Once damaged, true self esteem can only be rediscovered or reawakened.
Those who seek to "earn it" through competition or comparison
will always fail in the long run.
Competition and comparison can defend against a core sense of unworthiness
but can never truly defeat it.
To return to your original state, you must remember this, the ultimate truth:
You were born a worthwhile, lovable and perfect human being.
And you still are today.
Consider this phrase
It is me for which that I have come.
You are here to fufill your own destiny. Your first obligation is to always be true to yourself.
This is a common concern. The best way to show that it is not selfish is to review the opposite. Imagine someone who does everything for others but it is not what they truly feel. Expecting someone to behave in that way is to ask them to be a robot, mechanically fufilling the expectations of others. A chilling example of this is the movie "The Stepford Wives"
People who true to themselves will be more peaceful, happier and the idea of giving is something they will feel inspired to do.
And in the end, would you rather receive a gift inspired by obligation/guilt/fear or a gift inspired by true caring?
Self esteem is the self evident belief that you are valuable, important and worthwhile. It is an unwavering certainty that you are equal to all other people. Inferiority or superiority are seen for the illusions that they are. True self esteem is not diminished by judgment or criticism from others.
TV and magazines present very enticing ads that suggest that if you just
lose 10 lbs (or buy this car or make more money, etc.), you will feel happy with yourself.
Oh, and not so incidently, they have the product to help you do just that.
These things might make you feel better about yourself in the short term but in the end they are conditional.
They are just one more set of hoops that you must jump through before you can feel OK.
If you fall under the spell of this vision of self esteem, you will be preoccupied with appearances, social status and external affirmations.
By the same token, be careful of comparing yourself with others. There will always be those who are more something (attractive, smart, talented, etc.) and you will feel bad by comparision. Even if you do compare favorably, it may lead to momentary esteem but it will be conditional and impermanent. Authentic self esteem arrives when you accept yourself completely and take pride in yourself exactly as you are today.
Start with these facts:
This is not to preclude self improvement or working toward goals. It is to say that, as you work toward the life that you want, you accept yourself exactly as you are today.
Self esteem is further maintained and enhanced by some very basic self care behaviors. It means eating when you are hungry and stopping when satisfied. It means exercising your body to keep it strong and flexible as you age. It means sleeping when you are tired and taking time to rest or refresh yourself.
In relation to others, self esteem is evidenced when you say yes to interactions that enrich you and no to interactions that harm you. If there are people in your life who are critical or judgemental of you, consider asking them to change that. It will be harder for you to improve your self esteem if those around you are prone to criticism and judgment.
When you wake up in the morning, consider saying the affirmations below. Try to make it a daily practice.
Whatever I am doing, I love myself for doing it. Whatever I am feeling, I love myself for feeling it.
-- Thaddeus Golas (modified)
*** This is based on the premise that we are all behaving according to our conditioning. That we are all the sum of our life experiences and thus, we can't help but be the person we are today.
New behaviors and new ways of thinking become possible when you recondition your brain. One way to recondition your brain is by using repetitive affirmations. So, if you feel that you are “not good enough”, you might use the affirmation “I am good enough.” Combining repetitive affirmations with walking (say each step), exercise (say each movement) or with music will increase the effect.