Some of the most common symptoms of low self-esteem are:
- Disliking yourself,
- Feeling worthless,
- Feeling like others do not like you,
- Guilt when you spend time or money on things you enjoy,
- An inability to accept praise or compliments.
The good news is that becoming confident and having healthy self-esteem is something you can learn, no matter how low your self-esteem may be at the moment. As you do this, you will find life becomes easier, happier, and more fulfilling.
Imagine having increased feelings of self-worth allowing you to find a job more to your liking, or a partner to share your life with, or the energy and enthusiasm to write a book, a song, or start a website and publish. When you improve and strengthen your self-esteem, all of these goals - and more - become more within your reach.
Here are six steps for building self-esteem and improving your level of personal confidence.
Step 1: Becoming Aware of the Problem
Awareness of a problem is the beginning of any change, and this is true for healing the problem of low self-esteem. It is possible to engage in self-destructive behaviors and thoughts without being aware, and it is possible to become more aware of what you are doing and then change it.
Low self-esteem manifests itself in negative self-talk and beliefs about ourselves, often expressed in phrases and words we say silently in our mind or even aloud when we are talking to others. Negative self-talk indicating low self-esteem often includes phrases like:
- "I’m so stupid!"
- "I’m ugly."
- "No one would ever want to be my friend."
- "I hate myself."
- "I am worthless."
- "I can’t do anything right!"
These kinds of thoughts often go on at the borders of awareness without us even paying attention. Improving self-esteem starts with becoming aware of how you talk to yourself and what you say, and then changing this internal dialog to a more positive one.
One way of doing this is by creating a 'stop-phrase' which you say aloud or silently every time you catch yourself engaging in negative self-talk. Such a phase could be, "That is not true!", "Stop!", or simply, "No!"
Negative thoughts and feelings are not just amorphous clouds inside our minds. At their root, they are actual neurological pathways in the brain which have become well-worn by repetition. In order to build new, positive, and confident brain pathways you must persistently counter the negative thoughts and phrases and then replace them with positive thoughts, thus building new brain pathways.
Step 2: Counteracting Negative Core Beliefs
Once you have acquired some awareness of how badly you are treating yourself and start saying ‘No’ to these thoughts, you can take a deeper look into the core beliefs you hold about yourself and examine why you hold these negative attitudes about yourself.
Core beliefs are what we hold to be true about ourselves based on what we have learned throughout our life. Negative core beliefs may originate from messages received from parents, teachers, bullies in the schoolyard, or an abusive partner. The negative self-talk you examine during the step of awareness can provide clues about negative core beliefs you have and how you developed them.
Doing this step can bring up painful feelings and memories, but the reward is relief from unhappiness and a greater sense of purpose in life, making the process worthwhile.
In order to explore your negative core beliefs, meditation and mindfulness practice can be extremely valuable. Meditation and mindfulness help you relax your mind and body and bring you back into the present moment, rather than staying lost in memories of the past or stuck in negative thought patterns. Meditation and mindfulness also help rebuild new pathways in the brain.
Meditation involves focusing your attention on the present, noticing when your attention wanders, and then coming back to the present moment. Your attention will wander, and it is important not to get mad at yourself when this happens. In fact, watching your wandering mind, and gently steering it back to the present over and over, is the very essence of meditation and mindfulness practice.
Many people use their breath as a focus point for coming back to the present. Your breath is always there, making it a perfect point of awareness for staying in the present.
It is not necessary to sit cross-legged in order to meditate. In fact, you can do it in almost any position, but sitting in a comfortable way in a quiet place is most conducive to keeping your attention focused and your mind and body relaxed.
It is also helpful when starting out to place your hand on your abdomen and make sure your belly is rising and falling as you breathe. By breathing from your belly, you stimulate the vagus nerve, which assists in relaxation and focus.
As you begin to relax through meditation and learn how to come back to the here-and-now, it becomes easier to consider those past events which built negative core beliefs. As you feel pain, shame, or guilt for these events, return to your breathing and focusing on the present, letting the painful feelings arise and pass away without holding on to them.
Step 3: Engaging in Positive Thoughts
Once you have become aware of your negative self-talk and the beliefs which underlie them, you are ready to start replacing these beliefs with positive thoughts and beliefs. In the beginning this may be hard to do because you are so used to having bad thoughts about yourself that positive ideas may seem ridiculous. Just do it anyway.
Create a list of positive thoughts and ideas about yourself, such as:
- I am likable.
- I have talents and abilities just like everyone else.
- I can heal and improve my life.
- I like and appreciate myself.
- I deserve love and happiness.
It can be helpful to think of kind things you would say to a close friend who is struggling with something. It is often easier to be kind toward someone else than toward ourselves, and in this case, you are acting as your own best friend.
As you develop your list of positive ideas about yourself, beware of creating ideas which are unrealistic. For example, if you say to yourself, "I am the smartest person in the world!", or, "I can do anything I want", you will one day meet disappointment, undermining your effort.
Instead, use realistic statements, such as, "I am smart enough", or "I can choose to try new things", or even, "Making mistakes is okay. I can learn from my mistakes". In this way, you will build your self-esteem without setting up unrealistic expectations.
Another way of building positive thinking is allowing yourself to accept praise and compliments from others. Look for, and accept, when other say something nice about you. Use your ‘stop phrase’ to counteract any negative thoughts that arise if someone pays you a compliment. In this way, others can help you in building your self-esteem without even knowing they are helping.
Starting a journal of positive experiences, feelings, and thoughts is another helpful tool for building self-esteem. Dedicate a notebook to this cause, and write down anything good that happens to you, any time someone says something pleasant to you, or any time you accomplish a goal. By recording the positive things in your life, you will become more aware and appreciative of yourself and your progress.
Step 4: Working on Your Self-Image
Often when our self-worth is low, we neglect taking basic care of ourselves, and this only reinforces the problem.
Take time each day to engage in small acts of self-care like personal grooming, standing up straight, exercising, eating good food, and dressing nicely. Doing this will likely result in more compliments from others, and it will also be easier to appreciate and compliment yourself.
Cleaning up your home or work environment is another method of improving your self-image. Start with small steps, like cleaning off your desk or kitchen table or even just organizing one drawer. Whatever you do, it will create momentum, making it easier to continue and do more the next time.
Step 5: Seeking-out Positive Experiences in the World
Often when we suffer from low self-worth, we surround ourselves with unhealthy people and situations which reinforce our negative beliefs about ourselves.
Start by honestly examining your personal relationships to see if there is anyone in your life who is contributing to your feelings of low self-esteem. If at all possible, stop or limit your interactions with such people.
While this is not always possible, it is always possible to find new, positive experiences. This might be going to new and interesting places, joining a club or support group, volunteering for a charity, or even watching funny movies or shows on TV or the Internet.
The important point is to spend as much time as possible with people and experiences which uplift you and as little as possible with those which bring you down and reinforce negative thoughts about yourself.
Step 6: Being Patient and Persevering
Changing low self-esteem into healthy self-esteem does not happen quickly. It is important to start the process by giving yourself plenty of time to accomplish your goal. Poor self-worth is an attitude which takes years to develop, so it can take many months or years to fully recover and establish a new-found confidence.
Expecting mistakes and set-backs from the outset allows you to move on when these things happen without giving up.
Emotions and attitudes of mind are also linked to our physical health and well-being. Exercising regularly –even just a small amount-, eating fresh, healthy food, drinking plenty of water, and getting enough sleep will make your journey toward better self-esteem easier and faster.
While building and improving self-esteem takes time and patience, doing so brings immeasurable rewards. When you care for, love, and appreciate yourself, you are best able to fully engage in life and help others around you do the same.
Powerful tips for everyday life:
- Write down 3 things that went good during the day or if you found an aspect of yourself that you can appreciate (diary of positivity).
- Try to grow a feeling of forgiveness to those, who let you build your negative beliefs.
- Handle mistakes and failures in a more positive way.
- Be kinder towards other people.
- Avoid to compare to others - be mindful and note every time you do it.
- Start workout (increases hormone levels and let you feeling better); and eat healthy diet with fresh food.