There’s a cliché that you can’t love someone if you don’t love yourself, and sure, there’s some merit to it, but as with all clichés, there are also serious limitations involved. That said, science is doing its darnedest to prove me wrong. According to recent research published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, self-esteem is the key to having great relationships—social, romantic, professional, and otherwise. Furthermore, boosting self-esteem is an effect of these positive relationships.
This synergistic conclusion was reached after analyzing 53 studies from 13 globe-spanning nations with more than 46,000 participating who ranged in age from 4 to 77. Suffice it to say the sample size was pretty robust. Each study identified a link between great relationships and high self-esteem, time and time again. The results do make sense; for instance, one study notes people with high self-esteem are more caring and attentive listeners—and who wouldn’t want a friend who can lend an ear with Van Gogh-like readiness? Everyone feels satisfied and loved and fulfilled in this scenario, which caters to, yep, boosting self-esteem.
The conflict to contend with is the reality that many people have low self-esteem, because the cyclical nature of this positive-relationship-high-self-esteem finding, the loop is closed to that whole population. While I can’t change the results of this heartwarming if not psychologically exclusive finding, I can advise a few tips for boosting self-esteem from subterranean levels, thus opening you to the bliss of positive relationships. Because though self-esteem is supposed to peak around age 60, you hold the power to ratchet up your sense of it at any point in your life.
First, work to stop falling into the comparison trap, AKA the state of mind of believing someone else’s grass is always greener. Perhaps you’re able to use that sense of envy as motivation for living your best life, but more likely, it’s best to turn your focus within. If you had no other grass to see, how would you feel about the way your own lawn looks? And what can you, and you alone, do to brighten it?
Another easy strategy for bolstering your self-confidence is to only talk to yourself like you’d talk to your best friend. This requires you to cultivate self-compassion. So the next time you, say, see a new pimple on your face when you look in the mirror, stop yourself from saying you look heinous—because A. you most certainly don’t, and B. you most certainly wouldn’t say that to your friend if they had the zit.
If you’re feeling self-conscious in a crowded room or even a close and intimate gathering with your partner’s friends, repeating some affirmative “I am” mantras might help strengthen your confidence. (And if you’re actually in a crowd, pro tip: the affirmations still work if you say ’em in your head.)
Boosting self-esteem isn’t the only life-improving skill you can control. Here’s how to genuinely connect with people in a few simple steps. Plus, truly memorable people share these seven personality traits.