Perhaps I've used this quote before, but it really does speak to me—especially as someone who grew up with a lack of confidence and struggled for several years to gain a solid sense of self-esteem. The quote comes from Eleanor Roosevelt: "No one can make you feel inferior without your consent."
The onus is on us, not on the other person. It's our job to do those things that will build our self-esteem. That begins with an ending: Stop already with the negative messages inside your head! If you (even occasionally) say negative things to yourself, just stop. Years ago whenever I caught myself saying, "Stupid, fat, whiny or ugly" or anything negative about myself, I pictured a stop sign going up inside my head. That was enough to stop me from going any further with the negative tapes. And soon I realized that I wasn't saying such things anymore. If I goofed up, I didn't need to call myself "stupid." If I gained a pound or two, I didn't need to call myself "fat."
Then—absolutely do not allow others to say nasty and negative things to you either. It simply is not acceptable. You have the right to speak up and say that. And you have the right to just walk away if someone persists in negative talk to you.
Then take a look at all the positive things about yourself. What do you do well? What are your real gifts? Do you have a big heart? A gift for numbers? A talent for writing? Are you nurturing and loving? Be honest—and admit to yourself all those things you do and do well. Own it; claim it. Often, when women are asked to list 10 good things about themselves, they are stumped for a long time. But ask them to list 10 negative things, and they begin writing immediately!
Learn to look on yourself with self-compassion and love, just as you see your loved ones and friends. Don't say to yourself things you'd never think to say to someone you love. And remember Eleanor's words. Don't consent to let anyone, including you, make you feel inferior.