Low self-esteem is unfortunately a self-fulling prophecy. The worse you feel about who you are and what you do, the less motivation you'll have to do what it takes to build your self-esteem.
From there it's easy to spiral down into a cycle of negative and circular thinking, keeping you mired in damaging--and erroneous--beliefs.
How can you stop this vicious cycle and start moving in a more positive direction?
It's a process, and it won't happen overnight, but there are things you can do to get it started and keep it moving. Here are 25 powerful ways to improve your self-esteem quickly in order to start feeling more confident.
1. Master a new skill.
When you become skilled in something that corresponds with your talents and interests, you increase your sense of competency.
2. List your accomplishments.
Think about all the things you've accomplished, then write them down. Make a list of everything you've done that you feel proud of, everything you've done well. Review your list when you need a reminder of your ability to get things done and to do them well.
3. Do something creative.
Creative tasks are a great way to put the flow back into your life. Creativity stimulates the brain, so the more you use it, the greater the benefits. Pull out your old guitar, write a story or poem, take a dance class or sign up for a community theater production. When you add the challenge of trying something new, it helps you even more.
4. Get clear on your values.
Determine what your values are and examine your life to see where you're not living in alignment with what you believe. Then make any necessary changes. The more you know what you stand for, the more confident you will be.
5. Challenge your limiting beliefs.
When you catch yourself thinking negatively about yourself, stop and challenge yourself. Don't let yourself be limited by erroneous beliefs.
6. Stand at the edge of your comfort zone.
Stretch yourself and move to the edge of your comfort zone. Get uncomfortable--try something new, meet different people or approach a situation in an unconventional way. Confidence begins at the edge of your comfort zone.
7. Help someone.
Use your talents, skills, and abilities to help others. Give someone direct assistance, share helpful resources, or teach someone something they want to learn. Offer something you do well as a gift to someone.
8. Heal your past.
Unresolved issues and drama can keep you trapped in low self-esteem. Seek the support of a trained counselor to help you heal the past so you can move onto the future in a confident and self-assured way.
9. Stop worrying about what others think.
When you worry about what others will think of you, you never feel free to be completely yourself. Make a firm decision to stop worrying about what other people think--begin making choices based on what you want, not what you think others want from you.
10. Read something inspirational.
A great way to gain more self-esteem is to read something that lifts you up and makes you feel positive about yourself.
11. Reclaim your integrity.
Define what integrity means for you, and ensure that you're living in accordance with that understanding. If your life isn't aligned with your character, it will drain you and leave you feeling bad about yourself.
12. Let negative people go.
If there are people in your life who are negative--who have nothing positive to say or who put you down or take advantage of you--do the smart thing and let them go. The only way to find your self-esteem is to surround yourself with supportive positive people who admire you and value you.
13. Draw a line in the sand.
The best way to find your self-esteem is to create personal boundaries. Know what your boundaries are and how you wish to respond when people cross them. Don't allow others to control you, take advantage of you or manipulate you. To be confident is to maintain firm boundaries.
14. Care about your appearance.
When you look your best, you feel your best. Dress like someone who has confidence and let your self-assurance come through in how you look.
15. Welcome failure as part of growth.
It's a common response to be hard on yourself when you've failed. But if you can shift your thinking to understand that failure is an opportunity to learn, that it plays a necessary role in learning and growth, it can help you keep perspective. Remember too that failure means you're making an effort.
16. Always remain a student.
Think of yourself as a lifelong learner. Approach everything that you do with a student's mentality--what Zen Buddhists call Shoshin or "beginner's mind"--open, eager, unbiased, and willing to learn.
17. Face your fear.
Allow yourself to feel afraid but keep going anyway. Self-esteem is often found in the dance between your deepest desires and your greatest fears.
18. Become a mentor.
Be there for someone who needs your guidance, your leadership, and your support. Their respect and gratitude--and watching them progress with your help--will add to your self-esteem and self-respect.
19. Define success.
Clarify what success means to you and what it means in terms of your confidence. If you really want to do something you will have to find the self-esteem within yourself to just do it.
20. Use positive affirmations correctly
Positive affirmations such as “I am going to be a great success!” are extremely popular, but they have one critical problem — they tend to make people with low self-worth feel worse about themselves. Why? Because when our self-esteem is low, such declarations are simply too contrary to our existing beliefs. Ironically, positive affirmations do work for one subset of people — those whose self-esteem is already high. For affirmations to work when your self-esteem is lagging, tweak them to make them more believable. For example, change “I’m going to be a great success!” to “I’m going to persevere until I succeed!”
21. Identify your competencies and develop them
Self-esteem is built by demonstrating real ability and achievement in areas of our lives that matter to us. If you pride yourself on being a good cook, throw more dinner parties. If you’re a good runner, sign up for races and train for them. In short, figure out your core competencies and find opportunities and careers that accentuate them.
22. Learn to accept compliments
One of the trickiest aspects of improving self-esteem is that when we feel bad about ourselves we tend to be more resistant to compliments — even though that is when we most need them. So, set yourself the goal to tolerate compliments when you receive them, even if they make you uncomfortable (and they will). The best way to avoid the reflexive reactions of batting away compliments is to prepare simple set responses and train yourself to use them automatically whenever you get good feedback (e.g., “Thank you” or “How kind of you to say”). In time, the impulse to deny or rebuff compliments will fade — which will also be a nice indication your self-esteem is getting stronger.
23. Eliminate self-criticism and introduce self-compassion
Unfortunately, when our self-esteem is low, we are likely to damage it even further by being self-critical. Since our goal is to enhance our self-esteem, we need to substitute self-criticism (which is almost always entirely useless, even if it feels compelling) with self-compassion. Specifically, whenever your self-critical inner monologue kicks in, ask yourself what you would say to a dear friend if they were in your situation (we tend to be much more compassionate to friends than we are to ourselves) and direct those comments to yourself. Doing so will avoid damaging your self-esteem further with critical thoughts, and help build it up instead.
24. Affirm your real worth
The following exercise has been demonstrated to help revive your self-esteem after it sustained a blow: Make a list of qualities you have that are meaningful in the specific context. For example, if you got rejected by your date, list qualities that make you a good relationship prospect (for example, being loyal or emotionally available); if you failed to get a work promotion, list qualities that make you a valuable employee (you have a strong work ethic or are responsible). Then choose one of the items on your list and write a brief essay (one to two paragraphs) about why the quality is valuable and likely to be appreciated by other people in the future. Do the exercise every day for a week or whenever you need a self-esteem boost.
25. You do you
Comparing yourself to other people is a sure-fire way to start feeling crummy. Try to focus on your own goals and achievements, rather than measuring them against someone else’s. Nobody needs that kind of pressure!
The bottom line is improving self-esteem requires a bit of work, as it involves developing and maintaining healthier emotional habits but doing so, and especially doing so correctly, will provide a great emotional and psychological return on your investment.
Establishing A Support Network
Whenever possible, seek support from friends and family members. If you feel you cannot discuss your situation with friends or other family members, find a self-help or support group. These groups provide an opportunity for you to talk to other people who are experiencing the same type of problems. They can listen and offer valuable advice.
Therapy can be beneficial for both the individual with mental illness and other family members. A mental health professional at Wellmore can suggest ways to cope and better understand your loved one’s illness. We offer an array of outpatient and intensive in-home programs for children, teens, and adults to treat ADHD, depression, anxiety as well as other behavioral health issues.