Self-esteem is simply the way we feel about ourselves. It is the product of people's evaluation of their real-selves compared with their ideal-selves. Everyone has an ideal-self. This is who they believe they should be. (remember, “shoulds” almost always add unnecessary stress). People form this idea of the ideal-self at an early age based upon conditions of worth. That is, as children, praise was given not for who they were, but what they were able to do or how they were able to act. As a result, they formed ideas about what a “good girl” or “good boy” should be. Due to children's immature reasoning, many things are overgeneralized and made into global, stable and internal attributions. This tends to create an unrealistic ideal-self. For instance, many girls grow up to believe that they must be successful: partners, mothers and business-women. This is called the superwoman stereotype. Little boys believe they must always be: strong, successful, good partners and primary providers. In reality, that is nearly impossible for either gender to do. People's real-selves are who they are with all of their inherent imperfections. To improve self-esteem, people must change the way they feel about a situation (i.e. change their feelings about their self-evaluation) or change themselves (either the real-self or the ideal-self).

Suggestions for Improving Self-Esteem

    Make a list of positive affirmations and add one new one each day
    Whenever you find a fault in yourself, remind yourself of three positive qualities
    Do not minimize your positive actions or accomplishments. Take credit where credit is due.
    Surround yourself with people who are positive and encouraging
    Instead of complaining about faults, take positive action
    If there is something you feel “bad” about that is impossible to change, then add a
    new, positive quality. Think about the person who makes up for a lack of physical attractiveness by having a good personality.
    Try to do a good deed every day
    Make changeable, specific attributions for negative events
    Remember “Would've, could've, should've, but didn't, so MOVE ON already!”
    Patience– changes do not happen overnight
    Accept your fears and work with and through them. Nobody is perfect.
    Evaluate whether you hold yourself to a higher standard than you hold everyone
    else. Do you think you are that much better than everyone else, or do you just need a reason to beat yourself up?

Describe your ideal self. (If you were the perfect person emotionally, mentally, physically, in relationships, in your job)
Describe your real self in those same areas.
Identify the differences between your real and ideal self. Pick 2 that you want to change and go for it.