic success. With this in mind, educators and parents can foster a healthy self-image by encouraging children and youth to:

  • Describe themselves using affirmative and encouraging words. Choosing the wrong words can undermine a person’s self-image—negative self labels can undermine an individual’s unconditional self-worth.
  • Recognize and appreciate their unique strengths and abilities, and maintain realistic expectations about their liabilities and limitations.
  • Love and appreciate themselves
  • Stop comparing themselves to others

On the other hand, teachers can foster self-image by:

  • Giving honest and authentic feedback
  • Enhancing creativity by creating an atmosphere of psychological safety and freedom

Foster Positive Self-Concept Through Psychotherapy

Lack of a good self-image or poor self-concept can trigger many feelings and behaviors, including:

  • Anxiety
  • Absenteeism
  • Unwillingness to take risks
  • Self-destructive thought patterns
  • Indiscipline
  • Bullying
  • Fear of rejection and abandonment
  • Inability to form close relationships
  • Unnecessary self-protection

Accordingly, offering psychological counseling can create a positive self-concept, and break the cycle of unhelpful thoughts and behaviors. A school counselor or psychologist can help children and youth identify and modify their self-limiting beliefs. Psychologists also explore how poor self-concept may have developed.

With that in mind, the positive action guidance and counseling program is an appropriate tool for teaching students how to avoid negative behaviors. Importantly, the guidance and counseling program teaches students the emotional, psychological, physical, and behavioral benefits of positive actions.

Practice Attachment Parenting

A child’s self-concept begins to form when they are born. Consequently, parent-child relationships play a key role in children’s sense of self. Moreover, attachment security is an important component of social and emotional adjustment, and a healthy self-perception.

A parent’s attachment style or level of interest towards a child can determine the level of self-concept in a child—parents are the primary socializers of their children's expectations. A positive self-concept is more likely in a child who grows up in a supportive and secure environment.

Hence, creating a positive emotional bond with a child through a secure, nurturing and responsive relationship can foster a feeling of well-being. Secure children can develop an internal working model.

An internal working model provides a framework for understanding and approaching future interactions, as well as an understanding of themselves and others. In other words, the child’s relationship with the parent or caregiver provides a type of internal guidance for future behavior.

Foster Accountability for Actions

Almost every child wants to feel responsible and capable of doing what is required of them. Children need to feel responsible to maintain a healthy self-image, and for their lives to have meaning.

Children and youth want to feel important. They need to get the impression that their lives make a positive contribution. Accordingly, one of the most crucial skills we can teach our children is accountability.

When parents and teachers teach youth and children to take responsibility for their decisions and behavior, they are assisting them in becoming conscientious human beings and responsible community members.

Here are a few strategies for increasing your child’s response-ability:

  • Be a role model: A teacher’s or parent’s ability to accept responsibility is the first step in developing responsibility in children and youth. Don’t blame others for your mistakes or problems
  • Provide opportunities for accountability: Allow children and youth to make their own decisions
  • Hold the child accountable to rectify the mistake: Teach youth and children problem-solving skills for correcting mistakes.
  • Help them recognize that mistakes are an opportunity for growth
  • Assist them in gaining control of their situation: Institute a time management strategy where necessary.
  • Establish boundaries: Clear and firm rules stipulate consequences for behavior
  • Compliment the effort: Positive reinforcement offers encouragement to continue the behavior.

Emphasize on Setting Realistic Goals

Nothing is more demotivating than failing to accomplish a set goal. Accordingly, youth should be encouraged to set goals that represent an objective they are willing and able to work towards—realistic goals.

Goal-setting operates on a set of specific skills, which are easy to teach. As with most skills, teachers and parents need to start teaching effective goal-setting skills early. Students who accomplish set goals have a positive self-image, and a better understanding of their strengths, and weaknesses.

Strategies for effective goal-setting include:

  • Creating clear and measurable goals
  • Developing a detailed action plan for each goal
  • Reviewing goals daily and tracking progress
  • Revising action plans, if necessary

Persuade Children and Youth to Praise Themselves

Self-praise relieves a person of the need to wait for compliments or approval from others. Self-praise promotes the idea that it is acceptable to feel good about oneself.

Teaching youth and children to compliment themselves and their efforts is a delicate art. It entails assisting them in making realistic evaluations, gaining independence, and making their own decisions.

When a child or youth accomplishes a task, you can create opportunities for success by encouraging them to applaud themselves rather than complimenting them. For example, you can say, “You did well in your exams. How does it make you feel?”

Ascertain that the children can articulate specific positive aspects of their experience or achievement. Encourage children to praise themselves even when no one is listening. Most importantly, help children and youth distinguish between bragging and self-praise.

Take Steps to Shape the Self-Concepts of Your Students

Success in life, including academic achievement, is determined by how a child or youth feels about him/herself rather than by abilities or talent. Students who achieve success in academics and life, in general, know their worth, and their importance.

Moreover, students with healthy self-concepts can resist peer pressure. They are less likely to engage in unacceptable social behaviors, including substance abuse.

Nonetheless, the best strategy for fostering a positive self-concept among youth and children is a concentrated effort between educators and parents.

Positive Action programs are ideal for both educators and parents, and they’re highly effective in helping schools and students thrive. Here’s a success story from Compton Unified School District:

Watkins has been an enthusiastic and faithful implementer of PA. He says, “I like the Positive Action curriculum because it allows teachers to discuss issues such as self-esteem, respect, and hygiene in more detail than we normally would, which helps the students tremendously. Due to the daily reinforcement, my students’ behavior has improved immensely and, therefore, has made a positive impact on their academic achievement and attendance. My students now have a clear understanding of their strengths and weaknesses because they now have a new and positive concept of themselves.

For instance, the Positive Action T-A-F curriculum teaches students to engage in positive thoughts and actions so they can feel good about themselves.

By incorporating the positive action programs into your school curriculum, the self-concepts of students will continue to grow, and boost academic achievement.

How to Increase Self-Esteem and Confidence: Psychology


Practices how to

Tip 1. The only way to realize who you are is to find what suits you.

Tip 2. Talking about problems in a relationship reduces the fear of being abandoned.

Tip 3. Perhaps you are always trying to guess what the norm is. It is important for people with low self-esteem to know and understand that the concept of "normality" does not exist. It is more effective to ask yourself the question: what is really important to you? What is important to your family? The challenge isn't to figure out what's normal for you, but to figure out what works best for you and your loved ones.

Tip 4. The first step in overcoming any bad habit is to recognize it. To boost self-esteem and self-confidence, just watch yourself. Instead of engaging in self-judgment, try to get to know yourself by analyzing how you behave. When a person begins to look at himself honestly and without judgment, can separate himself from his behavior, he is able to change, develop and grow.

Tip 5. Feelings cannot be right or wrong. If we consider our feeling to be wrong, then guilt is added to it, and this makes the situation even worse. The anger you feel is real. If you decide that it is wrong to feel angry and that you should be compassionate instead, it will not help you. You cannot substitute one feeling for another.

Advice 6. It is impossible to completely overcome the feeling of loneliness, but there are ways to reduce it. First of all, you need to take the risk of opening up to others. The best way to get what you need is to start doing it yourself. If you want to be loved, first offer your love to others. This is the risk of being misunderstood, abandoned. But by avoiding risk, you doom yourself to loneliness. If you take risks, you get the opportunity to change. It's not enough to try once. Make a promise to yourself that every day you will step out of your comfort zone a little.

When you choose to be yourself, you get a lot more opportunities.

Tip 7. There is a good group exercise that shows that self-criticism is always very subjective. Participants sit in a circle, the task is to free themselves, in whole or in part, from those qualities that they no longer want to possess. If someone likes the rejected qualities, he or she can appropriate them.

For example, one participant says that he wants to get rid of procrastination, and this quality does not have time to reach the center of the circle, while another already says that he would like to take it, because, on the contrary, he is hyperactive. Someone else says, “I want to get rid of guilt,” and immediately gets the answer: “I need some of your guilt. I feel too selfish."

The exercise demonstrates that our traits need to be studied. To what extent are they useful to us? How much do they interfere? Obviously, judging yourself and your shortcomings is not helpful. When you choose to be yourself, you have many more opportunities to improve your self-esteem.

Advice 8. An acute reaction to a minor event—for example, friends canceling a meeting at the last minute—is usually related to our past. Something similar has happened before - once or many times, usually in childhood.

The first thing you need to do is to be clear about when you start to overreact. How appropriate is your response to the circumstances? Is it worth it to react so sharply? If these questions make you feel defensive, then you are indeed overreacting to the situation.

The first step towards overcoming such reactions is to realize their essence and understand what caused them in the past. The next step is to consciously change habits. Ask yourself how attached you are to your usual plans. Can you go home another way? Or go to the store on Wednesday instead of Thursday as usual? Can you change plans without disorienting yourself? This is a chance to become more flexible. Flexibility in one area makes it possible to develop flexibility in other areas.

Advice 9. Analyze what kind of people are present in your life and what is the nature of your relationship with them. Do you receive from others as much as you give to them? To what extent are these people stronger or weaker than you? Perhaps if you objectively evaluate your surroundings, you will see that you are giving people more than you are receiving. Then you will have to change your social circle and maintain relationships only with those who are capable of symmetrical relationships.

Perhaps this is because you yourself do not allow others to do things for you. You consider yourself strong enough to take care of yourself, but allow others to participate in your life.

Pain, sadness or anger can only belong to the one who feels it

Tip 10. If you say to yourself day after day: “Why am I staying with this person? Why can't I give it all up?" - It is worth analyzing your relationships. People who do not deserve our loyalty are often very critical of us. They often criticize us. Be careful when you hear this - who is the person really talking about? Do his statements really apply to you, or is he projecting his own shortcomings onto you?

Pain, sadness or anger can only belong to the one who experiences it. These feelings should not become yours, you can only show empathy and compassion. You may have been dragged into an unhealthy relationship by playing on guilt. If you are easily manipulated based on this feeling, you begin to think that you owe something to someone else. “He was kind to me. He took care of me."

Feeling guilty or obligated for these reasons is wrong. You don't owe people anything for supporting you. You are self-worth. If you feel obligated to support them, you are admitting, "I'm worthless."

Advice 11. You will gain self-confidence if you can solve the tasks that you set for yourself. Tasks can be simple or complex, but you need to be sure that they are achievable.

Things don't always work out. If something worked out, it’s great and it didn’t happen by accident, you deserve your success. Reward yourself for completed tasks. Always remember the things that you are good at. Don't ignore them. Use them as a foundation to become a whole person. If you didn’t succeed, you need to get out of this situation and try something new. It shouldn't devastate you.

About the Expert

Janet Voititz (1939–1994) pioneered research into the problems of children and families of alcoholics in the 1980s. The impetus was her husband's alcoholism. Woititz found that children of alcoholics and children who grew up in single-parent families, as well as families where one or both parents suffered from addictions and phobias, as a rule, grow up with low self-esteem and experience great difficulties in communicating with other people. Her book, Adult Children of Alcoholics, became a bestseller and helped launch a movement that has grown worldwide.

Text: Ksenia Tatarnikova Photo Source: Getty Images

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5 ways to increase self-esteem - Lifehacker

September 4, 2016 Motivation

We tell you how to increase self-esteem in order to become more confident, endure life's difficulties and recover faster from emotional wounds.

It's good to have high self-esteem, but it's not easy to achieve. Part of the problem is that this indicator is unstable: one day it can skyrocket, and the next it can go nowhere. The situation is even more complicated when we try to evaluate ourselves in specific areas of life (family, sports, work). For example, if dinner doesn't taste good enough, a chef will be much more upset than a person for whom cooking is not an important aspect of their identity.

It is important to know when to stop: excessive self-esteem can make a person very vulnerable. He will be fine most of the time, but any criticism will elicit a strong reaction. And this greatly hinders the psychological development of a person.

If you are still far from such problems and would like to increase your own self-esteem, then follow our advice.

1. Use Affirmations Properly

Affirmations - self-hypnosis formulas - are very popular, but they have a significant drawback. They often make people with low self-esteem feel even worse. Why? When self-esteem is low, statements like "I'm going to be a huge success!" strongly contradict the internal beliefs of a person.

Oddly enough, affirmations most often work for people who already have everything in order with self-esteem.

But how can you make them work for you if your self-esteem leaves much to be desired? Speak more believable formulas. For example, instead of "I'm going to be a huge success!" tell yourself, “I will try my best until I get what I want.”

2. Identify and develop your areas of expertise

Self-esteem is based on actual accomplishments in areas of life that are important to you. If you feel proud of yourself when you have prepared a delicious dinner, invite guests more often and treat them to something tasty. If you are good at running, apply for a sporting event and prepare for it. Determine what areas you are competent in and look for opportunities to highlight it.

3. Learn to accept compliments

People with low self-esteem are in dire need of compliments, but at the same time they do not know how to properly respond to them.

Accept compliments, even if they make you feel uncomfortable.

The best way to avoid the reflex reaction of denying all the good things that people say about you is to prepare a simple set of answers and practice saying them automatically every time you receive a compliment. For example, say "Thank you!" or "That's so nice of you." Over time, the desire to deny compliments will disappear, and this is a clear indicator that your self-esteem is rising.

4. Stop criticizing yourself, be softer

If you constantly criticize yourself, self-esteem becomes even lower. To regain self-esteem, it is necessary to replace criticism with self-compassion.

Whenever you are unhappy with yourself, ask yourself what you would say to your best friend in such a situation. As a rule, we feel more compassion for our friends than for ourselves. But if you learn to cheer yourself up in difficult circumstances, you can avoid lowering your self-esteem due to a critical attitude.

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