To build up low self-esteem, there are certain beliefs you need to let go of.
First, how you compare with others is irrelevant. People with poor self-esteem are the only ones comparing themselves to other people. No one with a good sense of self-esteem cares. They’re too busy enjoying what they’re doing to think about how someone else does it better or more efficiently.
Let me say right now: there is nothing you do that you do better than everyone else in the world. Also there is no subject about which you know more than everyone else in the world. I don’t care if you’re Steven Hawking. You will always lose this contest. There will always be someone smarter than you; someone who was younger than you were when s/he graduated from college; someone with a more prestigious degree from a more prestigious university, a higher verbal score on the SATs or better recall for Simpsons jokes.
So what do you do about the fact that you are not the best at anything? Should you curl up in a ball and cry yourself to sleep?
Not being the best at anything does not matter. Really. It does not matter for a real sense of self-esteem.
Who’s the jerk who told you it did?
At least you’re better than him.
Being better than someone else is not what creates self-esteem. Being competent and capable are what build self-esteem. You don’t need to have built the most awesome gaming table ever. You just need to have built one that doesn’t collapse under the weight of all the dice you own.
Change your focus. People with low self-esteem are self-conscious people. Get your attention off of yourself. Start doing things for other people and you’ll worry less about how well you’re performing. Quit worrying about how nervous you are in a social situation and start thinking about how to make others feel more at ease (they might be nervous too!). Also volunteering and engaging in other do-gooder acts will make you feel better about yourself.
Often people with low self-esteem are trying to live someone else’s life. You have a (mental) list of things you should do and then you beat yourself up when you don’t do them. Let go of your obligations and do what you want to do, not what you “ought” to do.
Make a list right now of the things you’re supposed to do that you drag your feet about doing or do grudgingly. Maybe it’s spending the holidays with your family, maybe it’s working more than forty hours a week, maybe it’s never turning down a social invitation. Whatever those things are, vow not to do any of them this year.
Up next Tuesday: Changing Your Self-Talk