Ah… the elusiveness of self-esteem. What do you picture when you think about it? Most people associate it with things like confidence, poise, self-respect, dignity. And yes, these are all essential components of self-esteem, but it is also much more than that.
In psychology, self-esteem describes a person’s overall sense of self-worth. The American Psychological Association says that self-esteem involves a person’s “view of his or her accomplishments, capabilities, values [and] perceived success in living up to them (…) The more positive the cumulative perception of these qualities and characteristics, the higher one’s self-esteem.”
So self-esteem is less about having a determined set of characteristics, like confidence and dignity, and more about how you perceive yourself as it relates to these and other traits. In other words, it is your overall opinion of yourself and how you feel about your abilities and limitations.
Like most things in life, self-esteem is an ever-evolving process that ebbs and flows as you move through life. That means that at some point or another, we are all likely to experience low self-esteem. Having low self-esteem doesn’t mean that you’ve failed as a person or that you’re not worthy of positive relationships. In today’s society, we frequently hear that if we don’t love ourselves, no one ever will, but the truth is that going through a challenging period doesn’t make you any less deserving of love.
Boosting self-esteem through inspiration
Although it’s completely normal to go through low periods from time to time, recurring poor self-esteem can negatively impact your mental health and overall wellness. According to BetterHelp, low self-esteem is linked to many mental health conditions, like anxiety, depression, eating disorders, substance abuse, and more.
Because increasingly low-self esteem can be devastating to your mental health, it’s important to address any disruptive thoughts and feelings of self-worthlessness as they arise. And sometimes, a great way to start seeing ourselves in a new light is by finding inspiration in other people’s stories. Check out these inspirational TED Talks for boosting self-esteem and save them for the next time you need a little pick-me-up.
1. The Power of Vulnerability by Brené Brown
Length: 20 minutes 50 seconds
Brené Brown is a professor, researcher, and storyteller who has spent decades studying vulnerability, courage, worthiness, and shame. Her TED Talk, “The Power of Vulnerability”, touches on what she has learned from her research on the importance of courage and vulnerability.
She said that in her years of research, she noticed that people who had the strongest sense of self-love are the people that believe they’re worthy of love and belonging. And she suggests that it all starts with vulnerability, which she calls the “birthplace of joy, of creativity, of belonging, of love.”
Favorite quote: “You are imperfect, you are wired for struggle, but you are worthy of love and belonging.”
2. The Skill of Self-Confidence by Dr. Ivan Joseph
Length: 13 minutes 20 seconds
Dr. Ivan Joseph is a leadership expert, soccer coach, and best-selling author whose TED Talk, “The Skill of Self-Confidence” has amassed nearly 25 million views. According to Dr. Joseph, self-confidence is a skill that you must learn, develop, and exercise — just like any other skill.
He gives great tips for exercising self-confidence and says that practice, repetition, and persistence are essential for cultivating any skill. He reinforces Malcolm Gladwell’s theory that in order to become an expert at anything, one must devote at least 10,000 hours to learning the skills.
Favorite quote: “We all have this negative self-talk that goes in our head (…) There are enough people that are telling us we can’t do it. That we’re not good enough. Why do we want to tell ourselves that? We know for a fact that thoughts influence actions (…) We need to get our self-affirmations (…) There needs to be quiet moments in your bedroom, when you’re brushing your teeth, that we need to reaffirm: ‘I am the captain of my ship and master of my fate.’”
3. The Space Between Self-Esteem and Self-Compassion by Kristin Neff
Length: 19 minutes 01 seconds
Dr. Kristin Neff is a professor of educational psychology and researcher specializing in the power of self-compassion. In her TED Talk “The Space Between Self-Esteem and Self-Compassion,” Dr. Neff argues that there is a fundamental difference between these two concepts: whereas self-esteem is closely linked to things like work performance and social acceptance, and therefore may ultimately lead to narcissism, self-compassion “is a way of relating to ourselves kindly, embracing ourselves as we are, flaws and all.”
Favorite quote: “Self-compassion offers the benefits of self-esteem without the pitfalls. It’s associated with strong mental health but it’s not associated with narcissism or constant social comparison or ego defensive aggression. It also provides a much more stable sense of self-worth than self-esteem does, because it’s there for you precisely when you fail. Just when self esteem deserts you, self-compassion steps in and gives you a sense of being valuable, not because you’ve reached some standard, or you’ve judged yourself positively, but because you are a human being worthy of love in that moment.”
Bonus: What Is Imposter Syndrome and How Can You Combat It?
Length: 4 minutes 03 seconds
Why is it that we’re always waiting for the other shoe to drop? You know what I’m talking about: that secret fear that’s always looming in the back of your head saying, “this is it — today is the day that everyone will finally realize that I’m a fraud.” What you, me, and nearly every other person in the world is feeling in those moments is called “imposter syndrome,” and it is something that more than 80% of us will experience at some point.
In this short animation, Elizabeth Cox narrates how even some of the most accomplished persons in human history, like Maya Angelou and Albert Newton, couldn’t escape the nagging sensation that somehow they hadn’t really earned their success. She explains that these feelings aren’t exclusive to highly skilled folks, either.
Apparently, every person is susceptible to something called “pluralistic ignorance,” a phenomenon where everyone doubts themselves privately but things that the rest of the people don’t, because no one really talks about it. The video argues that voicing your doubts and concerns and learning that other people you may look up to sometimes feel the same way, can help curtail imposter syndrome when it rears its ugly head.
Favorite quote: “We may never be able to banish these feelings entirely, but we can have open conversations about academic or professional challenges. With increasing awareness of how common these experiences are, perhaps we can feel freer to be frank about our feelings and build confidence in some simple truths: you have talent, you are capable, and you belong.”