Self-esteem is the opinion you have of yourself and while it may not seem all that important, how we view ourselves can have an incredible impact on our lives. Those who have low self-esteem tend to have a very critical view of themselves and do not really like who they are.
While we tend to talk freely about depression and anxiety these days (well we’re getting more accepting of it), we often ignore the all important view of ourselves which can actually contribute to depression, anxiety, relationship breakdown and generally unhappy lives.
What are the signs of low self-esteem?
People with low self-esteem probably never talk about this aspect of themselves but just accept it as a valid part of who they are. Often, people with low self-esteem will:
- Be very critical of themselves
- Pay no attention to the achievements they have made
- Use negative words to describe themselves (fat, ugly, stupid, a failure)
- Have trouble accepting compliments
- Allow others to treat them in a manner which is not acceptable
- Have difficulty saying no
- Avoid activities so as not to be judged by others
- Become an overachiever to try and cover up or compensate
- Exhibit self harming behaviours such as drinking/drug abuse or eating disorders
- Lack in self confidence
How to improve low self-esteem
1. Positive thinking exercises.
A major part of low self-esteem is the constant critical, negative self talk. For this exercise, write down (don’t just think it), a list of positive qualities about yourself. Aim to get 20 things on this list and complete it over a few weeks. Eg, I’m kind, patient, help others etc. If you can’t think of anything, ask your friends what they think. This can seem like a really daunting task but it is usually because you have never stopped to think about the positives – they are there.
2. Track the thoughts
Another exercise that helps to stop that nagging negative voice in your head is to track the thoughts. This exercise can be quite confronting, but it is well worth doing. Write down 4 columns with the titles, “Event”, “Reaction”, “Belief”, ”Challenge”.
Each time you have a negative thought about yourself, record it on this sheet. Then put in what your reaction was and your personal belief about yourself. The tricky part then is to challenge this belief with a logical fact.
Eg. Event = friend didn’t call me back the same day
Reaction = Upset, sad, angry
Belief = I am no good, nobody likes me
Challenge = She normally calls me back and I know she is busy at the moment. I know she does like me.
Try and record as many thoughts as you can and expect that it may be hard to challenge the thoughts at first. This is normal because it is usually a belief that you have held onto for a while. The point is to see that there is a logical alternative to what you automatically think.
3. Set small achievable goals.
We tend to think that at some point when something changes in our lives, we will be happy. The problem with this is that we are always waiting on something to make us happy and we never seem to get there.
Look for small things that you can change or achieve in your day or week and again, write them down. For some people, setting a goal of talking to someone in the office, or smiling at a stranger can be big achievements and this is ok. It is about moving forward at your pace in a direction that suits you, not measuring yourself against others around you.
4. Practice saying “No”.
Sounds easy but for most people that have low self-esteem, this can be a really challenging thing to do. They find themselves doing all sorts of favours for people they didn’t want to do because they didn’t feel they could say no.
When put in this position, take your time replying and think about whether you are going to say yes because you want to, or because you feel you have to. If the answer is because you have to, then try and say no. In all likelihood, the world is not going to end because you said no! Consider making this a goal for your week.
5. Look for activities or hobbies that interest you.
Often when self-esteem is lacking, people don’t venture out of their comfort zone for fear of being judged or not succeeding. If you don’t have any activities or interests, then start making a list of things that even remotely interest you try them to see if it is a good fit. Remember, you can walk away if you don’t like it so there is no harm done. If you are really worried about doing this, then try and get a friend to join you the first time.
6. Exercise is really important.
This benefits both the body and the mind and stimulates those hormones that make you feel good. It doesn’t need to be serious exercise, simply walking most days for 30 minutes is enough to boost those happy hormones.
7. Practice accepting compliments.
Typically when offered a compliment, you don’t believe it so you either push it back with an excuse or deny it all together. From now on, when given a compliment, whether you believe it or not, the only word to come out of your mouth is “Thank you”! It may not feel real but it is another step in challenging that negative view of yourself.
8. Be present focused.
Very few of us are actually in the moment we are living. Usually we are rerunning the past or worrying about the future. This means that we don’t ever appreciate the moment that we actually have which is right now. Trying to pull your mind back to the present moment means that there is no room for the negative chatter going in in your head. Try and think about this often during the day (put a post-it note up) and when you notice yourself time travelling, bring your focus back to what you are experiencing then and there.
9. Write a list of the achievements you have already made in life.
Too often the focus is on where you failed and not on what you achieved. It doesn’t need to be big, the small achievements are often what define our lives. Having friends, completing some study, getting a job you wanted, traveling, helping someone else, the list of possibilities is huge so take the time to identify them.
10. Surround yourself with positive people.
An easy way to make your day better is to hang around those people that are positive. Try and hang out with friends that are happy and positive and stay away from those that are always looking at the negative. It rubs off, so fill up on the positive whenever possible.
Improving your self-esteem is not going to happen overnight so be patient and know that if you do put the effort in to make changes, then you will see the results. Just make sure you are looking for them!
If you need professional help to improve your self-esteem, please call me on 0468 950 420 for a FREE 10-minute consultation to discuss your needs and find out how I can help you or press BOOK NOW button to find my available appointment and schedule an online booking.