Improving our self-esteem by being realistic

· July 26, 2018

Improving our self-esteem is one of the top goals in many therapy interventions, it’s one of the basic elements that help us build the right path. This is because a high self-esteem strengthens our emotional immunity and mantains our ability of resilience. Knowing its importance, the question is: How can we improve our self-esteem?

Achieveing this, just like facing other psychological challenges, requires us to use several tools and strategies. This is because the sinking of our self-esteem may have roots in different factors. One of the most important factors is our attribution system and the degree of influence that we think we have over what happens to us.

“Low self-esteem is like driving through life with your hand-break on.”

-Maxwell Maltz-

What is causal attribution and how can it harm our self-esteem?

Usually when self-esteem is low, we think what happens to us is a consequence of personal factors, internal ones, that we cannot change. We attribute the cause of that “misfortune” to ourselves. For example: what does a person with low self-esteem think when they go through heart-break? They think that it was their fault the relationship ended.

sad girl with low self-esteem


Thus, negative thoughts begin to appear, such as “I’m not good enough for them”, “I don’t deserve them”, “This is all my fault”. In reality, when a relationship ends, both parties share the responsibility. Often there isn’t only one person to blame, even if both feel that way. 

Therefore, when there’s a break up, it’s normal that thoughts of guilt start coming up. The moment these thoughts appear, a high self-esteem will ease the burden and avoid a meltdown, meaning that we’ll become more realistic about the causal attributions  we make. Same thing happens with all situations in our lives.

And not only that, they also tend to make external attributions to the good things that happen to them. For example, they may think that they were promoted at work because their boss is nice and not because they’re qualified. What happens next is that they never feel good about themselves whenever they are rewarded or reassured.

“Until you value yourself, you will not value your time. Until you value your time, you will not do anything with it”.

-M. Scott Peck-

Learning to change the causal attribution: improving our self-esteem

So, what can we do to change our causal attribution and thus improve our self-esteem? Let’s start by taking a step back and putting things into perspective. This way it is possible to make a general examination, one that is adjusted to reality and not centered in our mistakes. Just like when comparing our lives to those of the people we see on social media: it doesn’t work when the causal attribution becomes too optimistic because eventually we face reality, making everything worse.

That’s why we should question to which degree we do have influence in what happens to us and what other elements may have intervened to cause a determined outcome. We must learn to attribute the good to ourselves if that’s actually what happened. We’ll learn and our self-esteem will improve.

girl taking a selfie improving her self-esteem

We also have to consider if the bad things are attributable to us or not, to stop blaming ourselves for situations in which our influence was minimal or non-existent. Moreover, if we are mainly responsible for something bad, it won’t make it better to punish ourselves after analyzing and learning from it. In the end, by learning from our mistakes, it’ll be more difficult to repeat them in the future and we avoid damaging our self-esteem.

“When you recover or discover something that nourishes your soul and brings joy, care enough about yourself to make room for it in your life.”

-Jean Shinoda Bolen-

Following these steps, we can continue to evolve and improve. Being capable of analyzing ourselves in a realistic way will help us have a more adjusted view of our strengths and weaknesses. This will improve our self-esteem and will ease our self-empowerment. We’ll be able to choose better the goals in which we’ll invest our resources.