My whole life I have struggled with an inferiority complex.
I have felt others are better than me in certain key ways that leave me feeling excluded and abandoned.
Here’s how I increased my self-esteem enormously and how you can too if you’re also struggling with issues of self-esteem and self-worth.
1) Look after yourself properly
It’s very hard to feel good about yourself or anything else if you’re running your body and mind ragged.
You need to get enough sleep, eat healthy food and avoid excessive stress, toxic relationships and exploitation.
If you feel like others are better than you, being told it’s untrue or telling yourself it’s untrue is very unlikely to work.
So instead of trying to shift how you think or feel, start by shifting how you actually live day to day.
Practice good hygiene, take a very nice shower, buy an item of clothing that makes you feel like a million bucks to wear, go to the gym and work out until the endorphins are flowing.
Change what you’re actually doing before anything else.
You may think:
“I’m not worth it, I’ll never amount to anything or succeed like others have.”
But think of this as a mosquito flying around your ear. You don’t have to respond to it. Keep believing it for now if you want.
But start treating yourself better in a literal sense.
Imagine this as your number one mission in life, something you simply must do without asking why or without caring that it feels like you’re low value.
Just do it. Just treat yourself well in a physical and situational sense.
Once you have done this you will be able to actually shift into pursuing a new path toward true self-empowerment and purpose.
There’s a reason that legendary life coach Tony Robbins starts conventions with getting people to jump up and down and move around before saying anything or getting into his inspiring talks.
You need to get into your body before you’ll be able to be in a real state to do anything else or feel a sense of momentum in what you’re doing.
Start with getting in your body and treating yourself well.
2) Find your mission
If you’re struggling with self-esteem, you need to have a strong why.
Now that you’re looking after yourself a little more you need to move on to putting that momentum and growing wellbeing into something more specific:
Find your mission.
Find a meaningful purpose that lights you on fire.
This could be your career, your hobby, a new project or service to a person or cause that makes you glow from the inside out.
Find it. Do it.
Many gurus, psychologists and self-development writers will urge you to explore your emotions, go to therapy, practice positive visualization, take medicinal remedies or repeat mantras in the mirror to raise your self-esteem.
Let’s leave that kind of advice aside for now.
The first way to start raising your self-esteem and put an inferiority complex behind you is to find something to dedicate yourself to and then actually start doing it.
What do you love to do? What brings you joy? What makes you lose track of time?
If you can align this with your career or one of your main hobbies, all the better.
But find at least one thing, even if it’s just a small side hobby. Start doing it at least once daily.
3) Beat black and white thinking
As you begin clarifying something you really want to do, don’t make the mistake of believing in black and white thinking.
However deep the roots of low self-esteem and however much you may be low status in some way, the idea that others are generally or mostly “better” than you exists as a belief, not as reality.
Your brother may be better than you at swimming, and your friend may be more successful in relationships.
But you may be more successful in business than your friend, and better at cooking than your brother.
The point is this:
We all have strengths and weaknesses, and that’s nothing to be ashamed of.
What hurts us is when we feel we are overall insufficient or “worse” than “everyone” or “most” people.
When this type of low self-esteem chips away at us, it’s important to avoid black and white thinking.
4) Ignore the static
The world can feel like you’re trying to find a radio station and all you’re getting is static.
You hear completely contradictory messages and are totally confused.
Your parents say that you’re a great person, but your ex-girlfriend says you’re an ignorant narcissist.
Your hockey coach says you’re a hard worker who’s born to succeed, but your professor says your work is spotty and you don’t have enough dedication.
These opinions may have truth in them, they may not.
But you can’t allow the judgments and expectations of others to define your self-worth. You just can’t.
The solution isn’t to tune to a nice station telling you great stuff, nor to get angry or overreact to the radio or get sad.
This radio and its mixed messages may be causing you a lot of pain and confusing your mission that you want to follow, but don’t make it your focus anymore.
Consider this radio your external validation and need for that.
Stop being its victim.
Just turn it off.
Leave it sitting in the dust and sit down quietly for a moment.
5) Unchain your brain
The problem with low self-esteem is that it tends to create a self-fulfilling prophecy.
When we feel low value we tend to discount those events which disprove this and reinforce and focus on those situations and experiences which affirm our belief that we’re not good enough or fall short in some way.
The key out of this trap is to realize how many of our negative beliefs about ourselves are untrue and unhelpful.
This free masterclass on how to liberate your mind from social conditioning and judgments helped me enormously.
The teachings of the world-renowned shaman Rudá Iandê helped me unlock transformational realizations about how I was self-sabotaging and how I could truly find my own value in life and put it into practice.
I highly recommend anybody struggling with feelings of unworthiness to take a listen to what Rudá has to say.
6) Change gears
When you’re in a state of low self-esteem, it’s like being trapped in a low gear while driving.
You press down on the gas pedal but nothing seems to happen.
This is where you need to change gears.
Think of the gears as your dreams and goals.
You need to shift your gears in a more focused and ambitious direction that’s in line with your mission in order to consequently experience changes.
These goals that are meaningful to you should be based on your talents, your interests or optimally both.
They should be accompanied by a different belief, as well.
Let me explain:
You’re currently in a low gear, watching cars whizz by. Maybe you’re having trouble figuring out your mission or feeling worthy to pursue it.
You keep trying to put all your heart and energy into it but no matter how hard you push down and how much you wrench the wheel side to side, barely anything happens.
It seems like you’ll always be that guy with the shitty job, that woman trapped in a loveless marriage, that kid who’s getting pushed around by bullies and treated like a nobody.
What the hell!
This is where you need to change gears, which means you need to discard the frame that’s been forced on you and shift into a completely different frame.
Let me extend the metaphor…
7) Hit the clutch
I once worked for six months in an auto factory making parts for cars. This included making clutches for manual transmissions.
This involved putting a circle of steel into a machine and pressing down a mechanism which cut it into a gear shape that allowed it to be used to shift between gears.
When driving in a manual vehicle, you press down the clutch to effect the in-between action of jumping from one gear to another and going faster or slower.
The clutch in your self-esteem journey is your frame, which is to say it’s your reality or what you believe about yourself and your place in the world.
If you’re in a crappy job, for example, instead of thinking how you can get promoted or get a different and better position, what about moving somewhere completely new, retraining, switching careers or doing something completely different?
Why stay trapped in the frame of what’s been constructed for you or where you’re accustomed to?
Why not find and follow a mission that you want to follow?
Why not change the rules?
If you can’t leave your job right now, fine, but what about taking up a new hobby like kickboxing or yoga that totally changes your wellbeing and leaves you more relaxed to eventually start exploring a new career?
These are all ways of beginning to shift your frame.
Instead of just continuing down the road and going where Waze or Google Maps tells you to, you take a sharp left and do something completely different…
Something more meaningful to you that gives you a deep sense of purpose.
You change, you hit the clutch, you switch into a new gear and take the curve.
8) Then accelerate…
This is where you begin to accelerate.
I’ve seen plenty of people who are outwardly unremarkable successfully romance the most incredibly beautiful and sweet partners, score incredible business deals and succeed beyond all reason mostly because they had an unshakeable belief in themselves.
They didn’t believe in black and white thinking and they’d managed to beat any inner insecurity about the happiness or accomplishments they imagined in “others.”
When accelerating, you find something you truly want to do that you love and then you do it.
You take your new approach and you prove it right in action.
Then you put that successful action into your memory bank and the next time you think “I’m a loser” it sits there reminding you that no, in fact, you’re not.
You’re provably not!
Right now you’re watching your friends succeed in careers that make you envious, perhaps, but what about your incredible success in starting a business that nobody said could be done?
It might be in a lull now, but the fact you started it alone shows just how powerful your dreams can be when you translate them into reality.
As I’ve emphasized throughout this article, you’re not just thinking or feeling that you have value, you’re knowing it by changing your frame and then proving your new frame right in action.
9) Don’t forget failure
The question is what you do when you’re trying out new frames and beliefs and proving them right in action, what happens when you fail?
You start a new business, a new relationship, a new workout program, and you fall short!
Doesn’t this just prove you’re not good enough and that others are better?
The key here is to realize that your mind is deceiving you.
Every single person you see and perceive as a winner was once a “loser” in the eyes of somebody.
I absolutely guarantee you that.
Every single man you see in a happy relationship was once the guy sitting alone feeling like nobody he fell for would ever feel the same.
Every single woman in a power position at work was once feeling devalued and cast aside as a nobody by uncaring bosses and dismissive colleagues.
These people all experienced massive setbacks and “failures,” but they recognized those failures as stepping stones not walls.
They recognized that the stop sign didn’t mean to ditch the car and give up, it meant to reroute and take a new direction, or press down the gas twice as hard and not give up.
Any failure you’re experiencing and setbacks, including even ones which are your fault, are not the end of the road.
You don’t have to consider any setback as a final verdict.
The fact you’ve failed in one endeavor doesn’t confirm that others are better than you.
In fact, the fact that you’re trying and failing confirms that you’re already improving and on the way to becoming much more fulfilled and self-actualized.
10) Write a new script
Imagine you and everyone you meet have a script.
This script is a description of who you are and what you stand for. It’s a description of your formative experiences, traumas, victories and values.
What’s in that script?
If you have low self-esteem and your mind is still trapped in conditioning and self-limiting beliefs, the script is likely full of disempowering things.
For example, your script may say:
Paul is a decent guy but he’s misunderstood and his high expectations mean he overreacts to disappointment. He has an addictive personality and can’t seem to find a place he really fits in. He’s not patient with seeing through his goals, even when he gets really excited about them at first.
Damn, that sounds pretty grim!
So write a new one:
Paul is selective about who he gets close to and he has great optimism about the future. He loves to enjoy life and explore different places to meet new people. He likes excitement and works hard at his goals, especially if he’s part of a team.
Wow, much better than the first script!
Write yourself a script. It can be short, even just a paragraph.
“Write down other positive things about yourself, such as ‘I’m thoughtful’ or ‘I’m a great cook’ or ‘I’m someone that others trust.’
A note on ‘everyone’
For many years I had the vague but sure sense that everyone or at least almost everyone was having a much better life than me.
They were better than me, more respected than me, more desired than me, more confident than me!
When confronted with evidence of those doing much worse than me I would feel pangs of compassion and sympathy, but my fixation remained on those “others” who I was sure were doing much better.
I was often told that this idea that many people were doing much better than me in relationships, career, social life and happiness were actually secretly miserable or only seemed happy.
But I want to clarify something about this which I’ve realized, and I’m going to be brutally honest about this because every reader deserves the unvarnished truth.
Not everyone is equally fulfilled and happy in their life.
Not everyone has equally fulfilling relationships, jobs, friends, lives and outer circumstances.
This is a fact. There are absolutely people with better lives than you right now, happier relationships and better jobs.
There are also many suffering much more than you in unimaginable circumstances.
But the second key truth here is that the outer blessings you see in people’s lives are not the source of their self-esteem.
So what is the source?
The source is an inner anchor
The source of true self-esteem is an inner anchor that isn’t swayed by the waves of fortune.
Everyone responds to tragedy with heartbreak and success and luck with happiness.
But the truly fulfilled people out there aren’t dependent on an outer circumstance, person, job or blessing to be happy.
Those who are aren’t truly happy.
We see this every day with those who lose a relationship and give up on their whole lives, or react to losing a job by spiraling into complete recklessness.
Their sense of self-worth and stability is wrecked, because they were only a recipient of good fortune and now that good fortune is gone!
The truly fulfilled person has built a foundation starting with themselves and their own mission. The blessings or curses that come along on top of that don’t rock and displace that inner core they have built.
In other words:
Yes, there are people experiencing the kind of life that you want or feel you’ve been deprived of…
But the only ones who really matter and who you should truly aspire to be are those whose outer blessings and image reflects an actual inner drive and stability.
The worst thing that could happen is achieve everything you ever dreamed of and get all the recognition and love and fame in the world and find that you still feel just as empty!
That’s why you need to build that relationship with yourself brick by brick.
Prove your worth to yourself, get to know it on a deep, unshakeable level that nobody can touch.
You can be better than you
As I’ve outlined in the above tips, there are effective ways to combat low self-esteem and get over this deep sense that others are above you.
At the same time, you can pursue a much deeper journey toward greatness.
This is a process of becoming better than yourself.
Even if you’re still absolutely convinced on some level that others are outdoing you or getting the experiences and things you truly deserve and want in life, stop for a second and do something else.
Forget about the roots of your self-esteem issues, forget about how sure you are they are true and reflect on the following:
What do you have power over right now?
What can you change right now?
This is all about:
Finding your power
Your power right now and for the future rests in being better than the you of the past.
Your power lies in making changes in your decisions and actions right now in order to change what happens next.
This sounds simple and it is, but your ability to do something different in the present moment is where your greatest power resides.
Your greatest boost in self-esteem comes from ceasing to compete with others and beginning to compete with yourself of yesterday.
You love yourself, you appreciate your struggles, you celebrate your whole journey, but you also thrive on each new day and the chance to have an even more productive and empowering day than the day before.
Because why not?
Even celebrities and rich sports stars sometimes suffer from low self-esteem. No amount of outer accomplishment or being told how great you are will ever boost your self-esteem in a real way.
That boost has to come from the link between you and the present moment and the inner knowledge that you are improving with each day (or at least trying to!), rather than with seeking outer status or recognition.
I once again highly recommend Rudá’s free masterclass on how to free your mind from negative conditioning and unlock your full power.