open book with picture of students and words ally training

Self-esteem is initially acquired through two main sources: how others treated us, and what others told us about ourselves.

As adults, our self-esteem is largely based on two sources of self: our perceived self — who we really think we are, and our ideal self — who we really think we ought to be.

Self-esteem is based on what we know about ourselves and how we feel about what we know. The difference that exists for each of us between the perceived self and the ideal self can be a measure of our self-esteem: If the difference is small, our self-esteem is high, but as the gap widens, our self-esteem will drop. Sufficient amounts of self-esteem will enable us to act in our own best interests. Low or no self-esteem, however, may cause us to feel overwhelmed, anxious, “less than,” stupid, unlovable, etc..

Here are some ways to help a friend who may have lower self-esteem:

  • Involve them. Try to get your friend or relative involved with others. This will help them see that they can make a positive contribution to events, people, etc.
  • Give them positive feedback. Tell your friend or relative about his or her strengths, accomplishments and assets. This will let them know that you think they are important enough to remember these things, as well as help them learn to positively reinforce their own behavior.
  • Express your care and concern. Let your friend or relative know how much you value them and their place in your life. This will give them a greater sense of belonging.
  • Encourage them. Try to get your friend or relative to learn something new. Applaud successes, attempts, and even failed attempts.
  • Laugh with them, not at them. Help your friend or relative to laugh at their and your mistakes by trying to find some humor (when appropriate) in their life.
  • Listen to them. Allow your friend or relative to express themselves by giving him or her your complete attention while they are speaking to you. This will let them know that their opinions matter to you and that their concerns are important enough to be heard, paid attention to, and understood.