Self-esteem is how you feel about yourself, or the opinion you have about yourself. Everyone has times when they feel a bit low or find it hard to believe in themselves.
However, if this becomes a long-term situation, this can lead to problems, including mental health issues such as depression or anxiety.
There are a number of ways in which you can improve your self-esteem;
Identify and challenge your negative beliefs
Notice your thoughts about yourself. For example, you might find yourself thinking ‘I’m not good enough to do that’ or ‘I have no friends’. When you do, look for evidence that contradicts those statements. Write down both statement and evidence, and keep looking back at it to remind yourself that your negative beliefs about yourself are not true.
Be nice to yourself
Make an effort to be kind to yourself and, if you do slip up, try to challenge any negative thoughts. A good rule of thumb is to speak to yourself in the same way that you’d speak to your mates. This can be really hard at first, but practise makes perfect.
Identify the positive about yourself
It is also a good idea to write down positive things about yourself, such as being good at a sport, or nice things that people have said about you. When you start to feel low, look back at these things, and remind yourself that there is plenty of good about you.
Positive internal dialogue
If you catch yourself saying things like ‘I’m not good enough’ or ‘I’m a failure’, you can start to turn things around by saying ‘I can beat this’ and ‘I can become more confident by viewing myself in a more positive way’.
Focus on what you can change
It’s easy to get hung up on all the things that are out of your control, but it won’t achieve much. Instead, try to focus your energy on identifying the things that are within your control and seeing what you can do about them.
Build positive relationships and avoid negative ones
You will probably find that there are certain people and certain relationships that make you feel better than others.
If there are people who make you feel bad about yourself, try to avoid them.
Build relationships with people who make you feel good about yourself and avoid the relationships that drag you down.
Identify troubling conditions or situations
Think about the conditions or situations that seem to deflate your self-esteem. Common triggers might include: A work or school presentation, a crisis at work or home, life circumstances, such as a job loss or a child leaving home
Become aware of thoughts and beliefs
Once you’ve identified troubling situations, pay attention to your thoughts about them. This includes what you tell yourself and your interpretation of what the situation means. Your thoughts and beliefs might be positive, negative or neutral. They might be rational, based on reason or facts, or irrational, based on false ideas.
Give yourself a break
You don’t have to be perfect every hour of every day. You don’t even have to feel good about yourself all the time.
Self-esteem varies from situation to situation, from day to day and hour to hour. Some people feel relaxed and positive with friends and colleagues, but uneasy and shy with strangers. Others may feel totally in command of themselves at work but struggle socially (or vice versa).
Give yourself a break. We all have times when we feel a bit down or find it harder to maintain our self-belief.
Be kind to yourself, and not too critical.
Avoid criticising yourself to others, because this can reinforce your negative views and also give other people a negative opinion of you.
You can help to boost your self-esteem by giving yourself a treat whenever you succeed in doing something hard, or just for managing a particularly bad day.
Become more assertive and learn to say no
People with low self-esteem often find it hard to stand up for themselves or say no to others. This means that they may become over-burdened at home or at work, because they do not like to refuse anyone anything.
Developing your assertiveness can therefore help to improve your self-esteem. Sometimes acting as if you believed in yourself can actually help to increase self-belief!
Improve your physical health
It is much easier to feel good about ourselves when we are fit and healthy. Try taking more exercise, eating well, and getting enough sleep. It is also a good idea to make time to relax and to do something that you want to do, rather than something that someone else expects you to do. You may find that simple changes like this can make a huge difference to your overall outlook.
Master a new skill
When you become skilled in something that corresponds with your talents and interests, you increase your sense of competency.
List your accomplishments
Think about all the things you’ve accomplished, then write them down. Make a list of everything you’ve done that you feel proud of, everything you’ve done well. Review your list when you need a reminder of your ability to get things done and to do them well.
Do something creative
Creative tasks are a great way to put the flow back into your life. Creativity stimulates the brain, so the more you use it, the greater the benefits. Write a story or poem, take a dance class or sign up for a community movie production. When you add the challenge of trying something new, it helps you even more.
Get clear on your values
Determine what your values are and examine your life to see where you’re not living in alignment with what you believe. Then make any necessary changes. The more you know what you stand for, the more confident you will be.
Take on challenges
People with low self-esteem often avoid challenging and difficult situations. One way to improve your self-esteem can actually be to take on a challenge. This doesn’t mean that you need to do everything yourself, part of the challenge might be to seek help when you need it but be prepared to try something that you know will be difficult to achieve.
People with good self-esteem generally feel positive about themselves, and about life. This enables them to cope with life’s ups and downs.