Personal Relationships And Self Esteem: Give Them Both A Boost With The Exact Same Behaviors
Aug 06, 2022
(Photo by Binti Malu)
Where do you get it?
If you struggle with low self-esteem, ask yourself an important question: "Where do I look for validation?"
Are you looking outside of yourself? At things like school grades, job performance evaluations, or how others see you? That's what therapist Mel Schwartz calls "other-esteem". Self-esteem will weather the storm if outside achievements stop making you feel good. It's how you feel about yourself regardless of outside influence.
How do you get started?
Let's take a look at a study conducted by Amy Canavello and Jennifer Crocker. They focused on how people attempt to gain recognition and acceptance from others.
To test this, they designed an experiment to examine how people seek to affect the opinion of others. One way is to present oneself as you wish others to see you. You may insinuate that you are strong, confident or cool. These are "self-image goals". They might be lies, or they might be more of a "fake it 'til you make it" situation.
Another way is to try and treat others with compassion. You pay attention to their mood and feelings, and take actions to show them that they are seen, heard, and valued. These are "compassion goals". These should always be sincere and will be seen as disingenuous if not.
Previous studies had focused on short-term interactions, such as job interviews. This study was aimed at new college roommates that didn't know each other beforehand. They surveyed each pair at the beginning and end of each week for a semester, evaluating their behavior and feelings toward each other. In this way they were able to observe the outcome in a longer term relationship.
In a short-term interaction, it's unlikely that the other person knows anything about you. They rely on your answers to questions. On their intuition based on your body language and presentation. This is where self-image goals tend to work the best. Presenting the side of yourself that best fits these situations will yield positive results.
In longer relationships, others will see your true behavior much more often. Attempting to present in ways that don't sync with what they know about you will be noticeable. They will feel as though you are being disingenuous or pretending. It also causes you to pay too much attention to what other people think about you. The important part isn't what they think of you, it's how they're feeling.
In longer relationships, focusing on compassion towards others yields the best results. For starters, being helpful and kind to others makes you feel good. Being a listening ear or a shoulder to cry on demonstrates to others that you care about their wellbeing. This is the foundation of meaningful relationships.
This is a key component to your self-esteem. But the effect does not stop there. When other people feel that you value and care for them they will have a higher opinion of you. The way that they treat you will reflect their feelings and in turn make you feel better about yourself.
If you can approach your relationships in this way, everyone involved benefits. Knowing in your heart that you treat people well, and care about their wellbeing, is a feeling that you will carry with you no matter what happens.
No one expects you to be perfect, everyone has down days. Build strong, positive connections with those close to you. Then there will always be someone there to support you in these down times; it is a circle of give and take. Compassion and honesty, with yourself and others. That's how you earn self-esteem that can weather the storms that life will bring.