I have a riddle for you to figure out today. What’s that thing that some people have in excess and others struggle to keep high? Congratulations if you guessed it – here’s a list of practical ways to improve self-esteem.
Many of us recognise the value of improving our feelings of self-worth and if you’re here, you most likely do, too. When our self-esteem is higher, we not only feel better about ourselves, but we are more resilient as well.
Some studies demonstrated that when our self-esteem is higher, we are likely to experience common emotional wounds such as rejection and failure as less painful and bounce back from them more quickly.
When our self-esteem is higher, we are also less vulnerable to anxiety; and less prone to getting stressed (aka poisoning for our immune system). In other words, we tend to be happier – and who doesn’t want to be happy???
But as wonderful as it is to have higher self-esteem, it turns out that improving it is by no mean an easy task. Part of the problem is that self-esteem is rather unstable, to begin with, as it can fluctuate daily, if not hourly.
You’ve got to realize that it’s a constant battle and, as cliquè as it sounds, you won’t always feel super good about yourself.
Some mean-*ss comments, some Instagram posts or some news you heard on tv are gonna make you feel sad or ‘less-worthy’. But try to keep in mind that if you don’t turn up your sleeves to start working on yourself, nobody else will. Maria Robinson said it better than I ever will:
“Nobody can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending.” Maria Robinson
1. Use Positive Affirmations (Correctly)
You are in charge of your story and you can change it if you want to.
We all have a narrative or a story we’ve created about ourselves that shapes our self-perceptions and upon which our core self-image is based.
Some negative thoughts, like ‘I’m fat’ or ‘I’m lazy’ can be repeated in your mind so often that you start to believe they are true.
However, the good news is these thoughts are learned, which means they can also be unlearned. That’s when affirmations come into play.
“What do you wish you believed about yourself?”
Start with something that’s easy for you to believe, something that your ego wouldn’t reject right away. So for instance instead of saying “I am the most beautiful girl in the world” you can look right into your eyes through the mirror and say: “My hair looks cute today” or “I like the color of my eyes” or even “I am not perfect but I am working toward being the best version of myself”.
Build your way up from that and you’ll see amazing things happen in your life, I swear.
Set a timer and write as many things you like and appreciate about yourself (no matter how banal they might sound!) as possible.
You can either use this exercise as a starting point to come up with your own daily positive affirmations, or you can repeat it every time your self-esteem needs a particular boost.
2. Identify Your Competencies And Develop Them
Most of us hate that brutal question: “What is your passion?”, especially when we ask it to ourselves over and over again feeling like the answer is never satisfying enough.
I think the best way to cope with that is to accept that there isn’t always a decisive, specific answer to this question. Nonetheless, we all still have different qualities worthy of our attention. Focusing on them will eventually help our self-esteem improve significantly.
Self-esteem is built by demonstrating real ability and achievement in areas of our lives that matter to us.
If you pride yourself on being a good cook, throw more dinner parties. If you’re a good runner, sign up for races and train for them. In short, figure out your core competencies and find opportunities and careers that accentuate them.
Make a list of the qualities you have that are meaningful in some specific contexts. For example, you might list qualities that make you a good relationship prospect (e.g. being loyal or emotionally available); or qualities that make you a valuable employee (e.g. you have a strong work ethic) and so on.
Then choose one of the items on your list and write a brief essay (no word limit) about why the quality is valuable and likely to be appreciated by other people in the future.
Do the exercise every day for a week – or whenever you need a self-esteem boost!
3. Accept Compliments (And Give Some Yourself!)
One of the trickiest aspects of having a low self-esteem is that because we feel bad about ourselves we tend to be more resistant to compliments – even though that is when we most need them.
So, set yourself the goal to tolerate compliments when you receive them – and reciprocate! – even if they make you feel uncomfortable (and they will, at times).
One of the best ways to avoid the reflexive reactions of batting away compliments is to prepare simple set responses and train yourself to use them automatically whenever you get good feedback (e.g., “Thank you” or “How kind of you to say”).
I know it sounds weird to have some sort of ‘pre-made’ sentences but this article is called ‘practical ways to improve self-esteem’, right?
In time, the impulse to deny or rebuff compliments will fade and that will also be a nice indication your self-esteem is getting stronger.
4. Forgive Yourself
Unfortunately, when our self-esteem is low, we are likely to damage it even further by being self-critical. By holding on to feelings of bitterness or resentment, we keep ourselves stuck in a cycle of negativity. So if you haven’t forgiven yourself, shame might keep you in this same loop in the future. Stop in right now.
Since our goal is to enhance our self-esteem, we need to substitute that self-criticism and inner critic (which is almost always entirely useless anyway) with a more friendly talking.
Talk to yourself as you would to a dear friend: share some advice but while still being nice and kind. Doing so will avoid damaging your self-esteem further with critical thoughts, and help build it up instead.
Have you ever noticed we tend to be much more compassionate to friends than we are to ourselves? Carla Gordan said:
“If someone talked to you the way you talk to yourself, you would have kicked them out of your life a long ago.”
5. Try Using Subliminals
In case you don’t know what subliminals are, here’s a quick explanation.
“A subliminal message is an affirmation or message either auditory or visual presented below the normal limits of human auditory or visual perception.”
In other words, a subliminal message is simply an affirmation that’s inaudible to the conscious mind – because it is below the conscious threshold of hearing – but audible to the unconscious or deeper mind (same applies in the case of images).
Subliminals have been used in the advertisement industry to persuade people to buy certain products for years before being banned. However, they can positive effects, too. For instance, they can help you speed up your weight loss journey or – in this case – enhance your self-esteem.
Subliminals don’t have the same effect on everybody, though. Matter of fact, some people get really anxious while listening to them and can experience feelings of panic and paranoia. If you notice any of these effects on you, stop listening to them immediately.
6. Avoid Social Media (Especially In The Early Morning Hours)
If the first thing you do after waking up is grabbing your phone and scrolling through your Instagram feed, please stop immediately.
Related: 5 Healthy Ideas To Start Your Day
When you compare yourself, what you do and what you have to other people’s lives, then you have very destructive habit on your hands. Unfortunately, that’s something social media are particularly responsible of.
Comparing your life to others’ will only make you feel unhappy and unsatisfied, not to mention how much it can be deteriorating for your self-esteem.
It’s just a destructive, meaningless game – and there’s no way you can win it. There is always someone who has more or is better than you at something in the world. There are always people ahead of you. And that’s OK.
So, instead of mourning about that, replace that habit with something better. Do not grab your phone first thing in the morning. Use those 10/15 minutes to read a chapter of a book or take a walk or stretch. There’s really no need to waste time like that!
Here you can find some more ideas to start your day in a healthier way: 5 Healthy Ideas To Start Your Day
7. Replace The Perfectionism With Self-care And Appreciation
Few thought habits can be so destructive in daily life as perfectionism. It can paralyze you from taking action because you become so afraid of not living up to some standard. So you procrastinate and you do not get the results you want. And this will make your self-esteem sink. So give it up.
Well, that’s easy to say but hard to do. So… what’s a practical way to overcome perfectionism?
A few thoughts that really helped me:
Go for ‘good enough’. Perfection doesn’t exist. That’s it. And you see that aiming for something that doesn’t exist is kinda pointless.
So simply go for good enough instead. Be careful not to use it as an excuse to slack off, though.
How many times did this quote save my *ss???
When I was trying to lose weight and get fit, I was constantly worrying only about the end result.
I was not appreciating even one of the many progresses my body was doing (not only for my appearance, but my health as well!)
I was measuring my ‘success’ only by what I was looking like in the mirror and – as you might easily expect – this only led to a huge breakdown and binge-eating.
The point here is you should always appreciate what you’re doing and the effort you’re putting into it.
If you decided to take more care of yourself – even by giving yourself 5 minutes to read a book that’s been on the shelf for too long – then that’s great. Be damn proud of it.
Understand that it’s not realistic expecting to give your 100% every single day. Sometimes you just show up, and that itself is hard enough and should be appreciated.
Building your self-esteem – just like working on yourself in general – is a constant struggle and a constant battle, but it’s totally worth it.
Related Post: How To Practise Self-care During This Year
8. Be Picky About Who (Or What!) You Keep Around
Following this general principle could make your life 100% better and easier to handle: spend more time doing things you enjoy with supportive people and less time with destructive people that do nothing but tear you down.
It will be extremely hard to keep your self-esteem up by applying all the steps listed in this post if you’re still constantly surrounding yourself with people that drag your life down on a daily or weekly basis.
So it’s time to make changes, even drastic if necessary. Choose to spend less time with people who are nervous perfectionists, unkind or unsupportive of your dreams or goals. And spend more time with positive, uplifting people who have more human and kinder standards and ways of thinking about things.
Be careful to think about what you read, listen to and watch, too. Spend less time on an internet forum, reading a magazine or watching a TV-show if it makes you feel more negatively towards yourself.
Life it too short to be wasted doing things that make you unhappy and it can be hard by itself without all these news and people constantly bringing you down. So give yourself some rest!
9. Handle Mistakes And Failures In A More Positive Way
When you go outside of your comfort zone – or if you make a real effort in accomplishing anything that is truly meaningful to you – then you will stumble and fall along the way. It’s almost a fact.
But that is OK. It is normal. It is what people that did something that truly mattered have done throughout all ages. Imagine if Thomas Edison, Martin Luther King or Steve Jobs and many more have never failed, or stopped after failing once.
So keep that in mind wherever your failures make an attempt to lower your self-esteem.
And when you stumble, try and find the upside. A great way to be more constructive in this kind of situation is to focus on optimism and opportunities.
“What is one thing I can learn from this? And what is one opportunity I can find in this situation?”
This will not only help you to change your viewpoint but also hopefully not to hit the same bump a little further down the road.
Last Thoughts: ‘Remember that you are not your circumstances’
Finally, learning to differentiate between your circumstances and who you are is key to improving your self-esteem.
Recognizing inner worth, and loving one’s imperfect self, provide the secure foundation for growth.
With that security, one is free to grow with enjoyment instead of fear of failure – because failure can’t change your core worth.
We are all born with infinite potential and equal worth as human beings. Every self-destructive thought is a false belief that we have learned over time. Therefore, it can be unlearned.
Taking the steps outlined above can be the start of an amazing journey in the effort of increasing self-worth, or as Schiraldi said, to “recognise self-worth. It already exists in each person.” My best wishes for your life!
Feel free to share all your thoughts on the topic in the comments section below!