4 essential ways to improve your self esteem
How do you feel about yourself? The question asks for a degree of evaluation on your part. Is it a negative or positive? Do you feel ready to tackle everything in your way? Do you feel worthy of respect and time? Do you value yourself and expect others to feel the same?
If you are struggling look at the following checklists and see how many from each you agree or disagree with?
- I don't feel confident
- I want to look/be like someone else
- I worry about what people think
- I am pessimistic about things
- I accept myself for who I am
- I feel capable in my abilities
- I'm not overly concerned with what others think
- I am optimistic about things
How did you do?
There are lots of things that can negatively effect how we feel about ourselves. How we identify and compare ourselves. our successes, our failures, our role in society, our childhood. The good news is that there are also lots of things we can do to ramp up the self esteem levels.. Here are 4 essential ways to begin:
The psychologist Michael Argyle states that comparison is one of four key factors that influences our self-esteem. If the people we compare ourselves to appear to be more successful, happier, richer or better looking we tend to develop a negative self-image but if they are less successful than us our image will be positive. The problem is that you often can't win in a comparison. Usually you will come out less than the person you compare yourself to. If you do win in the comparison, there is a tendency to devalue the winning trait.
Social media can be crushing to self-esteem in this way. The highly stylized and filtered perspectives of people's lives leads us to think we are not doing enough or have enough. Think about all the times you begin unfavourably comparing yourself to another and turn this to a celebration of difference. Acknowledge we are all on different paths, experiencing things at different times. Resist the temptation to use others as a marker for your own life and accept where and who you are right now.
Think about how certain people or situations/environments make you feel. Do they leave you feeling good about yourself or like there is something sorely lacking? Buoyed or deflated? Inspired and positive or feeling like you need to change or improve? We can often tolerate those things that knock our self-esteem and a good first step is to pay attention. Start pruning those negative influences. Surround yourself with people who are positive and affirming. Sometimes this means you need to let go of a relationship. Or at least limit the amount of time you spend with that person.
Challenge your thinking
Once you are aware of your thoughts you can challenge any unhelpful thinking. Ask yourself whether your thought is true. Most people have automatic ways of thinking about their lives and themselves. These beliefs can feel normal and factual, but many are just long held beliefs that we never challenge and that can continually erode our self-esteem. Here are a few examples:
All or nothing: Placing experiences in one of two opposite categories e.g. saint or sinner.
Overgeneralizing: Making sweeping inferences based on a single incident e.g. I can'tt control my temper.
Discounting the positives: Deciding that if a good thing happened to you it couldn't be very important
Jumping to conclusions: Focusing on one aspect of a situation when forming a judgment
Mind Reading: Believing you know what another person is thinking with very little evidence
Fortune telling: Believing you know what the future holds while ignoring other possibilities
Magnifying/Minimizing: Evaluating the importance of a negative event or the lack of evidence of a positive event in a distorted manner
"Shouldn't" statement: Telling yourself you should do (or have done) something when it is more accurate to say that you would like or could choose to do.
Labelling yourself: Using a label e.g. bad mother, idiot, to describe a behaviour
The blame game: Using hindsight to beat yourself up when you couldn't possibly have known what to do for the best at the time. Also ignoring mitigating factors or ignoring the role played by others in a negative experience or event
Now replace negative or inaccurate thoughts with accurate, constructive thoughts:
Use hopeful statements. Treat yourself with kindness and encouragement. Reframe your thoughts for what you do want and not what you don't want.
Forgive yourself. Everyone makes mistakes. They're isolated moments in time. Tell yourself, "I made a mistake, but that doesn't make me a bad person."
Avoid 'should' and 'must' statements. If you find that your thoughts are full of these words, you might be putting unreasonable demands on yourself or on others. Removing these words from your thoughts can lead to more realistic expectations.
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.
Relabel upsetting thoughts. You don't need to react negatively to negative thoughts. Instead, think of negative thoughts as signals to try new, healthy patterns. Ask yourself, "What can I think and do to make this less stressful?"
Encourage yourself. Give yourself credit for making positive changes.
As you begin to recognize the thoughts and beliefs that are contributing to your low self-esteem, you can actively adjust them and accept your value. As your self-esteem increases, your confidence and sense of well-being will increase.