Low self-esteem is one cause of depression says a lecturer of Chula’s Faculty of Psychology who also provides easy steps one can follow to increase self-esteem, and provide one’s solutions to the various problems we all face.

Happiness is something that we all desire, yet problems in life are also normal and unavoidable.  Problems such as those concerning relationships, work, education, financial status, or health can be discouraging and lessen our self-esteem which ends up exacerbating those problems even more and leading eventually to a state of depression.  

It is therefore important to maintain one’s strength and a positive attitude to face our adversities.  Such strength doesn’t exist anywhere far but is within us and depends a lot on how we view ourselves.  Dr. Poonsub Areekit of the Faculty of Psychology, Chulalongkorn University offers tips on how to nurture self-esteem to achieve understanding with those around you as well as to reinforce one’s ability to face those problems as well as to find happiness and fulfillment. 

How does one define self-esteem?

Some of us might have wondered what self-esteem is and how it differs from self-confidence. 

To Dr. Poonsub, self-confidence is a notion that emphasizes the confidence derived from one’s skills and abilities like cooking or painting, etc.  Each individual might have some areas about which they are confident or other areas that they lack the ability or skill and hence has no confidence.  

Self-esteem, on the other hand, concerns the overall attitude toward oneself.  It concerns the temperament or viewpoint that the individual has towards themselves and may not be what is apparent to others in the same way as a skill or ability is.  One might say too, that a person who has self-confidence in their skills or ability does not necessarily mean they perceive their value or self-worth.    




Maintaining an appropriate measure of self-esteem

Those who realize their self-worth will “know who they are”, “what they desire”, and “what they like”.  Such views enable them to be satisfied with who they are and what they have, to perceive the value from inner factors that lead to being “self-assured in an appropriate manner.”  

“Those with adequate self-esteem will have the freedom to express themselves and maintain their individuality in such a way that they can express their personal needs and standpoint while respecting others’ sense of self, enabling them to develop a quality relationship with those around them.”    

Most importantly, Dr. Poonsub recognizes that those with self-esteem will possess the inner strength to deal with the adversities in life.  

“We can all be faced with problems.  Maintaining a good level of self-esteem, however, will provide us with inner strength and stability to withstand all obstacles.  No matter what challenges, as long as we still perceive the value of who we are and maintain a level of self-love and respect, we shall overcome those obstacles and find a way out as we get through those crises in life.”  


The two types of low self-esteem

Those with low levels of self-esteem usually assess themselves from external factors and allow those factors, such as the opinions of others, to determine their self-worth.  

“Those who dislike themselves and have negative thoughts of themselves will be wary of self-expression as they view their viewpoint or attitude as insignificant, that others are better than they are and thus makes them unable to demonstrate their capabilities.  Low self-esteem opens up to the possibility of depression.”

Dr. Poonsub identified two extreme ways that those with low self-esteem usually act out as a way to ensure a sense of safety and security: 

  1. Creating self-value and importance by allowing others to get what they want. 
  2. Positioning themselves above others by coercing and bullying others as a way to cover up their inferiorities.   

Both actions can end up undermining our relationships with those around us and eventually corrode our feelings of self-worth. 



Ways to daily increase your self-esteem

Realizing one’s self-worth does not come naturally, and requires nurturing.  These are some of the things one can do to boost self-esteem.  

  1. Learn to be self-reliant, understand and be clear with oneself –try to be “self-reflective” perhaps by looking back at past actions, asking oneself how one dealt and responded to certain situations.  Most importantly, look upon oneself with compassion, and tender loving care. 
  2. Learn to recognize your qualities and positive personalities – determination, resoluteness, patience, diligence, gratitude, etc. 
  3. Learn to be mindful of your thoughts and moods – when you find yourself amid some situation or activity, you might like to stop and ask yourself these questions, for example, “How does this make you feel?”  “Why am I angry with myself?” “Why do I blame myself?” “Why am I crying?”   Exercises such as these will make you begin to distinguish between “the real self” and “the ideal self”. 
  4. Learn to befriend yourself especially when you need moral support.  -When problems occur, make sure you don’t blame yourself.  Instead, try asking questions that a friend would ask such as “How are you?  Have things been hectic today?” or even say “Don’t worry, we can always try again and make adjustments so that things get better next time” or “All the occurrences we go through in life leaves room for us to grow, we are still capable of developing ourselves.”  This way, you can heal your heart, and restore your courage.
  1. Be mindful of your self-talk -talk to yourself calmly, and gently using positive rather than negative words and phrases whenever any mistakes occur.  Blaming or being harsh on yourself will only lessen your feelings of self-worth. 
  2. Surround yourself with those who know you well and accept you for who you are.  Your family, close friends, and associates play an important role in supporting you and enabling you to realize your self-worth.  Look around you for someone who knows you, who understands, and is willing to listen.  Spend more time with such people since they are the ones who will lessen the burden and show their love and support.  They could be anyone as long as they are those whom you can trust, someone positive with whom you feel you can depend on to share your thoughts and feelings. 
  3. Learn to accept others for who they are.  Create a safe space so that they will be ready to share their thoughts and feelings while offering moral support.  Doing so will create more room for them to realize their self-worth, and for us to realize ours.


One minute Self-esteem short-cut

There will be highs and lows on the path towards creating self-esteem based on the situation that presents itself and becomes a challenge in your life.   Dr. Poonsub offers us some tips that help us to feel good each day. 

  • Say “thank you” to yourself and things that happen to you in life at least once a day, every day. 
  • Have a small celebration for any of the minor things you have accomplished in life, for example when you can complete a thirty-minute run, reward, or compliment yourself to show you take pride and see the value of what you have achieved.  
  • Give some time to yourself for relaxation to find your strengths and hear the feedback from “well-meaning” people to develop your potential with a strong sense of pride in yourself.