When self-esteem is determined by other people...

The foundation of self-esteem is laid in childhood experiences. This is the time when we first start to learn about ourselves and our first beliefs about our place in the world around us are shaped. The best way to build self-esteem in childhood is by having a safe and stable home and school and social life, where we are consistently validated and encouraged by the adults around us, as we try new things and learn from our mistakes (and the mistakes of other people).

People are social creatures, and the need to be accepted and belong within a group has a big influence on our mental, emotional and physical wellbeing. It is natural for people to look for approval from others as a method of ensuring that they are connecting with others well and succeeding in that particular context, such as through achievements at work or school, being included in social gatherings and life events, and dating successfully. If someone finds themselves chronically isolated or often feels rejected by others, it can take a toll on self-esteem. If someone completes an assignment, reaches a goal, or works hard to make a deadline, but can't allow personal pride for that accomplishment until someone else knows about and approves of it first, then there is likely an unhealthy reliance on external approval. Someone with healthy self-esteem has a stable sense of who they are, but is still open to adjusting ideas and perspectives as life experiences occur. Someone with healthy self-esteem can listen to criticism from others without becoming emotionally overwhelmed. (This is not the same as someone who is impervious to others, dismisses other people's opinions, or is emotionally wounded by every perceived criticism or rejection.)

If you can only feel a sense of accomplishment and self worth after you have received praise from someone else, take some time to think about how much power you are giving that other person. You are expecting that this other person will notice and value your accomplishment and be able to express their positive opinion of you in a satisfying way, but is that a realistic expectation or just wishful thinking? Your accomplishments are the result of your hard work and dedication, and that stands on its own regardless of whether someone else approves. When you force yourself to wait for someone else’s permission before you allow yourself to be proud of your accomplishments, you are adding negativity to what should be a positive experience. 

No one likes to feel rejected, especially when there is a lot of anticipation and hope for a positive outcome. But, how you react to criticism and rejection can reveal a lot about the current state of your self esteem. If you believe that you have to quickly change some aspect of yourself that one person found undesirable, then you might begin to lose your sense of self as you keep trying to please everyone else. Self improvement is about taking stock of how you think and feel about yourself, and deciding what reasonable changes in habits you can make and what skills you can hone so that you feel like you are being your best version of you, independent of whether other people are onboard. 

Ellen DeGeneres has a joke in one of her standup specials that speaks to this issue of self-esteem. To paraphrase her: don’t worry so much about what other people are thinking about you because they are probably worrying what other people are thinking about them. 

It’s important to have an awareness of how you impact other people, and to care about their feelings, but your decisions about how to live your life are better off when you include a sense of compassion for yourself as well as other people, and not driven by fear or anticipation of being negatively judged by other people. If you start developing self-acceptance, self-compassion and self-love, you will be less inclined to spend so much of your time and energy worrying about what other people think about you.

The link below goes to a comprehensive Bustle article about self-esteem and the emotional roller-coaster that can occur when you are constantly searching for other people's approval and feel worthless unless and until you receive praise from your boss, coworker, partner, relative or complete strangers (example: getting "likes" and "followers" online)... More of my advice is included and I hope, if self-esteem has been an issue for you, that you will work with a professional to build up your inner self-esteem muscles... Click here to read the full article:  https://www.bustle.com/p/do-i-care-too-much-what-others-think-8-ways-to-tell-your-self-esteem-is-too-reliant-on-validation-8800166

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