Many people feel bad about themselves at times. Self-esteem is a complicated entity, influenced by many factors, including morality, spiritual beliefs, the approval of family and friends, environment, childhood experiences, and general sense of well-being. Negative life events, physical illness, problematic relationships, and loss of control can all undermine self-esteem. If you believe you suffer from low self-worth, there are different things you can do to break out of the downward spiral. Here are some ideas.
Focus on your strengths. Make a list of your strengths and achievements. Write down everything you like about yourself. Remember that even though you’re struggling, you’re a unique and special person, a miracle of existence who is meant to have a future worth living. Consider your talents and interests, challenges you’ve overcome, good things you’ve done, and mistakes you’ve fixed. If you’re having difficulty coming up with items to place on the list, talk to a friend or close family member. Put the list in a safe place and review it every day. Next, display items in your living space that remind you of your achievements and strengths, as well as of good memories and the special people in your life.
Take on positive affirmations. Create a list of positive affirmations. This involves writing down what you’d like to believe about yourself: I can be an amazing person despite my past mistakes. I am an amazing mother, I am a talented artist, I am a competent and well-respected teacher, I am a human being worth knowing. Even if you don’t believe the statements, make sure to read them out loud every day. Put them in a place where you’ll remember. This might sound silly or egotistical, but positive affirmations are very effective.
Be kind 1. Watch how you talk to yourself. Learn how to step back and give yourself space, and listen, really listen. Next time the ticker tape in your head tells you bad stuff, jot down what you hear. Be specific. How realistic are these thoughts? Usually they’re one-sided and exaggerated. So what evidence is there that they aren’t true? How can you rewrite these problem thoughts in a healthier way, a way that supports you? Rephrase the thoughts on paper in a way that makes sense to you. Instead of “I’m stupid,” consider, “I’m not as good at this as I’d like, but I’m good at other things,” and list those achievements. Make it a habit to rewrite problem thoughts. Countering one thought at a time can be an effective tool to help with low self-esteem. Remember to be kind to yourself!
Be kind 2. Go out of your way to do good things. Be nice to people, and do nice things for them. Consider volunteering. If volunteering sounds too complicated, make a difference in other people’s lives in smaller ways. Bake a cake for a sick neighbor. Anonymously pay a stranger’s toll on the toll way. Even sharing a smile can make someone’s day.
Avoid the bad stuff. Avoid people and situations that make you feel bad. If you can’t stay away from the negativity, do your best to surround yourself by people who are supportive and care about you. There’s no way to avoid it: self-esteem is influenced by your surroundings.
Pursue the good stuff. Create a life you feel worthwhile living. Sign up for drawing classes and fill your house with artwork. Play your favorite music on the radio. Run a marathon. Sing in the shower. Wear bright or quirky clothes. Go back to school and study those science classes you’ve been thinking about. Surround yourself with your favorite books. Burn candles and incense when you take a bath. Write poetry. Enroll in dance classes. Mow the lawn, if that helps you feel better. Have hope that the world is a good place, even when everything seems to go against it. Remember your happiness is a gift to others. When you feel happy, that happiness is contagious.
If you’re in over your head, get help. Low self-esteem can be caused by clinical depression, anxiety, or other psychiatric disorders; you might need professional support to jump-start your mind back into health. Even back-backing stress can be hard to climb out of. If you feel like it’s a losing battle, consider reaching out for help. A psychotherapist can help you navigate the thoughts, past experiences, and stressors that are causing your symptoms. If things are bad enough, talk to a psychiatrist about medications.