July 7, 2010
Ways to Improve Self Esteem & Boost Self Confidence
Written by Rachel Eddins
Self-esteem literally means to have confidence in your worth or abilities, to respect yourself. Having high self-esteem means that you have a positive image of yourself. Let’s look at where such a positive self-image comes from and ways to improve self esteem.
Most of your self-image—what you think is true about yourself—is learned. It is not necessarily accurate at all! The real you is unique and unchanging.
Where are your beliefs about yourself drawn from? Where did you learn them? If you think about it, you’ll see that they came from:
- What others said about you
- What others told you
- What others did to you
Your self-image is the result of all the messages you heard about yourself as a child.
These messages added up to a set of beliefs about who you are. It may have nothing to do with who you really are.
For example, you may believe things like:
- I’m not very smart.
- I’m naturally passive.
- Girls aren’t any good at math.
- I’m too old to start over.
- All of the women in my family become doctors.
- I’m painfully shy.
- We never lie.
In addition to learning to believe certain things during our early years, there are certain situations that make most people feel inferior or lacking in self-esteem.
Examples of Situations that Impact Self-Esteem:
- Being criticized
- Not being loved
- Being rejected
- Experiencing failure
What Low Self-Esteem Feels Like
In situations like these above, it is not uncommon to feel emotions such as:
Cognitive Therapy and Negative Self-Talk
Cognitive therapy can help you feel better by identifying how negative ways of thinking (negative self-talk) impact your emotions. In cognitive therapy, the assumption is that the way you think affects the way you feel.
Negative feelings like guilt, anger, and depression do not result from the bad things that happen to you, but from the way you think about these events. Oftentimes, these automatic thoughts happen so rapidly that you don’t even notice or question them.
Have you noticed times when you’ve attributed a situation to something wrong about yourself? For example, “he didn’t ask me out because I’m too ugly.” This is an example of negative self-talk. In actuality, there could be many reasons why you weren’t asked out (maybe he was too shy).
Cognitive Distortions Impact How We Feel About Ourselves
Here is an example of how our self-talk can impact our interpretation of a situation and subsequent feelings about ourself.
Example: the boss scowls as he passes John and Bill in the hall. John begins to feel down on himself as he thinks, “Oh no! He’s upset with me.” Bill only gets concerned, not disturbed as he tells himself, “The boss is probably having another battle with the front office.”
What is the difference between the two? Not the event, but the way John and Bill thought about the event. Cognitive distortions skew the way we think about events. Cognitive distortions are assumptions we apply to situations as if they were true facts.
Practice catching your negative self-talk, challenge your logic, and replace them with thoughts that more closely align with reality instead of thoughts that depress.
One strategy that I like to use is that for every negative assumption (negative self-talk) of an upsetting event or situation challenge yourself to come up with three alternative perspectives either positive or neutral to explain the situation.
To elaborate further, you can try to identify the upsetting situation that preceeded the distressing feelings; second, record your thoughts about the event; third, identify the distortions in your thinking process; and fourth, substitute rational responses. This can usually help you to feel better about yourself.
Paying attention to your negative self-talk and adjusting to more neutral responses is one way to feel good about yourself. Combining cognitive with supportive therapy can help you get on track to make lasting changes in how you think and feel about yourself.
Now let’s talk about a second way to increase your self-esteem.
By taking a look at your life environment and seeing whether it supports you feeling good about yourself.
You may find that some nourishing elements need to be replenished. Here are some questions to ask yourself:
Do you have people in your life who:
1. Treat you with love and respect?
2. Encourage you to do and be anything you want?
3. Help you find out what you want to do, and how to do it?
4. Encourage you to explore all of your talents and interests?
5. Are thrilled when you succeed?
6. Listen to you when you need to complain?
7. Help you bounce back from failure without making you feel bad?
Take a moment to think about each of the items on this list. Note where your environment is providing adequately for you, and where it is lacking. This can give you clues to how to build your own self-esteem.
Improve Self Esteem by Embracing Your Strengths: Focus on What is Right with You
You have a right to feel good about yourself.
Take some time to journal your responses to the following questions. Focus on the positive. If you’re not sure, ask someone who loves you and knows you well.
1. What are the qualities that describe you when you are your very best? What were you doing when these aspects became apparent to you?
2. What kind of person do these aspects describe? Or, what kind of person do these aspects show an aspiration toward?
3. What are the qualities that others would describe in you when you are at your very best? What were you doing when they noticed these aspects?
4. What kind of person do these aspects describe? Or, what kind of person do these aspects show an aspiration toward?
5. Who was the first person to tell you that they noticed the best of you in action? What were you doing when they noticed these aspects?
6. Who was the last person to tell you that they noticed the best of you in action? What were you doing when they noticed these aspects?
7. Who in your life wouldn’t be surprised to see you stand up to these situations and prevail? What experiences would they draw upon to make these conclusions about you? What “quintessentially you” stories would they tell?
8. Complete this statement: When I am at my very best I am ___________________________________________.
9. Think of a time in your life that was very difficult, but you managed to get through it.
10. What personal resources did you draw on to get through this difficulty?
11. What family, spiritual, friend, or community support did you draw on to get through?
12. What does this story tell about who you are and what you can do?
13. Who else knows this story about you?
14. What do you think this story says about who you are and what you are capable of?
Build Confidence by Keeping a Confidence Journal
It is a smart tool to remind yourself just how good you really are and what you have to be thankful for and pleased about in your life right now.
Either buy yourself a notebook or a day view diary and once a week for the next month jot down your answers to the following building confidence questions.
- What have I got to be grateful for in my life right now?
- What am I happy about in my life right now?
- Why am I happy about these things?
- What did I accomplish last week?
- What am I excited about in my life right now?
- Who do I love and appreciate in my life? Who do I like hanging around? Why?
- Who loves and appreciates me for what I am?
Answer these questions at the start of each week and it will set you up for success by focusing on the positive and what is good in your life right now.
Things You Can Do to Raise Your Self-Esteem
1. Pay attention to your needs and wants. Listen to what your body, mind and heart are telling you. For example, if your body aches from sitting too long, stand up and stretch! If your heart longs for connection, reach out to someone.
2. Take very good care of yourself. This can be hard to do if you’re feeling down or if you didn’t learn this when growing up. Perhaps you’ve learned to take care of others or perform well via achievements. Make a commitment to begin today to start taking good care of you. Treat yourself as a wonderful parent would treat their small child.
3. Take time to do things you enjoy. You may be busy, feel down or push yourself so hard you have no time for things you enjoy. Make a list of the things you enjoy doing and try one thing off that list every day. Revisit your interests and goals. Take one step toward learning more.
4. Get something done that you have been putting off. It feels great to get something done. It also frees up your energy when you no longer have to spend time thinking about what needs to be done.
5. Do things that make use of your own special talents and abilities. Take opportunities to learn something new or improve your skills.
6. Dress in clothes that make you feel good about yourself.
7. Give yourself non-food rewards. Listen to music, take a break.
8. Spend time with people. Particularly with people who make you feel good about yourself and treat you well. Spend less time with critical people. Learn how to set healthy boundaries with others.
9. Make your meals a special time. Turn off the TV, set the table and create a pleasing environment. Avoid discussion with others of negative or stressful topics.
10. Do something nice for another person. Smile at someone who looks sad. Say a few kind words to the cashier. Help your spouse with an unpleasant chore. Send someone a card.
11. Notice and distance yourself from negative thoughts about yourself. There are many negative messages that we automatically repeat to ourselves such as “I never do anything right,” or “I’m so stupid”. Although they feel true, these are just words. Practice noticing them and letting them go like helium balloons. Each balloon carries the negative message away.
12. Make affirming lists. Make a list of what you are grateful for, five things you admire about yourself, five strengths, or your life achievements.
13. Give yourself compassion. Be gentle and kind with yourself. Remember to treat yourself as a wonderful parent would treat their child. Compassion is the antidote to low self esteem. It’s constant and always available to you.
14. Separate “you” from your behavior. You may not have done something the way you would like to have, but that doesn’t impact who you are as a person. “I made a mistake on that report” vs, “I’m such a failure.”
15. Avoid comparing and competing.
16. Watch out for judgment! Whether you are judging yourself or others, it sets you up for negative emotions and a critical perspective. Practice acceptance instead.
17. Spend some time connecting with yourself. Pay attention to how you are feeling from moment to moment. Tune in to what your five senses are experiencing. Take it down to the most basic level of “I feel warm right now,” “I feel light-headed,” “I feel a tightness in my stomach.”
Review what happened at the end of your day. Write about it in a private journal.
18. Talk with a therapist. If you are feeling bad about yourself, consider finding a therapist to help you get your life on a positive track.
Read more about our self-esteem counseling services.
To get started now give us a call to schedule an appointment at 832-559-2622 or schedule an appointment online
Declaration of Self-Esteem
This self-esteem statement was written by Virginia Satir in her book, Self-Esteem. Is there anything in this statement that resonates with you?
I AM ME
In all the world, there is no one else exactly like me.
Everything that comes out of me is authentically mine.
Because I alone choose it – I own everything about me.
My body, my feelings, my mouth, my voice, all my actions, whether they be to others or to myself.
I own my fantasies, my dreams, my hopes, my fears.
I own all my triumphs and successes, all my failures and mistakes.
Because I own all of me, I can become intimately acquainted with me.
By so doing I can love me and be friendly with me in all my parts.
I know there are aspects about myself that puzzle me, and other aspects that I do not know – but as long as I am friendly and loving to myself, I can courageously and hopefully look for solutions to the puzzles and for ways to find out more about me.
However I look and sound, whatever I say and do, and whatever I think and feel at a given moment in time is authentically me.
If later some parts of how I looked, sounded, thought and felt turn out to be unfitting, I can discard that which is unfitting, keep the rest, and invent something new for that which I discarded.
I can see, hear, feel, think, say, and do.
I have the tools to survive, to be close to others, to be productive, and to make sense and order out of the world of people and things outside me.
I own me and therefore I can engineer me.
I am me and
I AM OKAY
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