People with low self-esteem tend to see themselves as victims of a hostile world. As a result, they are reluctant to express and assert themselves, miss out on experiences and opportunities, and feel powerless to change things.
It takes them to a downward spiral of lowered self-esteem.
If you feel that you suffer from poor self-esteem, there are a number of simple things that you can do to boost yourself and, hopefully, break out of the trap.
Here are a few things you could start with.
Stop negative self-talk and criticism Some navigate their world and relationships constantly searching for evidence which go on to validate their self-limiting beliefs. They constantly put themselves on trial much like judge and jury and sentencing themselves to a lifetime of self-criticism. In order to deal with this, you need to first catch yourself indulging in such self-talk. It’s found that people who are afflicted with high levels of self-critical behavior are also the one’s who aim for ‘perfectionism’ and ‘unreal goals or outcomes’.
Make a list of all your ‘disempowering beliefs’ and then against each one right down an alternate ‘empowering belief’. Examples of disempowering beliefs and possible alternatives could be;
- ‘I am not good enough’ – ‘I am good at……’ (make a list of at least 5 things you are good at)
- ‘I can’t do this’ – ‘The ways in which I can get this done is…..’
- ‘It’s not perfect’ – ‘I think it is good enough and that’s what matters’
- ‘What will others think’ – ‘It makes me happy and that’s what matters most’
- ‘Others are better than me’ – ‘My strengths are…. (make a quick list)
- ‘I don’t have the ability’ – ‘The skills I need to do this are…..’
Don’t follow what I have to offer, all that matters is what you ‘think’. Go ahead and make your own list of empowering beliefs and use them liberally.
What you are trying to do here is ‘reframing’ and that goes a long way in changing the way you ‘think’. Negative self-talk is nothing but your inner thought process. Change your thinking – Change your belief!
Make a habit of learning from mistakes We have been taught and told repeatedly and right from childhood that “Failures are the stepping stones towards success”. The bloody problem is that no one is willing to ‘step on’ these stones to success. How hypocritical of us, isn’t it?
You must accept the fact that mistakes and errors are likely when you step out of your comfort zone and try something meaningful. Know for a fact that you have always been fed the ‘success stories’ of those who did something significant. Rarely do we get to know the number of mistakes a successful person committed before accomplishing something.
A simple analogy I would like to draw your attention to is about a ‘baby’s attempt to walk for the very first time’. You wouldn’t be walking today if you were fearful of stumbling when you were a baby. Just ask your parent. You did get help along the way and that’s an important lesson. So the next time you are overcome with fear of committing a mistake or failure, remind yourself about the way you learnt to walk and run. Instead of beating yourself up and paralyzing all action, ask yourself “What help do I need to get this done?” “Who are the people who can help me along the way?” It keeps you from falling into a pit of despair.
Another way is to ask ‘what’s the upside?’. Look at ‘one thing you can learn from the situation’ and ‘one opportunity you wouldn’t want to miss’
This will probably help you change your viewpoint and contribute to a positive self-esteem and avoid any speed bumps along the way.
Affirm your self-worth Make it a daily habit of listing out all the qualities which you have that are meaningful in a specific context. For example, list all the qualities which makes you a good relationship prospect, good hire or an employee, parent, child, friend and any other context you can think of. Then choose one of the items from the list above and write an essay about why the quality is invaluable and will be appreciated by everyone. Do the exercise every day for a week or whenever you need a booster of self-esteem. The bottom line is boosting your self-esteem requires a bit of work and involves developing healthier emotional habits.
Develop your competencies Self-esteem is built by demonstrating real ability and achievement in areas of our lives that matter to us. If you think cooking gives you great pleasure, throw more home parties. If being in the spotlight attracts you, then offer yourself for public speaking. If writing is what satisfies you, then start blogging, publishing, being part of literary festivals and events. In short, figure out your core competencies and find opportunities and careers that accentuate them. You get a powerful boost of energy and self-esteem when you indulge in acts which you are naturally inclined towards, passionate about and competent.
Take feedback as an opportunity to grow Each time you get some critical feedback, your natural reflex response will be to defend, oppose, get angry or withdraw. The moment you find yourself overcome with a need to react, ask yourself “What can I learn from this feedback?” and ask the feedback giver for suggestions and listen intently. Prepare some stock phrases you will use when you are engaged in a conversation involving negative feedback. For example “I would like to learn more”, “Tell me more”, “What can I do to make the difference?” etc. You can think of more if you like. If you look at these statements, it shifts your attention from defending to greater understanding. You know that feedback helps you improve and remove your blind spots. The lesser the blind spots, the more confident you will be and in turn get a boost in your self-esteem.
Keep away from negative people If you surround yourself with people who always look at the negative side of life, then it is surely going to impact your motivation and self-esteem. You will find such people in abundance around you. How do you identify such people? They are the one’s who when presented with an idea or thought, immediately respond with “how you cannot possibly do this?” or “how it is not a great idea?”. In fact what they are rubbing off on you is their own inabilities. Keep such people away. Also, if you want to boost your self-esteem in a context, then you need people who can positively contribute to it. For example, if you want to be physically fit, surround yourself with people who are into fitness. They will always give you the positive vibes about fitness. Imagine your goal is of fitness and you are surrounded by people who tells stories about a person who lived a 100 years in Japan, used to smoke 2 packs of cigarettes and had a bottle of liquor daily. If you want to be a musician be in the company of musicians; you want to be an athlete, be in there company; if you want to be financial expert, be in the company of financial wizards. The unfortunate thing is that we do exactly the opposite most of the times.
Stop the ‘compare and despair’ routine If you start to compare everything you do or have with others, you will always find someone who has or is projecting more than you. It is a trap which is difficult to get out of. Be wary of it. Develop an acceptance mindset. If you set your goals always in comparison to others then you are heading towards desperation. That’s probably the cause of anxiety and stress in many people today. Social media has only accentuated this problem. Before you realize you are sucked into the comparison routine. Set goals which makes you happy. Here is a technique which I used. Make a list of all that you ‘have’ and read the list daily. Remember, nothing of what others do or possess or show off changes your reality!
Learn and practice assertiveness It’s about time you picked up some assertiveness skills. It will teach you how to stand up for your rights while respecting the rights of others. Assertiveness will help you in your ability to say ‘no’ when you have to. It will help you manage your expectations and commitments well which in turn will help you accomplish more. An assertive behaviour will help you enhance the quality of your relationships and adds to your self-esteem.
Self-care Many studies have shown a correlation between exercise, grooming on boosting self-esteem, as well as improved mental health. Exercising creates empowerment both physical and mental. Exercise organizes your day around self-care. Create some space from your endless to-do lists of the day for the sole purpose of relaxation or doing something fun, and seeing how that feels. Other forms of self-care, such as proper nutrition, power-dressing or grooming and getting sufficient sleep, have also been shown to have positive effects on one’s self-perception.
Practice forgiveness Is there is someone in your life you haven’t forgiven? By holding on to feelings of bitterness or resentment, we keep ourselves stuck in a cycle of negativity. And if it is ‘you’ who you have not forgiven, the guilt and shame will take you on a downward spiral of lowered self-esteem.
Forgiving self and others has been found to improve self-esteem. Practice the following Buddhist meditation on forgiveness daily before starting your day and at night before sleep.
“To those whom I may have caused harm, knowingly or unknowingly, through my thoughts, words and actions, I ask your forgiveness.”
“To those who may have caused me harm, knowingly or unknowingly, through their thoughts, words and actions, I offer my forgiveness as best I am able.”
“For any harm I may have caused myself, knowingly or unknowingly, through my thoughts, words, and actions, I offer my forgiveness as best I am able.”
Steps to boost your self-esteem is not just limited to what we outlined above but they will at least kick start your effort in increasing your self-esteem.
Nothing is more important than how you feel and think about yourself!