Self-esteem is the way we regard ourselves. We can be proud of our accomplishments or actions and have positive self-esteem, or we can beat ourselves up mentally for some perceived fault or failing and exhibit negative self-esteem. Most of us know what to do when we experience low self-esteem. We engage in some reliable pick-me-up we have used over the years. But what about our friends? Do you have a friend with low self-esteem who seems to constantly need support or reassurance?
A friend with low self-esteem can bring out our maternal or paternal instincts. We may enjoy helping this person overcome their obstacles. But a friend with low self-esteem can also put a strain on a relationship if you feel you are constantly delving into their endless litany of problems.
If you want to maintain your friendship and give your friend a boost, here are a few ideas to help a friend deal with low self-esteem.
Be Their Friend
Being a friend to your friend is the best thing you can do. This seems like a simple and obvious approach, but it is essential your friend trusts you and knows you won’t abandon them. We all have faults. Real friends accept and even celebrate them.
Listen to their concerns, and don’t ridicule or belittle their fears. It might seem silly to you, but it’s real to them. Make sure your friend knows they have your trust and loyalty.
Take the initiative to make plans with your friend. People with low self-esteem often lack the confidence to reach out to others. They may appear disinterested, but are really just scared of rejection or embarrassment.
Have some sort of regular get-together, like a weekly lunch, workout session or coffee date. Even a regular phone conversation will give your friend something to look forward to and depend on.
Ask directly what they are afraid of, or what they think is wrong with them. This might be an uncomfortable conversation, but they will appreciate that you care and that you want to help them. They may need to depend on you to get better.
Help Identify Strengths
It’s easy for us to see strengths and weakness in others, but we don’t often recognize them in ourselves. Help your friend find their strengths and use them to pursue goals. Is your friend athletic or interested in sports? How about artistic or creative talents or interests? Does your friend have a good speaking or singing voice? Is your friend naturally attractive, but maybe not dressing or presenting themselves in a way that flatters their figure or physique? Are there social activities your friend might enjoy if only you would accompany them?
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Having someone there to continually motivate and encourage you is half the battle. We got you.
Give Them Chances to Succeed
When you find some potential strengths in your friend, help them find a way to succeed. Take them to the gym and stick with them through a grueling workout. Set up weightlifting or jogging goals and help them get there. Invite them to parties and have them practice their socializing skills. They will meet new people and possibly expand their friendship circle. Just don’t set them up for failure.
For example, don’t encourage them to ask out someone on a date who is obviously not interested or way out of their league. That could cause irreparable damage to their self-esteem and to your relationship. Don’t encourage them to buy a motorcycle if they have no experience. Help your friend make good decisions and pursue realistic and reasonable goals.
Praise Their Accomplishments
When your friend legitimately does something positive, acknowledge it and praise them profusely. Do not shower them with praise they don’t deserve. They will pick up on your insincerity, and it will damage their trust in you. Be honest. You are their friend, right? Friends tell us when we screwed up.
Celebrate successes with a special lunch or by going to a concert or movie. Refuse to wallow in failure by assuring them they are one step closer to success.
Help them discern between quitting and recognizing something just isn’t for them. Some people simply never learn how to juggle or ride a unicycle. It’s OK to abandon something that just isn’t working out. We move on to other interests and activities that better demonstrate our skills.
Refer Them to Counseling
As a friend, you can only do so much. If you feel nothing you are doing is really helping, it might be time to refer them to professional counseling. They may have deeper issues no amount of pats on the back will solve. They may be clinically depressed, bipolar or otherwise unable to deal with something that happened to them. Help them recognize signs of depression, and encourage them to seek a therapist.
Reassure your friend you will still be their friend and that you will be there to support them, in addition to whatever care they are receiving. Highs and lows are just part of life. Being human means being imperfect and having both successes and failures. It’s only natural to express ourselves accordingly.
Low self-esteem can be a lifelong problem, but a good friendship can always make things seem a little better.
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