The biggest challenge I see people face when building their self-esteem or recovering from a lifetime of low self-esteem is how they can actually maintain the new valuation they give to themselves. One moment they are up, thinking positively about themselves and the next moment they are down again in negative self-talk.
If that describes you or describes what you don’t want to experience, then this article is just for you. But first, let us make clear what we are trying to maintain.
Your self-esteem is the evaluation or estimation you give yourself. It is your measure of how much you are worth. Your self esteem is not how much you actually worth, it is only your estimation of it. You can either see yourself as worthy of much (high self-esteem) or worthy of less (low self-esteem).
However, I strongly believe that we shouldn’t have high or low self-esteem. Instead, we should have true self esteem since that is what is safest.
True self esteem means you see yourself as having the exact worth that you truly have. You don’t count yourself as worth more than you actually are, you also don’t count yourself as worth less than you actually are. More on true self-esteem here!
Now having understood what self-esteem is, how then can high or true self-esteem be maintained?
I will be considering 7 simple steps on how to maintain high self-esteem after building it.
How To Maintain A High Self-Esteem
1. Rest in the assurance that you are worthy and needed because you have something to contribute
If you haven’t assured yourself of this, your self-esteem will continue to fluctuate based on what you perceive the environment is telling you and I don’t think there are very abundant cases where the environment continues to remind you of how worthy you are.
If there was, you wouldn’t be reading this. So rather than relying on the environment to remind you of your worth, settle it now. The same way you are assured of your gender, get assured of your worth too. The only reason why you should assure yourself of your worth is because you are truly worthy.
You are valuable/worthy because you have a significant contribution to the overall programme of life. Since you are valuable, just see yourself that way. It is not the job of the environment to remind you how valuable you are, it is totally up to you. If the environment signals a lack of worth to you, it doesn’t change your worth.
So you must continue to affirm this to yourself. But affirmations alone are not the key. They must be combined with the other keys below.
2. Work with confidence and rest as you release your value bit by bit
Now, although your worth has been defined already, no one can see or perceive that worth except your work reveals it. Your work is the outlet of your worth but not the definition of it.
However, this is the cause of the issue many of us keep facing. The environment can only measure our worth by the product of our work, or our worth seems worthless without work.
Since your worth is defined by the contribution you are able to make, you have to make contributions in response to your worth, but here’s the caution: if you begin to work to prove your worth, you begin to define your worth by your work and your self-esteem will continue to fluctuate based on the quality of work you’re able to bring forth from time to time.
At that point, the problem is no longer from the environment but from you so work because you can and you should not because you want to show that you can. This is working from a place of rest. Once you do this inevitably the environment will see your worth but even if they don’t, you do.
Remember self-esteem is all about how you see yourself. As you see your worth being released through your work, you will be reinforced and will be more convinced of your worth to the larger picture of life and will work even more. It is a positive cycle activated.
The difference between the work you are to do now and the work you were doing before is that now you are being conscious of every product from your work— it is making more meaning to you. You are being aware of your contribution to the overall programme of life.
As someone who used to suffer from low self-esteem, writing this blog post is really reassuring me of my worth because although people might not see it as something special, I am conscious about the fact that I am making a contribution to someone’s life.
The fact that you are reading this means I am truly valuable because I’m helping you understand your worth. Consciously appreciate the contribution your work is making. It builds self-esteem.
3. Separate your work from your worth
To maintain high self-esteem and true self-esteem, you will have to consciously choose to separate your work from your worth. Your work is what you do, your worth is who you are.
If you have truly done the separation, you wouldn’t see yourself as any less worthy if you aren’t making any contribution, if people aren’t appreciating your contribution or if you constantly produce low quality work. Instead you begin to refine your work to reveal your worth better.
Work that stems from an assurance of worthiness will always be better than work that is mixed with worthiness. Separating your work from your worth is at the centre of maintaining high and true self-esteem because your work wouldn’t always be worthy but you are always worthy.
4. Honestly criticise your work to define its true value (not your value) by how much are contributing
After you have settled the fact that the value of your work is not your value, subjecting your work to criticism wouldn’t be difficult because even if your work is seen as poor or dilapidated or any other derogatory adjective, you wouldn’t take the criticism personally— you wouldn’t attach it to yourself.
Thankfully, criticism is necessary for growth. Once your work is criticised, you can then begin to work on making it better. The aim of this is to make your work more refined so it can reveal your worth even better.
Knowing the true value of your work will also help you in knowing where to present your work and what contribution to make.
This is one aspect of self-esteem people don’t get. There is usually this belief that because we are worthy, we must be accepted everywhere. This isn’t true. Just picture a very “useful” mother’s uselessness in saving a drowning ship. The fact that she can’t save the ship doesn’t mean she’s worthless. She’s just in the wrong situation.
So everyone must be able to honestly evaluate their work, see its worth and determine where it will be needed and appreciated.
While a 16 year old amateur but passionate footballer is as worthy as the world’s best player, their works are not worth the same. So rejecting that child from his nation’s national team isn’t rejecting him in person. It is only recognising the value of his work at that point and admitting that it is not as refined as is needed for the national team.
If you can do the evaluation and criticism of your work by yourself, it will save you a lot of disappointment and turn downs which might make you begin to doubt your worth all over again.
Still in doing this, you must be careful not to diminish your work in the name of honest criticism because as someone who is recovering from low self-esteem, you are very likely to belittle your work.
5. Improve your work so it reveals your worth more (not increase your worth)
Now that you have determined the true worth of your work, the proof that you believe in your worth is that you continually refine your work to reveal your worth more.
Don’t be deceived into thinking that since you are worthy and do not need to prove your worth, it means you can give low or average quality work. Remember your work is the outlet of your worth. So if you are highly valuable, it means you should produce highly quality work too— it is parallel.
The only reason why we shouldn’t judge our worth by our work is because there are several other factors that affect work output and hinder it from being the true picture of a person’s worth.
The effect of improving your work is that others are able to perceive your worth even more and you’ll be able to take your contributions to where they should be. Like that amateur footballer becoming the captain of his national team because he has worked on himself.
Also, improving your work translates potential value into significant value. That is, although you are valuable for what you can contribute, you can also be valuable and should be for what you are actually contributing.
6. Avoid comparisons or toxic relationships
This is necessary in order to protect all you have been doing from step 1 to step 5. If you have remained faithful to all the steps but you remain in environments that constantly negate all the processes you have gone through, you wouldn’t experience any lasting change.
All that we have gone through are mindset shifts and mindsets shift in response to environments.
(i) avoid comparison: remember your worth is defined by a contribution to the overall program of life. If you compare yourself with others, it might seem that some are making more contributions than you and so they are more valuable. This again will begin to tilt you back to low self-esteem.
You should understand that nobody’s contribution is more significant than the other and our “little” contributions all match up to make the entire programme successful.
Although flour might be seen as the most important ingredient in making burgers, you still wouldn’t have a burger until every other ingredient is present. That is, all the ingredients, both major and minor according to our own standards, are equally important if what you want is a burger.
Similarly, a TED speaker whose contribution is reaching millions of people around the world and a nanny who only speaks to three 4-year-olds are equally valuable since the aim is the overall program of life.
(ii) avoid toxic relationships: that’s basically it. Avoid people that make you look worthless. Avoid people that don’t see or appreciate your worth. Avoid people that always give you negative responses.
These steps will help you maintain and protect your self-esteem after it has been built.
Olusegun Iyejare is a career coach and certified counselor. He helps individuals discover and maximize their potential to live satisfying lives regardless of obvious limitations holding them back.