Your self-esteem is your subjective evaluation of your own worth.
In essence, your self-esteem encompasses your beliefs about yourself, as well as various emotional states. It’s essentially what you think of yourself, both on a conscious and subconscious level.
For whatever reason, we can all do with working on improving our self-esteem from time to time.
But what are some of the best ways to improve self-worth and how do we get started?
We asked a select group of experts for their best advice when it comes to improving self-esteem.
Here is what they said.
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Take Ownership And Be Honest About Your Programming
Todd and Diana Mitchem, Certified Relationship Coaches, Peak Relationship Center
Self-Esteem is such a wide-reaching topic.
Some people define this as confidence, while others say it is a matter of being comfortable in your own skin, but we say it is a clear relationship with yourself that means you are honest and take ownership of your life.
• Be Honest About Your Programming – We are all programmed as children. From the painful childhood to the seemingly blessed one, every person takes the moments of their upbringing into their subconscious. It is our human nature.
Some of the programming is wonderful, useful, and serves us well.
At the same time, other parts of the programming may result in bad behavior, destructive habits, or low self-esteem.
We teach our clients to be real about their programming and get up close with it to reprogram themselves.
By being honest about why you do what you do and how that subconscious thinking got into your brain in the first place, you are more likely to manage it along the journey of life with a strong self-esteem.
We also tell people to remember that the thing that happened in their past is gone now. They are the adults, not the hurt child. So they must run their lives like adults and decide not to allow the child inside them to make big decisions.
• Take Ownership Over the Adult You – This leads us to the second important point. Ownership.
When we at Peak tell people to take ownership, we mean that all of their life choices are just that – choices.
Even when clients push back and say they had no choice, we work with them to show that, in fact, they did make choices along the way.
To own your adult self is a powerful tool for self-esteem because it guides you to accept your mistakes and celebrate your successes.
The basis of taking ownership is built on the hard truth that we are all, humans in general, faced with decisions we often make while being influenced by our pasts.
But at the end of any day, we alone decide to move in one direction or another.
The most impressive self-esteem moments we have ever witnessed occur after a person accepts their full role in each decision that lead them to where they are in this moment.
Manage Your Stress And Catch Your Negative Thoughts
Ashley Olivine, Certified Psychology and CBT Practitioner
1) Manage stress throughout the day. Our worst inner-critics tend to come out when we’re stressed.
2) Make a list of all the things you like about yourself. Keep it out so you can add to it regularly.
3) Every time you notice a negative thought about yourself, turn it into something positive.
If you can’t convince yourself of anything positive, at least turn it into something neutral.
For example, if you look in the mirror and think something nasty you would never tell a friend, identify one thing you like about yourself.
A neutral thought bridge to a positive thought may be “I have a head attached to my neck.”
This may seem silly, but it’s a lot better than telling yourself that you hate your appearance and it can lead to more positive thoughts.
Self-Esteem Comes From The Inside, Not The Outside
Vickey Easa, Mental Health Therapist
Society has it backwards – we use our job, other people, or things we have to feel good about ourselves.
Healthy self-esteem actually comes from the inside, not the outside.
“I am enough and I matter, in spite of my flaws and imperfections.” And: “I have worth because I was born. Period.”
“My clients don’t believe “I have worth because I was born.” (or the other one, for that matter).
For some, it’s “I have worth because I’m good at what I do,” or “I have worth because I provide enough money for my family to live well,” or “I have worth because s/he likes me.” The sentences could go on and on.
An actionable step is to literally tell yourself daily (if not frequently during each day), “I have worth because I was born,” and “I am enough and I matter.”
Being more present in your daily life is the practice of mindfulness. The statements I listed above are part of that practice.
Stay focused on you and less on the opinions of others and your own self-judgments.
The success comes when you believe that you have inherent worth simply by being born – and nothing you say or do adds nor detracts from that.
It is also helpful to look back into your childhood to see what other messages you received and from where.
Use A ‘Power Pose’
Corrina Thurston, Author of How To Crush Self-Doubt and Gain Real Confidence
One of the absolute best (and simplest!) techniques I’ve found to help you boost your self-esteem and gain more confidence is to stand in what’s called a ‘power pose ‘– back straight, head up, hands on your hips (think superman) – and say or think some positive I am affirmations, such as ‘I am strong’.
Here’s why this is good: when you stand with your back straight and your chest open you are activating the hormones in your body to make you feel more confident and less nervous by increasing your testosterone and decreasing your cortisol. There’s a great TED Talk about this by Amy Cuddy.
Then, if you add in the positive affirmations while you’re standing there, you are training your brain to change its perspective on how you feel about yourself, even if you don’t really believe it in the moment.
Great examples of positive affirmations are: ‘I am strong’. ‘I am important’. ‘I am talented’. ‘I am attractive’. ‘I am intelligent’. ‘I am powerful’. ‘I am worthy’.
Doing this for only a few minutes can be a very powerful tool, especially if you make a practice of doing it daily.
Another tip I talk about often is walking and what I call ‘active meditation’.
I strongly recommend meditation, but for some people sitting still and trying to focus feels too intimidating at first.
A great alternative to get you started, or just as an addition, is to go for a walk and focus on your breathing as you walk.
Meditation is all about focusing on your breathing, bringing your mind to settle on the present moment and letting go of everything else to calm your thoughts and bring greater focus.
It’s incredible what it can do for you, but sometimes we don’t have the ability to find a quiet space or sit quietly if our anxiety is too high.
Therefore, walking is a fantastic alternative. Walking by itself can release endorphins, make you feel more energetic, and help you feel better about yourself.
Add in focusing on your breathing (or perhaps thinking those positive affirmations or some daily gratitudes!) and you are amplifying those effects tremendously to feel better about yourself.
My third tip is to think about yourself the way you would think about your best friend.
If your friend came to you and was saying negative things about themselves, what would you do? Would you agree with them and make them feel worse? It’s unlikely.
You would probably tell them to stop and think about all the positive things about themselves and try your best to cheer them up. So why don’t we do this for ourselves?
When that negative voice in our head starts to rear its ugly head, we need to start saying ‘no’.
Don’t give that voice credit and don’t accept what it’s saying. Recite your positive affirmations (‘I am strong’. ‘I am capable’. ‘I am worthy’.) and try to focus as much as you can on all the positive things in your life for which you’re grateful, no matter how small.
You can retrain your brain to feel better about you. Trust me, I’ve been there.
Develop A Mindfulness Practice
Dr. Chris Tickner, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist
Many of us struggle with low self-esteem.
We have negative thoughts about ourselves, we feel ashamed and embarrassed.
Over time, low self-esteem can be debilitating, causing us problems with relationships, work, physical and mental health.
The good news is that recent research indicates that mindfulness practice can effectively enhance positive self-esteem! Here are three ways it does that.
1) We now know that the ancient practice of mindfulness actually enhances parts of the brain that are behind feelings of joy and satisfaction.
In fact, the more we meditate, or practice mindfulness, the more likely we are to have empathy and compassion for ourselves and others.
2) There are two primary instructions in mindfulness: track your present experience moment by moment and do so with a non-judgmental attitude.
It seems that this second instruction is one reason why mindfulness enhances self-esteem.
If you approach your thoughts from a non-judgmental attitude, you tend to distance your self-concept from your thoughts, and you end up feeling better about yourself.
3) Self-esteem is mediated by past attachment relationships. The quality of attachment we experienced with our caregivers as children powerfully predicts how we will feel about ourselves later in life.
And if the experiences we had were at all filled with shame, abuse, or neglect, there is a good chance that we will suffer with low self-esteem.
Mindfulness practice helps us begin to realize that these habitual negative self thoughts are nothing more than old programming.
We begin to create space between our thoughts and our feelings, and over time, a new self emerges, one unencumbered by negative past thoughts and shame.
The bottom line: Low self-esteem is common. Mindfulness practice can help overcome the painful consequences by changing our brains!