Updated: Apr 8, 2022
We’ve all been there; some days, you just can’t think of a single positive thing to say about yourself. It’s when those momentary periods of self-dislike turn into something more long-lasting and prevalent, that it can be a sign that you may have low self-esteem.
What is self-esteem?
Self-esteem is, in essence, how we perceive and value ourselves. Our self-esteem can be influenced by a wide variety of things, from life events to our childhoods. When your self-esteem is low, you may begin seeing yourself (and the world around you) in a more negative light. This can also cause you to struggle with unexpected challenges, leave you feeling generally unhappy, unsatisfied, and can lead to harming your overall mental health and wellbeing.
When you have good self-esteem, you are more able to recognize your value and worth. Positive self-esteem can help you feel confident to try new things, take risks, step outside of your comfort zone, and stand up for what you are passionate about. Low self-esteem can leave you taking each mistake to heart, could cause you to put others’ feelings and needs above your own, and leave you feeling unable to speak out and seek help when you need it.
While we may all have times when we don’t feel good about ourselves, we can do our best to make sure that these periods don’t become a long-term problem.
If you find yourself struggling to:
Like and value yourself as a person
Assert yourself or make decisions
Recognize your strengths or try new things
Practice self-compassion or kindness
Take time to look after yourself and practice self-care
Move past mistakes without unfairly blaming yourself
Feel that you deserve to be happy
Consider working with an expert if you notice your self-talk is consistently negative and impacts your well-being.
Here are 12 practical ways to start boosting self-esteem:
1. Avoid comparison
Each person is unique, and so are his or her circumstances. Yet we cannot help comparing ourselves to others to know where we stand or measure our success. Comparisons can lead to negativity and low self-worth, since we tend to compare ourselves with those who are doing better than us. Therefore, it is better to avoid comparisons and focus upon one’s own positives.
2. Dispute negative self-talk
Everyone has an inner voice, which most of the time also doubles as the inner critic. At times, it is useful, but mostly it is judgmental or critical. It is also largely responsible for feelings of negative self-worth. You can learn to dispute your negative self-talk with reason and facts and replace negative feelings about you and your actions with positive ones.
3. Accept yourself
Self-acceptance is the first step to deal with the problem of low self-esteem. Human behavior is complex, and human beings possess composite personalities which are a mixture of opposites. You must therefore wholly accept whatever you are, with all your positives and negatives without judgment or reservations.
4. Forgive yourself
You must not only accept yourself but also forgive yourself, for all your mistakes, weaknesses and failures. No one is perfect. Everyone makes mistakes. Even the most successful people are not immune to failures and weaknesses. Therefore, learn to forgive yourself, instead of beating yourself down with self-criticism and feelings of guilt and remorse.
5. Focus on your strengths
People with low self-esteem tend to focus more upon their failures and shortcomings. It puts them in a never-ending cycle of negativity, reinforcing their poor self-image. Instead, you should focus on your strengths and achievements, and put your natural talents, skills and abilities to better use. If you make it a regular habit, you will begin to feel good about yourself.
6. Ignore negative people
Forgive and forget those who caused you pain and hurt in the past, but are no more relevant to your current life and ignore those who may be still hurting you or undermining you with their negativity and criticism. Most of them do it because they are not happy with themselves and their own feelings of self-worth. Know that as far as criticism is concerned, you can accept it on merits or ignore it.
7. Use affirmations
Use positive affirmations to reinforce feelings of positive self-worth or boost your morale and confidence. Keep telling yourself what you are capable of and what you can accomplish in life. It is the best way to counter your negative self-talk with positive thoughts and feelings and reprogramming your thinking and attitude towards yourself and your accomplishments. Some typical self-esteem building affirmations include:
I am worthy of love and belonging.
I am strong and resilient.
I overcome challenges with ease and grace.
I am kind and compassionate to those around me.
I am growing each and every day.
I love the person I am becoming.
I am worthy of my goals and dreams.
I believe in my ability to succeed.
8. Practice visualization
Visualization is another useful technique to build a positive self-image. Use creative visualization techniques to improve the areas in your personality and behavior, which are largely responsible for your low self-esteem. Visualize a better and more capable you, the person you want to be in your esteem and in that of others.
9. Learn to appreciate
People with low self-esteem do not easily appreciate others or themselves. Their negativity towards themselves also becomes reflected in their attitude towards others and the world. You can change it by learning to appreciate the good things in life. By that, you will learn to see things in a positive way and reinforce positive feelings towards you and others as well.
10. Practice assertiveness
Learn to be assertive about the things that you value so that you do not have to act against your will or let others control your life and actions. It is OK to look for approval and appreciation from others, one should not totally dependent upon it to feel good, approved or validated. If you are assertive, people will respect you, and you will learn to stand for yourself and your rights.
11. Develop consistent self-care activities
Just as how others treated us in the past impacted significantly on our self-esteem, how we treat ourselves everyday influences how we value ourselves. Self-care includes such things as: eating a healthy diet, getting optimal amounts of sleep, doing regular exercise, practicing good hygiene, taking time to do things you enjoy, treating yourself well each day, and making your living space somewhere you really enjoy being. Feeling out of shape, exhausted, unattractive, and unhappy leaves us very vulnerable to feelings of insecurity.
12. Consider speaking with an expert
Research shows that negative thinking is the cornerstone of low self-esteem. Negative thoughts become destructive, making you susceptible to poor decisions and potentially more serious conditions like depression. Addressing these corrosive thoughts and feelings is critical. One of the most effective ways to deal with more serious low self-esteem cases is through therapy. Working with a therapist is a great way to work on self-esteem issues at any level but will greatly reduce the chances of problems worsening.
The reality is that everyone has strengths and weaknesses, and some days or weeks feel better than others. Having solid self-esteem means accepting and appreciating all your sides. You deserve love as much as anyone else, so make sure to surround yourself with love, safety, and acceptance in whatever way makes the most sense for you. Now that you know how to deal with self-esteem, you’ll be well on your way to a happier, more confident life.