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Mastering Self-Acceptance: The Key to Building Stronger Self-Esteem

stronger self esteem

Self-esteem is like a mirror that reflects how we view ourselves. And like a mirror, it doesn’t exactly show us the truth. Have you ever noticed you look better in a certain mirror, in a certain light? For some of us, our self-esteem is like a funhouse mirror—distorting not only our view of ourselves but our view of the world around us. 

Low self-esteem can affect us profoundly. When our self-esteem is low, we may avoid social situations, new experiences, and challenging tasks. This reinforces our story of low self-worth—we think we aren’t capable of taking on challenging situations, and we reinforce that belief by never trying.

In this blog we’re going to discuss what self-esteem is, what causes low self esteem, and what we can do to boost our self esteem.


What is Self-Esteem?

At its core, self-esteem is our internal narrative–the opinion we hold about ourselves. It’s a story we tell ourselves about our life; a story we are constantly revising and updating with what we view as relevant details. Depending on our self-esteem, the focus of our internal story changes. 


What are Characteristics of Low Self Esteem?

When self-esteem is low, our shortcomings and failures loom large in the story. Our positive qualities and victories receive less focus, oftentimes being written off as temporary, unimportant, or lucky rather than earned. Sometimes it seems as though the story of our life is set in stone—we’re born to lose.


What are Characteristics of High Self Esteem?

When self-esteem is high, it’s like a shield, offering resilience against life’s fluctuations. We are able to weather the setbacks because we know another opportunity is always around the next corner. We understand our own capacity to change and grow. The story of our life is ever evolving, and with enough hard work we can measure up to any task. Characteristics of high self-esteem include a positive self-view, resilience, and a realistic appreciation of one’s strengths and weaknesses.


What Causes Low Self-Esteem?

Low self-esteem frequently finds its origins in childhood, developing from a tapestry of experiences and interactions. Negative feedback, particularly from significant figures such as family members, teachers, and peers, often leaves an indelible mark on our self-perception. Let’s look at some fictionalized accounts of individuals who suffer from low self-esteem to understand how it works.

Consider the case of Sarah, a bright student who consistently received criticism from her parents for not being the top of her class. Despite her achievements, the focus was always on where she fell short, leading to a deeply ingrained belief that she was never good enough. This belief followed her into adulthood, affecting her career choices and personal relationships.

Peer influence also plays a critical role. Bullying, exclusion, or constant comparison with others can erode self-esteem. John, for instance, was often bullied in school for his appearance. This led to a long-term struggle with body image and self-confidence, impacting his social interactions and self-esteem well into his adult life.


low self esteem


The media also contributes significantly to shaping our self-view. The portrayal of unrealistic standards of beauty, success, and lifestyle can create an unattainable benchmark for self-worth. Jane, an avid social media user, found herself constantly comparing her life to the seemingly perfect lives portrayed online. This comparison trap made her feel inadequate and contributed to her low self-esteem. 

Personality traits, such as a tendency towards perfectionism or sensitivity to criticism, can also predispose individuals to low self-esteem. Emma, a perfectionist, would beat herself up over the smallest mistakes, viewing them as catastrophic failures. This mindset prevented her from acknowledging her successes and fueled a constant sense of inadequacy.

Moreover, challenging life events such as trauma, illness, or family breakdowns can have a profound impact. For instance, Mike, who experienced his parents’ contentious divorce, internalized the turmoil and started believing he was to blame. This sense of guilt and inadequacy carried into his adult life, affecting his self-esteem and relationships.

These examples have been simplified; it’s often not so easy to point at a single set of circumstances. Low self-esteem is a complex interplay of external influences and personal traits, deeply rooted in our developmental years. These examples underscore the varied and profound ways in which self-esteem can be shaped and the lasting impact it can have throughout one’s life.


Social Media and Self-Esteem

In the age of digital connectivity, social media often acts as a double-edged sword. While it can be a platform for inspiration and communication, it also presents a breeding ground for unrealistic comparisons, potentially exacerbating feelings of inadequacy and lowering self-esteem. It’s important to remember that most people only show their victories on social media, keeping their struggles and failures private. Though it can be difficult, avoid comparing yourself to what you see on social media—it’s never the full story. (Struggling with social media? Read our blog about internet addiction here)


Gaining Self-Acceptance

Self-acceptance is the bedrock upon which strong self-esteem is built. It is a lifelong journey, one marked by continuous growth, self-discovery, and the embracing of one’s unique qualities and inherent value. This journey is not just about tolerating or enduring one’s flaws but actively embracing them as part of a complete and authentic self.

A critical aspect of this journey involves reframing how we view our imperfections. Instead of seeing them as flaws, we can view them as characteristics that make us distinct. For example, being introverted is not a flaw but a trait that may empower deeper connections and reflections.

To embark on this journey, one helpful exercise is to write a self-acceptance journal. In this journal, you can reflect on your qualities, including those you perceive as flaws, and explore how they contribute to your unique identity. For instance, if you consider yourself overly emotional, write about times when this trait helped you connect deeply with others or be empathetic.


gratitude journal


Practical Strategies for Building Self-Esteem

Building self-esteem requires a proactive and sustained effort. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT—click here to learn more about CBT) offers several practical exercises to enhance self-esteem. If you struggle with low self-esteem, try selecting one of these simple exercises and following through on it.

  • Challenging Negative Beliefs: Identify and write down negative beliefs about yourself. Then, actively challenge these beliefs with evidence to the contrary. For example, if you believe “I’m not good at anything,” list instances where you have succeeded or received praise. Over time, this exercise can help shift your focus from negative to positive aspects of yourself.
  • Self-Compliment Exercise: Make it a daily practice to compliment yourself. It could be about your skills, how you handled a situation, or even your appearance. This exercise helps to shift the focus from self-criticism to self-appreciation.
  • Gratitude Journaling: Each day, write down three things you are grateful for about yourself. This could be your talents, the way you supported a friend, or even small acts of kindness you showed yourself. Gratitude journaling can cultivate a more positive and appreciative view of oneself.
  • Assertiveness Training: CBT encourages the development of assertiveness skills. Role-playing exercises can be particularly effective. Practice how to express your needs and boundaries respectfully and confidently in different scenarios. This builds self-esteem by reinforcing the belief in your own worth and rights.
  • Goal-Setting Exercise: Set small, achievable goals for yourself. These could be as simple as completing a daily task or engaging in a hobby. Achieving these goals will give you a sense of accomplishment and reinforce your belief in your capabilities.
  • Positive Affirmations: Use positive affirmations to reinforce self-compassion and acceptance. Affirmations like “I am worthy of respect and love” or “My feelings are valid” can be powerful tools in changing negative thought patterns.
  • Behavioral Experiments: Challenge your self-limiting beliefs by engaging in “behavioral experiments.” For example, if you believe you’re not good at socializing, attend a social event with the goal of speaking to at least one person. This allows you to test and revise your beliefs based on actual experiences.


Remember, the process of building self-esteem is gradual and requires patience and persistence. By incorporating these exercises into your daily life, you can foster a more positive self-view, leading to a stronger, more resilient sense of self-esteem.


Counseling For Low Self-Esteem

If low self-esteem is significantly impacting your life, professional help can be a valuable resource. Counseling and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) are effective in addressing and transforming negative thought patterns and beliefs. Click here to view the Truism Center’s team of counselors, learn more about how CBT works, or call (616) 209-9295 to schedule an appointment. 


Building Your Self-Esteem

The quest for higher self-esteem is fundamentally about embracing self-acceptance. This journey, though lifelong, is invaluable. Remember, each step towards accepting yourself is a stride towards a more fulfilling and resilient life. Your story, with all its unique ups and downs, is worth embracing – and your self-esteem, worth nurturing.



Meet Robb Kornoelje, relationship counselor, owner of the Truism Center, and creator of the “30-Day Relationship Challenge.” This 30-day email course offers guidance to identify behaviors causing trouble, find ease with emotions, and enhance self-awareness. With a focus on stress-free communication, the challenge encourages a stronger connection with others, nurturing compassion, and fostering forgiveness. Join Robb on this journey to improve the fabric of your relationships—one day at a time.