Self-esteem is actually about how we value ourselves and our perceptions about who we are and what we are capable of. There are times when we lack confidence and do not feel good about ourselves, but when low self-esteem becomes a long-term problem, it can hurt our mental health and our day-to-day lives.
We tend to feel better about ourselves and about life in general when we have healthy self-esteem. It improves our ability to deal with life’s ups and downs.
Stress and difficult life events, such as chronic illnesses or bereavement, can have a negative effect on one’s self-esteem. Personality can also be a factor. Some people are just more prone to negative thinking, while others have unrealistically high standards for themselves.
Here are some simple tips that can be adapted to improve your self-esteem.
- Recognize your strengths.
We are all good at something, whether it is cooking, singing, solving puzzles, or simply being a friend. We also tend to enjoy doing the things we’re good at, which can help boost our mood daily.
- Establish positive relationships.
If you notice that certain people tend to depress you, try to spend less time with them, or tell them how you feel about their words or actions. Build relationships with people who make you feel good about yourself and avoid relationships that make you feel bad about yourself. Try to build relationships with people who are positive and who appreciate you.
- Be kind to yourself.
Being kind to yourself means being gentle with yourself at times when you feel like being self-critical. Think about what you’d say to a friend in a similar situation. We often give far better advice to others than we do to ourselves.
- Learn to be assertive.
Being assertive is about respecting other people’s opinions and needs and expecting the same from them. One technique is to observe assertive people and mimic their actions. It is not about pretending you’re someone you’re not. It is picking up positive hints and tips from people you admire and allowing the true you to shine through.
- Start saying “no”
People with low self-esteem often feel obligated to say yes to other people, even when they do not really want to. The risk is that you become overburdened, resentful, angry and depressed. For the most part, saying no does not upset relationships. It can be helpful to continue saying no, but in different ways, until they get the message.
- Give yourself a challenge.
People with low self-esteem often avoid challenging situations. One of the best ways to improve your self-esteem can be to take on a challenge. This doesn’t mean you need to do everything yourself—part of the challenge may be to seek help when you need it—but be prepared to try something you know will be difficult to achieve.
We all feel nervous or afraid to do things at times. People with healthy self-esteem, on the other hand, do not let these feelings prevent them from trying new things or taking on new challenges.
It is very unlikely that you will go from having poor self-esteem to having good self-esteem overnight. Instead, you will probably notice you make small improvements over some time. The key is to think in terms of the long term rather than the short term, and to concentrate on the big picture rather than the specifics of how you felt yesterday.
When you feel good or you do something good, celebrate it—but don’t beat yourself up if you occasionally slip back into negative patterns of thinking. Just pick yourself up again and try to think more positively. Eventually, this will become a habit, and you will notice that your self-esteem has quietly improved over time.