by Devon Berkheiser, Psy.D.
Self-esteem is important. When we feel good about ourselves, it’s easier to engage in positive and healthy activities. Self-esteem also prevents us from beating ourselves up when we make mistakes, thus allowing us to get back on track quickly, rather than being overwhelmed by shame and self-hatred. Here are a few tips on how to improve your self-esteem:
1. Challenge negative self-talk
We all engage in self-talk. It’s simply the running dialogue that happens in our heads. Unfortunately, not all self-talk is positive, and negative thoughts about the self can be damaging to self-esteem. So be aware of your self-talk and “catch” negative thoughts. For example, if you find yourself saying, “I’m a total failure” when you make a mistake, consider whether that’s really accurate. Weigh the evidence for and against the belief. While you may not have accomplished a specific goal, it’s unlikely that you have failed at everything. Consider using more balanced self-statements, such as “I made a mistake on this task, but I still took a positive step toward meeting my goal.”
2. Practice daily affirmations
Recognize qualities and traits that you like about yourself and spend some time each day acknowledging them. Take a few minutes at the end of the day to reflect on something you did well that day.
3. Stop comparing yourself to others
Comparisons can be very damaging to self-esteem. And when we feel bad about ourselves, we tend to compare ourselves to people that we consider better off, which only leaves us feeling worse! So stop comparing yourself to other people. The truth is that we never really know what other people are experiencing and what challenges they may face. We all have our own journeys, and yours doesn’t need to look the same as somebody else’s.
4. Practice acceptance of your flaws/mistakes
Making mistakes is inevitable; it’s part of being human. Instead of beating yourself up for your perceived flaws/mistakes, think of them as learning opportunities and chances for growth and improvement. Sometimes traits that we perceive to be negative are actually beneficial. For example, anxiety can be uncomfortable, and even debilitating, for some people. However, it can also serve the purpose of helping us be aware of danger and taking necessary precautions. Try to see the good in what you have typically considered to be a flaw.
5. Set realistic goals
Setting goals can make us feel good about ourselves, as long as they are realistic and achievable. If you have never been a runner, it’s unrealistic to set a goal of running a marathon next week. Aiming for such a lofty goal would only set you up for failure and disappointment. But you can start to build up your self-esteem by committing to jog for 10 minutes and following through on that goal. Pat yourself on the back for meeting your goals, whether they are big or small.
6. Engage in “esteemable acts”
Doing healthy and positive things for ourselves (and doing good things for other people) makes us feel better. So engage in such acts, even when you don’t feel motivated or deserving. As the saying goes, actions speak louder than words. And over time, if you continue to do good things, you may start to believe that you are a good person.
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