What is self-esteem? People often think about self-esteem as having to do with the way you look, how popular you are, or how many things you have accomplished. However, self-esteem actually has to do with how you feel about yourself. It is the opinion you have about yourself. Self-esteem is often the result of lifetime experiences. People with good self-esteem generally feel positive about themselves and about life which helps make them more resilient and better able to cope with life stressors.
Oftentimes negative life experiences during childhood impact how we feel about ourselves as an adult and may lead to poor self-esteem. Unfortunately, poor self-esteem works like a self-fulling prophesy. The worse you feel about who you are, the less motivation you have to work on improving your self-esteem. It becomes a vicious cycle of negative thinking. Poor self-esteem can affect many areas of your life including your relationships, careers, and your health. But there is good news!! It is possible to improve your self-esteem. Even if you have lived for many years experiencing poor self-esteem, you are never too old to work on improving the way you feel about yourself.
There are a number of ways in which you can improve your self-esteem. I am going to provide you with my top five tips.
Identify and challenge your negative thoughts/beliefs. Notice how you think about yourself. Do you find that you are often making negative remarks about yourself? Work on recognizing those negative statements and challenging them. Find evidence that contradicts the negative thought. You can work on creating a list of your accomplishments and review your list when you need a reminder of everything you have done and how well you did them. Remind yourself that your negative beliefs about yourself are not true.
Give yourself a break. Remember that everyone makes mistakes. We must make mistakes in order to grow so try not to beat yourself up if you do not meet a certain goal by the time you thought you would. I would encourage your to set a long term goal and then set a list of short term goals to help reach that long term goal. I would also encourage you to treat yourself whenever you succeed in doing something or complete one of the sort term goals. Small steps are important.
Stop comparing yourself to others. With social media being such a big part of most of our lives, I completely understand how tough this can be. But you need to stop comparing yourself to others because those comparisons are unfair since most times we do not even know what others may be going through behind the camera. You only see what they post but how do you know if what you see is an accurate depiction of their life. “One of the greatest regrets in life is being what others would want you to be, rather than being yourself” - Shannon L. Alder.
Learn to accept compliments. Yes, I said it! This is possibly one of the trickiest aspects of improving your self-esteem because people with poor self-esteem tend to be more resistant to compliments. Take some time to think about what you will say when someone pays you a compliment and practice some positive responses like "thank you," or "how kind of you to say." Even if the compliments make you feel uncomfortable, setting yourself up to receive the compliments will help the situation not feel as uncomfortable and with time you will find it easier to accept compliments.
Surround yourself with supportive people. Build relationships with people who help you feel good and avoid those who tend to trigger your negative thinking. Set positive boundaries and work on taking control back from those who have tried to control you. Surround yourself with people who admire you, are a positive influence in your life, and who have similar values as yours.
Changing your self-esteem is not easy, takes time, and is perfected through trial-and-error. Making an effort to be more compassionate, fair, and realistic with yourself will go a long way in helping make that change.
“You have been criticizing yourself for years, and it hasn't worked.
Try approving of yourself and see what happens.”
– Louise L. Hay