Q: Why do we need self-esteem in order to be a good friend?
A: When people think about friendship, they think about reciprocity, about give and take. However, if you don’t feel like you have anything to offer – it is very hard to give of yourself and let others give to you. That’s where self-esteem comes in.
What are some signs of healthy self-esteem?
- Recognizing your own strengths and weaknesses
- Admitting your mistakes and learning from them
- Forgiving yourself and others for mistakes
- Listening to other points of view aside from your own
- Taking care of yourself – physically and emotionally
- Feeling proud of your positive accomplishments and letting go of your faults
Many people confuse the concepts of self-esteem and ego, assuming that if you believe in yourself you are automatically egoistic and arrogant. Someone who is self-confident is able to see past his own needs and wants, while an egoist believes that he is the only one who has worth around him. This is the key difference between those who have self-esteem or overactive egos: self-esteem often means you are confident enough to allow for criticism and failure, while ego often leads to discrediting all others around you because you are the only one who can be “right.”
Why Do You Need Self-Esteem For Friendships?
In their book Self Esteem, Matthew McKay and Patrick Fanning explain the importance of self-esteem by stating that when you reject certain parts of yourself, you are damaging psychological structures essential to healthy living. For example, in the same way that you protect a physical wound, when you are critical of a part of yourself you will find yourself avoiding anything that might aggravate the pain of self-rejection. Therefore, you will take fewer social, academic, or career risks.
To that end, you will erect barriers of defense in order to protect yourself. Those barriers can include blaming others, bragging about things you don’t truly like about yourself, getting angry, or making excuses. You can imagine how damaging this kind of behavior can be to friendships.
How Can You Cultivate Self-Esteem?
- Take inventory of your strengths. Make a list of the things you are good at – and then spend more time productively doing the things you do best. Spending time doing tasks that you excel in will build your confidence.
- Realize your limits. No one is without flaws. While this might not always seem to be true, recognizing that everyone else has his or her own failings can give you perspective on your own. You are a unique and distinctive person regardless of your flaws.
- Stop putting yourself down. Restructure the way you speak to yourself by identifying when you are putting yourself down and making a conscious decision to speak more kindly to yourself. Constantly putting yourself down can seriously injure your self-image.
- Celebrate progress and small victories. Building self-esteem happens in baby steps. Acknowledge when you do things right, even if it’s only a small improvement. Giving yourself compliments can help you develop belief in your abilities.
It’s hard to believe, but friendship truly begins by believing in yourself and having the ability to accept both constructive criticism and affection.