Character Chats

How We Build Self Esteem in Others

How can we improve the self-esteem in other people?

Here at True Balance Karate in Downers Grove, Illinois, we have a social emotional learning program called True Character. I’m Master H, owner and chief instructor here at the studio. I have two Master’s degrees in education. Basically, we’ve worked together to create this program that best meets the needs of our youngest students at the age of three to our oldest students at the age of 84.

And this month we are talking about self-esteem. We’re talking about what self-esteem looks like. We are talking about how it impacts our decisions. We’re talking about how we can improve it in ourselves.

And this week we’re talking about how can we improve the self-esteem of those around us?

Focus on Others

And at the studio, we use the four laws of concentration, where we tell all of the kids to focus their eyes, focus their ears, focus their mind, and focus their body.

And when they’ve got those four laws of concentration, they’re setting themselves up to be really good listeners.

And if you’re looking for the most easiest way to improve somebody’s self-esteem, it’s to focus on them and listen.

I feel good if somebody was listening to me and I know that others around feel better when somebody’s listening to them.

Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve made it a point that if the phone was in my hand and one of the kids came in, I would flip it face down and slide it away so that they had my absolute undivided attention.

And like anything, it’s a habit that we get into and then we get out of, and then we get back into, and then we get back out of, and so the idea of active listening, focusing our eyes, our ears, our mind, and our body on who is speaking goes a long way to raising their self-esteem because now you have shown them they are important.

Using Active Listening

Along with that, doing some active listening, so don’t just answer a question or don’t just respond, but use what you’ve heard them say back to them.

So if they’re sharing something that bothers them, I hear you tell me, insert what they have shared. I will work on and then continue the conversation.

But by actively listening, by giving that conversation, you’re giving even more weight to what they’re sharing, which makes them feel valued. It makes them feel important. And it gives them a sense of pride that somebody would like to hear what they have to say.

So as far as raising the self-esteem of those around us, one of the best things we can do is just open up our ears, focus our eyes, and listen to what somebody’s saying.

Being a Positive Voice

And as we’re listening, last week, and the week before I talked about the word can’t, if we hear that word can’t we want to help make sure that the word’s not there.

We all do hard things. We all do. And to hear somebody say, I can’t do it doesn’t mean that they won’t ever be able to.

And we need to be that positive force to remind them that they will be able to. They will be able to achieve their goal. They are able to ask for help.

And that goes along with listening, because if we don’t hear them say that because we weren’t paying attention, then we can’t help address it and move on.

And another way, as I’m talking with all of you here, I’m reminded of things that I have shared with my own kids. At one point, my daughter got in the car, she was in seventh grade and she said, “Mom, I’m failing math.” And I looked at her and I said, “Well, thank you for your honesty.” I didn’t want to get mad. I wanted to praise the honesty that she was imparting with me.

So instead of getting all parental and “I can’t believe you’re failing math, why aren’t you working on it”, and yelling at her, I instead decided to take a different tactic with her.

And I said, “Thank you for sharing that with me. What are we going to do to fix it? It’s October, report cards are in December. What are we going to do to fix it?” And her and I problem solved through how to improve her math grade.

She listened to some advice from me. I listened to some advice from her. We came up with a plan and after two weeks, her math grade was up to a D and then it was up to a C and she was feeling more pride in the work she was putting forth. She was feeling better about what she was doing, and she learned how to advocate for herself in middle school.

Recognizing Hard Work

And so if we can praise the effort that we see from kids or from adults for that matter, when we see somebody embrace doing something hard, we don’t want to just praise the fact that they got promoted, or they were able to do a jump spinning kick, or we don’t want to praise the result.

We want to praise the effort that it took to get there.

And I was just reminded of that with my daughter and math class. And at the end of the time, when the report card came out, she wasn’t happy with the grade herself, but she was happy with the effort that she put in to make it better.

And then from there she learned tools and strategies and things like that to never let the grade get to that point, because then she was able to get a B, and then she was able to get an A.

And so praising the effort, listening to the problem and helping everybody understand the word can’t even be said is how we can work to improve the self-esteem in those around us.

Thanks, and I’ll see on the mat!


True Balance Karate was founded in 2012 by Master Sue and Paul Helsdon.

We offer kids karate lessons for pre-school children ages 3-6 and elementary age kids ages 7 and up. These lessons are designed to develop the critical building blocks kids need — specialized for their age group — for school excellence and later success in life.

Our adult martial arts training is a complete adult fitness and conditioning program for adults who want to lose weight, get (and stay) in shape, or learn self-defense in a supportive environment.

Instructors can answer questions or be contacted 24 hours of the day, 7 days a week at 630-663-2000. You can also contact us here