Self esteem: it's something you need to have a lot of before you succeed and it's something that no one can give you.
The first step towards high self-esteem is knowing where your current level of self esteem is. Most people don't know and it can't be measured just by looking at a person. So how do you gauge where you are at?
For the most part, if you truly believe you can do anything you want and you don't let criticism or other people's opinions bother you, I would say you have a high level of self esteem. If you still get shaken when other people criticize you, click here to learn how you can stay calm in the face of criticism.
I never thought of myself as having low self esteem but from my research and experience, I've come to recognize that there are times when I show warning signs of low self esteem. Before I tell you what you can do when you see these warning signs, let me share with you the 7 warning signs of low self esteem:
Can't Handle Praise
People who have low self esteem are uncomfortable and have trouble accepting praise. They usually deflect it or put themselves down. Being Chinese, I can understand that some of this may be cultural but when you make it awkward for someone to praise you, they are going to stop praising you. The easiest way to graciously accept praise is by saying "Thank you".
Condescending and/or Puts People Down
I used to trash talk a lot when I play basketball. Although most of it is fun and games, a part of it was making myself look good by making others look bad. The same applies for a belligerent boss or a rude customer. Anytime someone looks down on or tries to put down another person (even if they are just "joking"), they are revealing their own insecurities. People with high self esteem respect everyone no matter their background, situation or condition. They tend to make fun of themselves as opposed to other people.
Controlling vs. Empowering
When you try to control someone instead of empowering them, it shows that you feel threatened. Jealous partners who are manipulative and don't allow their significant others to talk to the opposite sex or to go out and enjoy themselves act this way due to low self esteem. It stems from the fear of losing that person because they don't feel they are good enough. Those with high self esteem are always looking to give power to other people knowing that they themselves are in full control of their own life.
Can't Say "No"
I had a big problem with this one. I found it hard to say no when someone would ask me to do something, go somewhere or join some team. It would be ok if it was something I enjoyed doing, but sometimes I would agree to things that I knew I wouldn't enjoy. I believe some of it comes from being nice and wanting to be helpful but a big part of it comes from wanting to please people. I wanted people to like me because I was basing my self-worth on what others thought about me and this is a sure sign of low self esteem. If you want to build your self esteem, learn to say "no" when you really want to say "no".
When you can't decide, there are usually a few reasons: You don't want to take responsibility for making the wrong decision, you believe that what you want is not as important as what someone else wants and/or you really don't know what to do. Apart from not knowing what to do, the other reasons are warning signs of low self esteem. Anytime you feel that you are not as important as someone else or you don't deserve something, you are lowering your esteem. People with high self esteem are decisive because they understand that their opinion is worth just as much as anyone else's even if they are with high-profile people like the President of the United States.
The inability to accept responsibility is a telltale sign of low self-esteem. This shows up when someone is indecisive and when they blame other people. People blame others because they believe what you do is who you are which means when you make a mistake, you somehow diminish yourself. They don't realize by blaming others, they have made themselves powerless by becoming a victim of circumstance.
How many times have you heard or maybe even said:
"I was late because of stupid train delays.",
"I didn't get promoted because I don't schmooze with my managers." or
"I can't find a job because of the economy."
Although these may be valid reasons, people with strong self-esteem do not focus on the external factor that may have caused the undesired result but rather spend their energy thinking of ways to achieve the outcome that they want. They don't put themselves down for making a mistake, they just learn from the experience and move on.
How do you tell if a presenter/speaker is not confident?
The first words they say is "I'm sorry." even though they haven't done anything to be sorry for. They are apologizing for being there because perhaps they believe someone better should be in their place. If you ever catch yourself apologizing for no good reason, be aware that something or someone is causing you to lower your self-esteem.
Apologies are important but should be reserved for the occasions when you make a mistake. In all other cases, don't apologize.
So what do you do if you are showing warning signs of low self esteem?
Self esteem is just a belief. It takes as much effort to believe you have low self esteem as it does to believe you have high self esteem. All you need to do when experiencing low self esteem is to change your belief about yourself. Remember that no one can give or take away your self esteem.
"To be beautiful means to be yourself. You don’t need to be accepted by others. You need to accept yourself." -Thich Nhat Hanh
How do you spot low self esteem?
Robert Chen is the founder of Embrace Possibility and author of The Dreams to Reality Fieldbook. He helps people who feel stuck move forward by guiding them to see other possibilities for their lives. He specializes in working with high performers get to the next level. If you're going through a tough time right now, check out Robert's article on How to Feel Better Right Away and if you're having trouble getting what you want out of life, check out How to Always Achieve Your Goals.