The consequences of low self esteem are brutal, disturbing and disgusting. I can’t say it any softer than that. There are alarming trends these days that need to be address right now. We cannot wait another single day.
The statistics tell us all we need to know:
- 90% of 4th through 8th graders report being victims of bullying.
- 87% of students said shootings are motivated by a desire to “get back at those who have hurt them.”
- 75% of girls with low self-esteem reported engaging in negative activities like cutting, bullying, smoking, drinking, or disordered eating.
- Suicide is the third leading cause of death in younger adolescents in the US (10–14 year olds).
Yea, I know, unbelievable but I prefer to describe these statistics as UNACCEPTABLE! There are many, many reasons why this is happening but that is not the question we should be asking. Instead, we should be asking “How can we make a difference in these kid’s lives?” I believe one of the things we can do to have the biggest impact with our kids is to teach them how to develop high self esteem.
There is one really good example that I learned from Jack Canfield to teach self esteem and I use it all the time. While don’t recall the exact wording, it was something like this. If someone walked up to you and said, “you have blue hair” when in fact it is brown, you would laugh it off and ignore them or think they were crazy. However, if on the other hand, someone comes up to you and said, “you are insensitive, mean, ugly and disgusting.” you might feel a little annoyed or even angry. So what is the difference? Here’s the key: It’s not what the person said to that made you angry, it is what you are telling yourself when they stop talking. This is a very powerful lesson and it is for that reason I use it so often.
Here are 5 ways to increase kid’s self esteem (and our own too!):
- Eliminate Perfection – This lofty goal only sets us up for failure. There is no need to be perfect and you know, it’s perfect that we are not perfect! We need to teach kids (and ourselves) to do the best that we can given the skills we have in the moment. Sure, I would have done a lot of things differently as a kid if I only knew then what I know now. That is one of the primary reasons why I teach kids these lessons so it will have a major impact on their lives moving forward. One clarification, I did say do the best we can but that does not mean not putting forth the appropriate effort.
- Track Negative Thinking – One of the main issues of low self esteem is a very strong negative outlook on ourselves and life in general. A simple technique I used for quite some time was tracking my negative thinking. I even designed a kids version in my latest book STINKIN’ THINKIN’ STINKS as well as added the exercise Take Out Your STINKIN’ Trash on this website to help others. When you become aware of negative thinking, you can do something about it. The problem is that most of our negative thinking is unconscious and is actually what we are using to make decisions daily.
- Set Simple Goals – I know, I know, setting goals, how boring is that? Well let me tell you, it is one of the best ways to build self esteem. The goals I am talking about are not huge goals, but more of stepping stone goals. Start off small, build some success and start feeling better about our accomplishments. This builds momentum and encourages us to set another goal. With each achievement comes with it more momentum.
- Practice Kindness – One of the easiest ways to increase your self esteem is to practice kindness. Helping and being of assistance to others helps us feel good about ourselves and that is precisely what self esteem is for. Did you know that this current website was built around kindness? I actually designed the full site around a kindness meter on the homepage. Check it out when you have a chance.
- Do the Right Thing – There is a book I read that was simply amazing. It is called The Four Agreements and it really puts things into perspective for me. It was so simple. After reading it, I decided to use these four agreements in my life but I also added a fifth one, Do the Right Thing. By this I mean that we know what the right thing to do is most of the time. A lot of times it means doing the much harder thing but when you practice doing what you feel is right, you will certainly build a higher self esteem.
When you incorporate these 5 ways of building self esteem in your life and the kids you know, everyone will feel better about themselves. Sometimes it is the simple things that make the biggest difference in our lives. Start with one of the five ways and see if it makes a difference in your life. If it does, then practice more of it and teach it to children. They deserve it because they are all special and lovable.
“It is never too late to be what you might have been.” –George Eliot
With gratitude and peace,