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Self-esteem, self-image and self-confidence

I think we often get confused about all the things we are supposed to be, or have.  Like self-confidence, self-esteem, self-image - and I’ll add another few things – self-worth, self-respect and self-regard.

Are they all the same thing?  And what is the difference between them?

Carl Jung once said, “The things that worry us the most are the things we don’t understand”.  Perhaps if we understood the difference between self-esteem and self-confidence and all the other "selfs", we’d come to the wonderful realisation that we are actually healthy in all our "selfs" except one – so at least we can work on that one and not spend pointless time worrying about all the others.

I think we get all of these confused and we lump them all in the same barrel, so in the pursuit of understanding I think it’d be useful to define what we’re talking about here ...

Ways to build self-esteem, self-confidence and self-worth

Ways to build self-esteem, self-confidence, self-worth through body language and self talk

People are very much influenced by the way you move and the way you talk, but these things don’t just affect how others see you, they have a profound influence on how you see yourself.For example, the two most influential pieces of body language are eye gaze (level and steady), and tone of voice (strong and low). When you avoid looking at people or whisper instead of speaking out – you feed a message to yourself that you are submissive and inferior.

When you speak about yourself to others, in a way that is negative and puts you down – you send entirely the wrong message to your brain, and reinforce to it that you are inferior.

Here are five tips on these two crucial things.

Absolute basics to improve self-esteem and self-confidence

Above all - treat yourself the same way you treat others

You are not rude to others, you don't lie to them, cheat, steal, abuse them, put them down, are violent towards them or say negative things about them – so don't do it to yourself! Jesus said "Love your neighbour as you love yourself", so he must have had good self esteem!

Understand who you are trying to change or grow into

What are your values, characteristics and personality traits (Google these things and tick ones you think apply to you) – what would you like to change? When you understand you have good values (and you will) stick to your values – don't compromise – this equals integrity.

Break the "I'm not good enough" cycle

Tackling negative core beliefs

Tackling negative core beliefs

How many times do you not only actually say to yourself 'I'm not good enough', but demonstrably show it through shooting yourself in the foot; self-defeating behaviours and attitudes; self-sabotage or whatever else you would like to call it? Every time the cycle goes around, you feel worse about yourself.

Everyone does this just a little, but when it becomes a continuous destructive cycle that drags you down, ruins your life and keeps you away from happiness, it's time to act.

We're talking about the following things and they might seem a bit harsh (usually the kind of things you might complain about in other people), but if you admit any of these are a bit like you, good for you – it's time to start doing something about it:

  • Being overly responsible. "I'm responsible for everything and everyone feeling good and being okay. Oh, and they have to like and approve of me all of the time. Otherwise, it's terrible and awful."
  • Self-blaming and self-judgement. "It's all my fault", "I'm such a klutz", "I can never get it right."
  • Being overly defensive. Here are a few synonyms from Webster's Dictionary for defensive: aggressive, bellicose, belligerent, combative, contentious, in-your-face, militant, pugnacious, quarrelsome, scrappy, truculent, and warlike. Enough said?
  • Blaming. "It's not my fault, they did it. It had nothing to do with me."
  • Being passive/aggressive. Complaining about people to others, sending a snarky email or text and then avoiding the person, or relying on others to help you or stick up for you.

Your emotional language

Emotional language - happy or sad

How your emotional language causes or relieves stress

Imagine you are a caveperson living in a small group or tribe of 15 to 20 people. There are pests like fleas, and we need to keep our hair from getting too long or tangling. Then we have aches and pains that feel better when someone strokes us. Also, if people in our group or tribe take the time to do this and we feel good, we feel valued, we belong. If we were not included in grooming, it usually meant being sent to the edge of the group. This resulted in less food, less protection, and less attention, and so we were much less likely to survive.

Being groomed could mean the difference between life and death. Our brains release rewarding chemicals to make us want this type of touching more, like the hormone of bonding and romantic love, oxytocin, and also, endorphins and enkephalins.

Now imagine that your group or tribe is growing larger and larger. The average size of a human group is now around 150 people. Even if you live in a large city alongside millions of people you will still likely know about 150 of them, family, friends, colleagues and others. There are not enough hours in the day to physically groom everyone. We need another way to feel bonded and stroked.

It's thought that our complicated language developed as an adaptation to solve this problem. So we verbally groom (as well as using physical touch). Today, instead of the tribe, we rely on our mate, or we pay people to physically groom us, like massage therapists hairdressers, physiotherapists, and even sex workers.

But this complex language has become a double-edged sword. The words we use and the tone of voice we deliver them with can be extremely stressful. It's considered one of our most significant stressors.

What Some Famous People Had To Say About Self Confidence And Self Esteem

My favourite quotes that reflect things like body language, self image (you can never be greater than your own self-image), integrity and inner strength.

"Trust yourself. Create the kind of self that you will be happy to live with all your life. Make the most of yourself by fanning the tiny, inner sparks of possibility into flames of achievement."

-- Golda Meir

"You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe deserve your love & affection."

-- Bhudda

"I was always looking outside myself for strength and confidence but it comes from within. It is there all the time."

-- Anna Freud

The power of placebo – making it work for you

Nurse with a pill

How can I make myself feel better now? It's a question that's been suggested in therapy for eons. Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy and many other therapies are all variations on a simple recipe.

  • I accept that I feel bad.
  • I accept the feelings that go along with feeling bad.
  • In spite of feeling bad, I can cope.
  • But what can I do to make myself feel better now?

The last step is important. It's the action part of the formula. If we just accept feeling bad and then don't do anything about it, it prolongs our misery and disempowers us. Taking action though, can come in a variety of ways.

For example thinking differently; re-focusing the brain on something else (action and distraction); learning to regulate distress and negative emotions (the six-second breath is good for this); addressing poor relationships; and paying attention to sleep, diet and exercise.

Sometimes though, taking action might be to try something new. A new doctor who seems to understand us better, a new medication, or a new remedy we see on the internet. We want to try it and hope it will help, so we look it up, only to find there is no scientific basis behind the action, the substance or the medication. It's only a placebo, we're told. It doesn't really work, so we don't try it.

But is that true? That we shouldn't try things just because they're thought to be a placebo or science hasn't proven it?

Hello, how am I?

Pensive woman thinking hard about something

All my top tips for self-communication

In our parents' and grandparents' day, talking to ourselves was considered a 'sign of madness'. As a consequence, we were also taught not to be show-offs or boastful. So the way we spoke to ourselves was, and most often still is, harsh and judgemental (here's more about our inner bully).

This only began to be addressed in the sixties with the advent of Cognitive Behaviour Therapy and positive psychology, which taught how vital self-talk was to our emotional wellbeing.

We've learned that it's Important to speak positively to ourselves. This can be a difficult habit to cultivate and takes time. 'Mindful self-awareness' can help, as we monitor our inner conversations and learn to change the words we say to ourselves from negative to positive. There are other things we can do to better communicate with ourselves too, like body language and tone of voice. But first ...

My 10 rules for good communication with yourself and others