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How can I boost my self-esteem?

February 6, 2023

February is International Boost Self-Esteem Month – an annual event dedicated to improving our belief and appreciation for ourselves. All of us will face situations now and then that cause us to doubt our abilities and worth. As we’re always working towards maintaining a healthy self-esteem, it is especially important to understand how we can start making positive changes.

The NHS defines self-esteem as the opinion we have of ourselves. How we perceive ourselves is based on our deep-rooted beliefs and, because of this, can be difficult to change. When our self-esteem is higher, we generally feel positive about themselves, which is reflected in the way we live our life.

Although low self-esteem isn’t considered a mental health condition, it is closely linked to symptoms of depression and anxiety. If you’re already experiencing these, it might feel harder to take steps to improving your confidence and self-esteem.

You might’ve had low self-esteem for a while or perhaps it has fluctuated suddenly because of something happening around you, such as a major life event. Even though it can be tricky to judge if it’s affecting our overall well-being, it typically affects whether we value ourselves, believe we are worthy and deserve kindness. We may feel less confident in our abilities and avoid trying new things. We may also struggle to build resilience in light of life’s ups and downs – whether we are able to move past mistakes without unfairly blaming ourselves. Sometimes it can even affect the way we treat others. Low self-esteem could lead us to feel angry and resentful towards others.

If you struggle with low self-esteem, taking the first step to making a positive change could be difficult. It will take time and you’ll need to be patient and dedicated to avoid falling into old habits. See our tips below for suggestions of how you can keep maintaining healthy self-esteem.

Celebrate small wins. Think about what positive steps you’ve taken to get to where you are now, no matter how small they may seem. Did you get a new job? Was your meeting a success? Have you made yourself a lovely cup of tea? Were you able to get up from bed today? Acknowledge when you’ve achieved something before moving on to the next task.

Share positive words with yourself. Challenge that internal self-critical voice with counter statements and positive affirmations. How would you describe yourself to a stranger? What you say to answer this is an indication for how we see ourselves. If your answer focuses on a flaw, can you think of a positive way to describe yourself instead? Shift your mindset by speaking back to the negative thoughts. Instead of saying “This will never work” try “I can do this. I am going to try my best to make it work.” instead.

Give and accept compliments. When our self-esteem is lower, we tend to resist compliments – even though that’s what we need to hear the most. Set yourself a goal to believe and appreciate the kind words others say about you. In time, that impulse to reject compliments will fade. As you start to feel more confident, take some time to give compliments to others as well. Hearing their appreciation can not only build your relationship, but also make you feel more comfortable about accepting them too.

Allow for some self-care breaks. Focus on what your mind and body needs. If you’re having a really busy day at work, try to dedicate an hour or two when you get home to do the things you enjoy – something that makes you happy. Read a book, go for a cycle, take a bath… anything that makes you feel more in tune with yourself should be a regular priority.

Step out of your comfort zone. We’re hardwired to avoid feeling discomfort, so we subconsciously do our best to steer away from anything that is outside our comfort zone. It’s natural to feel anxious at the thought of it, whether it’s socialising or changing job, but gradually challenging yourself to do something new and different from what you would usually do can help you gain confidence in your abilities. It’s very powerful if we decide to feel those uncomfortable feelings and move along anyway. Next time you find yourself thinking “I don’t have the confidence to take this step”, acknowledge the feeling and step out of your comfort zone anyway – see what happens. Once you’ve achieved the goal, don’t forget to celebrate that as a win.

Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) can help you learn how challenging any negative beliefs you have about yourself and changing the way you think, believe and feel in response to certain situations can boost your self-esteem. Your therapist can also give you strategies for managing your symptoms and triggers if you’re feeling especially down or experiencing heightened levels of anxiety. Find out how to get started here.

ieso Online Therapy
This blog has been written by a member of the clinical team at ieso.

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