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How To Gain Real Self-esteem

Charlize Theron on the red carpet

We all need a realistic self-concept, but healthy self-esteem may be challenging for many people.

Comparing ourselves to others is one way to erode how we appreciate our own qualities.

What steps can we take to improve self-esteem?

Do you talk about yourself to others, and privately in your mind, in ways that discount your abilities and positive qualities?

I certainly do, and can recall a number of times I did not follow an interest on account of feeling inadequate or insecure. Maybe, to at least some degree, that is just being human – but we can choose to be more aware of what fuels insecurity and unhealthy self-regard.

An acclaimed expert on the topic, psychologist Nathaniel Branden once defined self-esteem as “The reputation you have with yourself” and declared it is “the single most important factor for a fulfilling life.”

(From my article Nurturing Our Self-Esteem – Part 1.)

The photo above is Charlize Theron on a red carpet.

She made some interesting comments about her character in the movie Fury Road:

Furiosa was broken and she was barren and she was one-armed — she had all the cards stacked against her — and yet she survived.

“It’s through our fear and insecurity and brokenness and vulnerability that we find our strength.” ( April 6, 2016.)

But our struggles with insecurity and condemning inner messages can be challenging and self-limiting.

Mira Sorvino in Mighty AphroditeActor Mira Sorvino who won an Academy Award (1996) for Mighty Aphrodite, has talked about some of her insecurities early in life:

“As a youth, I hated myself for not being good enough.

“All my inadequacies and failures, not being kind enough, generous or understanding enough, would assail me at night.

“It became a habit to be guilty and self-castigating, not liking myself because I was unworthy. There was no exit.”

Read more in my article Gifted and Talented but Insecure.

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David Bowie

David Bowie admitted that even with his global success and countless fans in the early 1970s, “I had enormous self-image problems and very low self-esteem, which I hid behind obsessive writing and performing.

“I was driven to get through life very quickly. I really felt so utterly inadequate. I thought the work (songwriting, recording, performing) was the only thing of value.”

From article 5 Superstars Who Have Talked About Their Low Self-Esteem, Huffington Post 02/12/2014, by Anneli Rufus – author of Unworthy: How to Stop Hating Yourself.

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Gaining self-esteem

Margaret PaulPsychologist Margaret Paul notes in an article that people may they think they will gain high self-esteem when they make a lot of money, or achieve a high position, have an expensive car and home, become famous – or achieve other markers.

But, she notes:

“While all of these can result in momentary good feelings, none of them create a deep and abiding sense of self-esteem.

“Self-esteem actually has nothing to do with your achievements or with other people.

“Self-esteem results from two things regarding your inner relationship with yourself: How you see yourself; How you treat yourself.”

She goes on to write about Jackie, a client of hers, who “is a very successful actress.

“Yet fame and fortune have not given her self-esteem. No matter how many people tell her how beautiful and talented she is, she still feels inadequate and insecure most of the time.

“This is because, on the inner level, Jackie is constantly telling herself that she is stupid.

“How could I have made that stupid remark!” “How could I have acted so stupid?”

“Mirroring her mother’s own self-judgments and her judgments toward Jackie, she is constantly putting herself down. Until Jackie learns to see herself through eyes of truth rather than eyes of judgment, she will continue to feel inadequate and insecure.”

Our inner child

“It might make it easier to see how you create your own high or low self-esteem if you think of your feeling self as a child within.

“No matter how much you achieve or how much approval you get from others, if you are treating your inner child badly — by ignoring your feelings and judging yourself — you will continue to feel inadequate.”

Read more in her article What Creates Self-Esteem?

Inner Bonding

This approach to emotional health was co-created by psychologists Margaret Paul and Erika Chopich, and is described as a “therapeutic modality that heals shame, and the resulting self-abandonment, that is often the root cause of anxiety, stress, depression, low self-esteem, addictions, and relationship problems.”

Musician Alanis Morissette says of her experience with Inner Bonding:

“I am grateful for this tool that encourages me to tune in and find the most loving steps to take on my own soul’s behalf.

“This process is of great nurturance to my artist, who I see as being synonymous with my inner child.”

Here is a brief excerpt from a conversation between Dr. Paul and Morissette:

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Psychologist and relationship expert Margaret Paul recently presented a webinar about her Inner Bonding approach to help people gain emotional balance, self-esteem and healthy relationships.

You can get a free recording: 6 Secrets to Fully Loving Yourself.





How To Gain Real Self-esteem

Douglas Eby

Douglas EbyDouglas Eby, MA/Psychology, is a writer and researcher on psychology and personal development related to creativity; creator of the , and author of books including [link to book site with excerpts.]
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Some excerpts from The Creative Mind are included in his newsletter .
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APA Reference
Eby, D. (2016). How To Gain Real Self-esteem. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 4, 2020, from


Last updated: 7 Aug 2016
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