I am often asked by clients,” How do I improve my self-esteem?”.
The truth is, there is no one answer to this question, but that can be a good thing.
It’s important to know that living with low self-esteem can be extremely damaging to your mental health. Depression, anxiety, struggles within your relationships, living in your comfort zone, and a fear of pursuing your dreams are all symptoms of low self-esteem.
Low self-esteem can also lead to self-destructive habits, such as smoking or drinking as a way of coping. The first step in improving your self-esteem is to understand why you lack confidence.
How Early Life Experiences Can Affect Your Self- Esteem
Like many aspects of early childhood development, self-esteem results from the two interacting forces often referred to as “nature and nurture.” Everyone, including children, have weaknesses and strengths that will influence their self-esteem. However, in most cases, “nurture” or the interactions a child has with their family and social environment will have an even greater impact. The relationships and interactions a child has with their caregivers, peers, and teachers also significantly affect how children see themselves and how they cope with challenging situations. That’s not to say that the nature of a child’s temperament doesn’t come into play; it does. It’s just that nurturing can often override its impact.
Stressful and challenging to control experiences will also contribute to the level of confidence a child has. The development of your self-esteem is a social process, and how other people view themselves and how others treat you will heavily influence it. This is where parents and caregivers have an essential role to play in their children’s lives. Parents and caregivers can exercise their influence over their children’s self-esteem by paying close attention to how they communicate, express love, encourage, challenge, support autonomy, and encourage socialization.
How You Can Increase Your Self- Esteem
Regardless of how your self-esteem got to where it is today, there are always ways in which you can improve. Here are 5 ways in which you can start to build a positive self-esteem.
Use Positive Affirmations
Positive affirmations like “I am successful and confident” tend not to work for those of us who do not already believe we are successful and confident. Treat positive affirmations the same way you would treat learning to ride a bike for the first time. The first set of declarations should come with training wheels. Start with affirmations that are a little less foreign to your brain, like “I will persevere until I succeed,” and then work your way up.
Identify Your Strengths and Develop Those Skills
Self-esteem can be rebuilt by discovering your strengths. This is something we often forget or minimize when we have low self-esteem. Spend some time trying to identify your values and the things that you’re passionate about. Start doing more of what you love and bring you joy. Do you love running? Maybe start training for a marathon. Does painting or drawing make you happy? Consider enrolling or teaching an art class. You may even be able to find opportunities or careers that highlight your skill and boost your confidence.
Learn How to Accepts Compliments
It is so easy to deny compliments when we feel bad about ourselves. That being said, one of the best things you can do to help improve your esteem is to recognize that someone is paying you a compliment because they found something about you that was worth complimenting! Accepting compliments may make you uncomfortable initially, but being able to do so graciously and gracefully rather than making the other person feel awkward for having said anything will do wonders for your self-esteem.
Here are a few things to remember when gracefully accepting a compliment.
1) Express your gratitude with a simple thank you.
2) Be sure not to undermine the compliment in any way with negative self-talk or deflection.
3) Consider returning their compliment in a way that doesn’t diminish it.
For example, If someone says that they like your outfit, you might respond by saying, “ Thank you! I was just admiring your outfit as well!”
Manage Your Self- Talk
Actively and quickly shut down negative self-talk and replace it with self-compassion. One trick you can use to make this easier is to imagine yourself as a child. Would you say the things you think about yourself to a child? Your inner child is trying to heal. It’s important to remember that repetitive, negative self-talk isn’t going to help them do so. Remember that your goal is to have higher self-esteem and that you need to continue to do things that align you with that goal, especially when habitual behaviors show up.
Take Care Of Yourself
This means taking care of yourself both physically and mentally. You need to remind yourself that you are worth showing up for. No one is going to do it but you. While this is undoubtedly easier said than done, you will need to take the time and set up a healthy routine that is right for you. This may include planning healthy meals, increasing physical movement, or meditation. You’ll want to schedule downtime for yourself, as well as time to socialize and recharge.
At the end of the day, improving your self-esteem will require a bit of work, but you are worth it. You deserve to be happy and live confidently.