How to Improve Your Self Esteem
"Self-esteem" is composed of the thoughts, feelings, and beliefs we hold about ourselves. Since our thoughts, feelings, and beliefs change all the time, our self-esteem is also constantly evolving.Having low self-esteem can have a negative effect on your mental health, relationships, and school or career life. However, there are a number of ways to feel better about yourself and boost your self-esteem.
Increasing Your Self-Esteem
Be deliberate with your thoughts and beliefs.Try to focus on positive, encouraging, and constructive thoughts. Remember that you are a special, one-of-a-kind person that deserves love and respect - from others and from yourself. Try these strategies:
- Use hopeful statements. Be optimistic and avoid the self-fulfilling prophecy of pessimism. If you expect bad things, they often occur. For example, if you anticipate a presentation going poorly, it just might. Instead, be positive. Tell yourself, "Even though it's going to be a challenge, I can handle this presentation."
- Focus on "can" and avoid "should" statements. "Should" statements imply that there is something you ought to be doing and this might cause you to feel pressured if you can't meet these expectations. Instead, focus on what you CAN do.
- Focus on the positive. Think about the good parts of your life. Remind yourself of things that have gone well recently. Consider the skills you've used to cope with challenging situations.
- Be your own cheerleader. Give yourself positive encouragement and credit for the positive things you do. For example, you might note that although you're not getting all the exercise you'd like to be getting, you have been doing to the gym one extra day a week Give yourself credit for making positive changes. For example, "My presentation might not have been perfect, but my colleagues asked questions and remained engaged — which means that I accomplished my goal."
Set goals and expectations.Write of lists of things you want to accomplish and set out to achieve these goals. For example, you might decide to volunteer more, take up a new hobby, or spend time with friends.
- Make sure your goals and expectations are realistic.Striving for the impossible will only deflate, not enhance, self-esteem. For example, don't suddenly decide that at age 40 your dream is to play professional hockey. This is unrealistic and your self-esteem will likely take a hit once you realize how far away and unattainable that goal is.
- Instead, set more realistic goals, like deciding to learn how to play the guitar or a new sport. Setting goals that you can consciously work towards and eventually meet can help you stop the cycle of negative thinking that services low self-esteem. When you set and meet goals successfully, you will feel a sense of fulfillment and more able to let go of your feelings of low self-esteem for not meeting idealistic and fundamentally unattainable life goals, like being the perfect girlfriend or perfect cook or perfect whatever.
- You could also set goals that help to you see and feel your own competencies. For example, if you feel like you want to be better informed about the world, decide that you are going to read a newspaper every day for a month. Or, say you want to empower yourself in knowing how to fix your own bike and opt to learn how to do your own tune-up. Meeting goals that address things that help you feel powerful and capable will help you feel better about yourself as a whole.
Take care of yourself.Some of us spend so much time worrying about and caring for others that we neglect our own physical and mental well-being. Alternatively, some of us feel so bad about ourselves that we think it's pointless to put time and effort into caring for ourselves. Ultimately, taking care of yourself can also help improve your self-esteem. The healthier you are in mind and body, the better the possibility that you will be satisfied with your self. Note that taking care of yourself doesn't mean that you have to be skinny, super fit, and flawless. Instead, in means doing your best to behealthy, whatever that may look like for you individually. Some pointers include:
- Eat at least three meals a day that are based on healthy and nutrient-rich foods, such as whole grains, poultry and fish, and fresh vegetables to keep yourself energized and nourished. Drink water to hydrate your body.
- Avoid processed, sugary, and caffeinated foods and/or drinks. These can affect your mood and should be avoided if you're concerned about mood swings or negative emotions.
- Exercise. Research has shown that exercise can give a real boost to self-esteem. This is because exercise causes the body to release the "happy chemicals" called endorphins. This feeling of euphoria can be accompanied by increased positivity and energy. Try to get up to at least 30 minutes of vigorous exercise at least three times a week. At the very least, set aside time for a brisk walk every day.
- Reduce stress. Make a plan to reduce the stress of your everyday life by designating time for relaxation and activities that bring you joy. Meditate, take a yoga class, garden, or do whatever activity makes you feel calm and positive. Note that being stressed can sometimes make it easier for people to overreact or let negative feelings dominate.
Look back on your life and your accomplishments.Chances are that you are not giving yourself enough credit for everything that you've done throughout your life. Impress yourself, not others. Take some time to reflect and look back at your past glories from big to small; this will not only help you become more aware of these accomplishment but can also help validate your place in the world and the value you bring to the people and society around you.
- Grab a notebook or journal and set a timer for 20-30 minutes. During this time, write a list of all of your accomplishments. Keep in mind thateverythingshould be included, from big accomplishments to the little everyday things. Your list can include things like learning how to drive, going to college, moving into your own apartment, making a great friend, cooking a fancy meal, getting a degree or diploma, getting your first "adult" job, and so on. The possibilities are endless! Return to the list periodically to add to it. You'll see that you have lots to be proud of.
- Scan through old photos, scrap books, yearbooks, trip mementos, or even consider making a collage of your life and accomplishments to date.
Do things you enjoy.Set aside time to do something that makes you happy every day, whether that means cooking, reading, exercising, gardening, or spending an hour just talking with your spouse. Don't feel guilty for this time you've set aside to enjoy; you deserve it. Repeat that statement as needed..
- Experiment with new activities; you might learn about talents or skills you didn't know you possessed. Maybe you take up running track and discover that you are really good at long-distance running, something you'd never thought of before. This can help increase your self-esteem.
- Consider taking up artistic activities such as painting, music, poetry, and dance. Artistic endeavors often help people learn how to express themselves and attain a sense of 'mastery' of a subject or skill. Lots of community sentences offer free or reasonably-priced classes.
Help someone.Research has shown that people who volunteer tend to feel happier and have higher self-esteem. It may seem paradoxical that to feel better about yourself you should help someone else, but the science does indeed that feelings of social connectedness that accompany volunteering or helping others make us feel more positive about ourselves.
- There are endless opportunities to help others in the world. Volunteer at a retirement home or a homeless shelter. Get involved with your church in a ministry to the sick or the poor. Donate your time and service to a humane animal shelter. Be a Big Brother or Big Sister. Clean up a local park on a community-organized occasion.
Adjust your self-image as needed.You change all the time, and you need to update your perception of yourself to match your current self. For example, increasing your self-esteem is pointless if the image you hold of yourself isn't accurate. Maybe as a kid you were really strong in math but now you can barely calculate the area of your house. Maybe you were once deeply religious but now you identify agnostic and no longer attend church. Adjust your perception of yourself to match up with the realities of your current life. Don't expect yourself to be great at math or to have some attachment to spirituality.
- Evaluate yourself based on the NOW and your current skills, interests, and beliefs, and not on some past version of yourself.
Let go of the idea of perfection.Nobody is perfect. Make that your new mantra. You're never going to have the perfect life, the perfect body, the perfect family, the perfect job, and so on. Neither will anyone else. Perfection is an artificial notion created and proliferated by society and the media and it does a great disservice to most of us by suggesting that perfection IS attainable and the problem is simply that we're not up to snuff.
- Focus on effort rather than the desire for perfection. If you don't try something because you're afraid you won't do it perfectly, then you don't stand a chance in the first place. If you never try out for the basketball team it's a guarantee that you won't make the team. Don't let the pressure to be perfect hold you back.
- Accept that you are a human being and that human beings are fundamentally imperfect and make mistakes. Maybe you spoke too harshly to your child or told a white lie at work. It's okay. People make mistakes. Instead of berating yourself for your errors, view them as opportunities to learn and grow and as things that you can rectify in the future. Maybe you'll realize that you need to think more carefully before you speak or that lying is never a good thing to resort to. Forgive yourself and move forward; this isn't easy but it's key to avoiding that cycle of self-pity and low self-esteem.
Dealing With Low Self-Esteem
Find the triggers of your low self-esteem.Think about any troubling conditions or situations that might be related to why you feel badly about yourself. For many people, typical triggers may include work meetings, school presentations, interpersonal problems at work or home, and significant life changes, such as leaving home, changing jobs, or separating from a partner.
- You may also need to think about people who make you feel badly about yourself. You can't control anyone else's behavior; what you can control is how you respond and how you let their behavior impact you. If another person is unjustly rude, mean, or dismissive or disrespectful towards you, understand that he may have his own problems or emotional issues that is causing him to act negatively towards you. However, if this person is triggering your low self-esteem, it is best if you can walk away or remove yourself from situations where that person is present, particularly if they respond negatively if you try to confront him about his behavior.
- While other people's opinions and ideas have their place in your life, don't set your life according to them. Listen and take on board what works for you. You are the governor of your own life. No one else can do that for you.
Be aware of thought patterns that chip away at your self-esteem.For a lot of us, negative thoughts and beliefs can become so normal that we just assume them to be accurate reflections of reality. Try to be aware of some key patterns of thinking that harm your self-esteem:
- Turning positives into negatives- You discount your achievements and positive experiences. For example, if you get a promotion, instead of seeing it as a reward for your hard work, you diminish your personal responsibility: "I only got the promotion because the boss lives in my neighborhood."
- All-or-nothing or binary thinking- In your mind, life and everything you do only has two paths. Things are either good or bad, positive or negative, etc. For example, if you don't get in to your top-school but get into five others, you still insist that you're a total failure and worthless because you didn't get into Harvard. You see things as either all good or all bad.
- Mental filtering- You see only the negative side of things and filter out everything else. This usually results in distortions of individuals and situations. For example, if you made a typo on a report, you assume that the report is now worthless and that your boss is going to think you're stupid and not up to the job."
- Jumping to negative conclusions- You assume the worst when there is almost no evidence to support that contention. For example, "My friend didn't respond to the invite I just sent a half hour ago so she must hate me."
- Mistaking feelings for facts- You infer that how you feel is reflective of a larger fact. For example, "I feel like a total failure, so I must be a total failure."
- Negative self-talk- You talk to yourself in negative terms, including put-downs, name-calling, and self-deprecating humor. For example, if you're five minutes late, you scold yourself repeatedly and call yourself "stupid."
Take a step back from your thoughts to reevaluate them.Repeat these negative thoughts to the point that they become absurd or almost as if someone else is saying the words. Think about how if you repeat the same word over and over again it begins to break down (try doing this with "fork" for an example). You could also write your negative thoughts down using your nondominant hand in order to see them differently. It probably won't even look like your handwriting!
- Such exercises can help you get some distance from your thoughts so you can observe them with greater objectivity, almost like you are an outside observer. You will also see that these negative and self-defeating thoughts are really just words, nothing more. And words can be changed.
Accept all of your thoughts—even the negative ones!Though the old adage is typically to change or resist certain negative thoughts and feelings, this can in some causes only compound your poor self-esteem as you realize this is easier said than done. Instead, accept these thoughts without necessarily validating them. Negative thoughts come into your head. They exist. They may not be right but they do exist. You don't have to like them, but you do need to accept that you're having those thoughts.
- Instead of trying to control negative thoughts, endeavor to lessen the power they hold over you. Realize that negative thoughts are counterproductive and try not to let them fundamentally affect how you feel about yourself or your value in the world.
Pair negative thoughts with positive thoughts.Transform the negative things you think about yourself into positives.
- For example, if you tell yourself you are ugly, you could tell yourself that you look nice today. If you tell yourself you never do anything right, tell yourself that you do lots of things right and give some specific examples. Consider doing this exercise in a journal to keep track of your positive thoughts. Read them before you go to bed and when you get up.
- Make signs on post-it notes with these positive statements and put them where you can see them, such as on the bathroom mirror. This can help reinforce these statements and ingrain them in your mind. Hopefully, over time, the positive thoughts will supplant the negative ones.
Stop comparing.Comparing ourselves with others almost always results in lower self-esteem.Your friend won a scholarship and you didn't. Your sister got a job right out of undergrad and you didn't. A colleague has 500 Facebook friends and you only have 200. The more you compare yourself to others, the more you are going to feel as though you come up too short. These comparisons are unfair, not least because they assume each situation is equal. Maybe your sister got a job really quickly because she did a practical program with lots of openings. Or maybe your colleague has so many "friends" because he will add just about anyone he meets. Keep in mind, moreover, that you don't know the ins and outs of anyone else's life but your own. Sure, your friend may have a scholarship, but maybe his parents can't afford to help him and he works 20 hours a week at a part-time on top of school.
- What you should focus on isyourself. Compete against yourself. Challenge yourself to be better. You want the scholarship? Then challenge yourself to get it next year but putting in more hours of school work outside of class. Remember, the only behavior you can control is your own, so that's what you should focus on.
QuestionI have a lot to say and feel like no one's listening. There's not a lot of kids that I get along with, and when I confront people they act like they don't care. What should I do?Top AnswererOne way out of this is to talk less and listen more. Instead of confronting people, try asking them for their thoughts and feelings on any given subject that you're passionate about. Listening creates a link, shows respect and who knows, maybe their opinions might surprise you and give you something to think about, maybe even change your own opinion.Thanks!
QuestionI have had self-esteem issues for some time now, and I'm trying to change that for the better. I'm pretty temperamental and have frequent mood swings.wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerTemperamental mood swings are often linked to a feeling you don't have things under control. The answer to that state of mind is easy: just learn to take better control of your mind. Mediation comes in different forms. Seek out the type of meditation that is right for you.Thanks!
QuestionI don't feel good about myself and still feel this way. I feel like no one loves me. What do I do?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerTalk to someone. Tell them how you feel and in the course of the conversation, you may find that there are a lot of things to like about you and that people do love you.Thanks!
- Nobody can give you self-esteem. You have to earn it yourself.
- Avoid the temptation to turn self-esteem into conceit and arrogance. Being supportive of yourself does not mean that you have to engage in "navel gazing", the act of self-indulgently thinking excessively about yourself and your experiences.
Sources and Citations
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Video: Meet Yourself: A User's Guide to Building Self-Esteem: Niko Everett at [email protected]
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