self esteem important for wellbeing

Five ways to boost self esteem

2 July 2021

How’s your self esteem right now? Did you know millions of people suffer with their self esteem?

They spend each day constantly questioning themselves, worrying if they’re attractive enough, smart enough, successful enough. They’re consumed with what others’ think of them, even though the truth is they’re their own harshest critic.

Lockdown and self esteem

As we move out of lockdown and into the world again, we may start to notice our self esteem’s been affected.

It may be, during lockdown your self esteem got a boost, especially if you used the time to learn new skills. And, as you spent less time with others, you may have spent less time comparing yourself to them too.

On the other hand, you may have spent more time on social media, and ended up feeling you were’t achieving as much as others. As a result, you may have even noticed your self esteem taking a hit.

Either way, life is changing as you start to see people again, move back into the workplace and consider yourself in relation to others.

What is self esteem?

Self esteem is our attitude to ourself. It’s how we value ourselves and how we think others value us too. It’s our sense of accepting, liking and approving of ourselves.

How our self esteem develops has many factors including

  • how we assess ourselves

  • our achievements

  • support and approval from parents

  • acceptance by friends and significant people in our lives

  • how we handle life’s challenges

self esteem part of being happy

Self acceptance

People with positive self esteem are able to accept themselves and feel worthwhile. They view themselves as doing their best as they cope with life’s ups and downs. They tend to feel they’re good enough as they are – regardless of their job, education, relationship status, finances, etc

Why self esteem matters

When self esteem is positive, it‘ s easier to bounce back from any setbacks in life and cope with things such as losing a job, a relationship break-up or a period of illness – often viewing them as a springboard to something new.

Research on self esteemi shows believing in yourself and accepting yourself are important factors in success, relationships, and happiness and self-esteem plays an important role in leading a flourishing life

Good self esteem encourages people to take care of themselves. And they are more likely to take healthy risks such as standing up for themselves, applying for a new job, moving away from home for the first time, committing to a relationship with another person or going to university.

For more on this, check out Five ways being assertive helps you communicate 

Self esteem can be improved

The good news is self esteem isn’t fixed, so we can change and improve it. It’s a skill that can be learned. It can take time and effort to improve your self esteem, but the more you practice, the easier it becomes. Working on your self esteem can help you find the courage to try new things, build the resilience to bounce back, and make you more likely to succeed in general.

When I work with clients who want to improve their self esteem, we work together so they can become the person they want to be. Always going at the client’s pace, we explore a variety of tools to enhance self esteem. The more tools clients have at their fingertips, the stronger and more resilient they’re able to become.

For more, have a look at creating self confidence

self esteem constant self criticism

Client story

Take Jess, for instance, a 48 year old pharmacist and mother of two teenagers. Jess wanted to feel better about herself.

She was constantly dwelling on all the things she felt were wrong with her. As a result, she was drained of energy and lacking motivation. It was affecting her to the extent that Jess was withdrawing more and more from the people who were important to her. Her low self-esteem meant she would start things and then self-sabotage to avoid feeling she’d failed. And, she was spending a lot of time working to distract herself from thinking she wasn’t good enough and everything she did or was part of, wasn’t good enough either.

We worked together over a number of weeks to help Jess improve her self-esteem. By learning to ignore her inner critical voice, Jess has improved her motivation, focus and confidence. As a result, she found the strength to stand up to her boss who was undermining her confidence. She applied for and got a better job with less travelling. Jess now values herself much more and takes time to exercise and look after her body and do things she enjoys, just because she enjoys them. She no longer feels she has to say yes whenever she is asked. Instead, she now takes time to pause and think before committing herself.

Jess has learnt to ask for help when she needs it, so she is no longer constantly busy and overworking at home and at work. She now takes time to relax and recharge. Jess has realised this helps her to be efficient at work, and at her best with her friends and family as well as with herself.

In Jess’ words,

Celia really helped me to identify the key thoughts and bodily sensations that happen when I become caught up in my self critical thoughts. She showed me how to establish coping mechanisms to prevent the thoughts from making me anxious and losing my motivation. Celia was great in explaining how these thought processes work in simple and understandable ways.

She gave me the tools to understand the actions I was taking and why I was acting/ reacting in that way exercises to practice between sessions. Now when I start doubting myself take a little breath in and tell myself how to ignore it.

Try using the tips below to help you improve your self esteem and resilience.

Learn to curb your inner critic

We all have an inner critic which acts like a judgmental Sargeant Major living inside our heads. It’s the inner critic that comes up with all those negative thoughts about yourself and others.

The inner critic typically says,

“You’re stupid.”

“You’re fat.”

“Nobody likes you.”

“You should be quiet. Every time you talk you just make a fool of yourself.”

“Why can’t you be like other people?”, etc

These constant internal attacks only batter your self esteem.

You don’t have to listen to your inner critic though. The first step is to recognise when you’re having these self-critical thoughts. Then you can choose not to listen to what your inner critic is telling you.

Try writing down all your inner critics comments on one side of a piece of paper. Then write a more realistic and caring appraisal of yourself on the other side.

So, if you’re inner critic tells you “you’re stupid”, you could write, “I may not always get it right, but I am intelligent and competent in many ways” It can to add an example to support these thoughts. It could something like, “My line manager said my last of piece of work was really good.”

For more ways to manage your inner critic, read how to beat imposter syndrome and stop feeling like a fraud.

Take meaningful action

Taking part in activities that mean something to you, helps to build self esteem.

For instance, studies show that volunteering has a positive effect on how people feel about themselvesii. What each person finds meaningful is entirely unique to them; it could be volunteering for a charity, organising a litter pick, creating art with friends, exercising, or cooking for others.

Spending time doing activities that help others, helps build self-esteem.

Make some time to think about the activities and interests you find meaningful Then try and prioritise them.

self esteem helped by meaningful action

Cut down on social media

Try and spend less time in front of a screen and more time experiencing the world around you.

As human beings we need interaction with others to stay healthy and happy. Social media brings that into our homes. When we’re on social media, we tend to compare ourselves to the images on our screens, which can impact on self esteem.

What we see on Facebook, Instagram and the like, is a carefully curated image, rather than a true representation of someone’s life.. We rarely see the sadness, failure, and disappointment that make up the rich tapestry of life for most of us. Instead, we get a perfect picture and news of achievements, accomplishments, and happiness. If we’re not careful, we can end up feeling our lives don’t measure up to what we can see on the screen.

It’s ok to use social media, but keep it under control. Just try and remember we are often only seeing the very best in others. In this way, we can view social media posts as inspiration and motivation rather than for unhealthy comparison.

Learn to meditate

Meditation can help you to observe your thoughts and separate yourself from them. It can help to establish a sense of contentment that underpins healthy self-esteem.

Meditation nurtures the ability to let go and to keep thoughts and feelings in perspective. Rather than engaging with your self critical thoughts, you can learn to observe them, as if from a distance.

It can be done anywhere. Simply start to notice how your body feels, the rhythm of your breathing, how your emotions change, and the thoughts that drift across your mind. As this happens, practice observing rather than judging them.

It can take practice, but it is a skill you can learn.

Don’t compare yourself to others

The foundation of healthy self-esteem is to simply stop comparing yourself to others. Try to spend less time worrying about how you measure up to the people around you. Instead, think about the kind of person you want to be and take actions that are right for you.

By focusing on what is important to you, you can develop your sense of yourself as a worthwhile person on your own terms.

i Branden, N. (1992).The power of self-esteem.Deerfield Beach, Florida: Health Communications.

  Branden, N. (2013). What self-esteem is and is not. Accessed from http://www.nathanielbranden.com/what-self-esteem-is-and-is-not.

ii Crocker J, Knight KM. Contingencies of Self-Worth. Current Directions in Psychological Science. 2005;14(4):200-203. doi:10.1111/j.0963-7214.2005.00364.x

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