Questions about how to increase self-esteem come up often among the clients who visit our Chicago counseling and therapy offices. If you are in a place where you are struggling with this issue, know that you are not alone. We’ve written about these kinds of topics in the past with the goal of helping website visitors discover meaningful ways to enhance their own sense of self-worth.
Given how important the link is between what you perceive about yourself and your mood, we thought it might be helpful to quickly examine some of the basic characteristics of low and high self-esteem. Knowing this information helps to contextualize the 10 tips to increase self-esteem that we have provided later on.
Low Self-Esteem Characteristics
Generally speaking, people with low self-esteem often feel powerless over many different situations. Some people with this issue find they are easily influenced by others – including celebrity personality types. A common characteristic of low self-esteem is blaming others for personal shortcomings. Frustration, anger and very real depression are part commonly part of the dynamic.
High Self-Esteem Characteristics
Folks who have high self-esteem often promote their independence. They like to take on responsibilities because they feel capable of handling them. Enthusiasm and eagerness are traits you will also see in a person who has a healthy self-view.
Because high self-esteem is central to working through various life challenges, including stress management, much attention is placed on ways to boost self-esteem for people of all ages. While there really isn’t a cookie cutter approach for boosting confidence, there are a number of meaningful, concrete steps that you can take to create positive change.
What follows are 10 powerful ways you can increase your self-esteem which are yours for the taking. None of this suggestions will cost you a dime and only require that you take a chance on yourself and believe (meaning truly believe) you are worthy of happiness. We suggest picking two or three of these as starters and then adding a few more on when you feel comfortable. If you are currently in psychotherapy right now, it may be helpful to talk about these tips with your therapist as a way of maximizing your chances for success.
Are you ready? Here we go!
1. Disarm your negative critic
Challenge that voice inside of you that feeds the conscious mind with putdowns and negative comments. A critic taking just one side is unfairly balanced and harmful to your self-esteem. Examine the messages you send to yourself and ask if they are really true.
2. Positive reinforcement
Use positive reinforcement and affirmations to remind yourself of your good qualities – and do this often. It may help you to write these down and look at the list when you are feeling blue. Some people even keep this kind of list on an electronic device, such as a smartphone or touchpad.
3. Stop shoulding on yourself
Avoid playing the game of “I should have” done this or that. When you engage in this type of thinking, you are playing into major cognitive distortions. While it is important to learn from the past, it’s also important to not beat yourself up. Remember that self-inflicted guilt trips do nothing but pull you down.
4. Focus on your own identity
A key component to increasing your self-esteem is to understand who you are. This means focusing on the good things and balancing out your weakness with strengths. Remember, you are a work in process. Bear in mind that perfection is never truly possible – for anyone. All you can really do is try to be the best possible you.
5. Stop comparing
One meaningful way to increase your self-esteem is to stop playing the game of comparisons. While having a sense of competition can be a good thing in terms of motivation, know that the constructs of competition and comparison are completely different. When you compare, you automatically focus deficits. When you compete, you are in it to win in. See the difference?
6. Diversify your interests
That old saying of not putting all of your eggs in one basket is actually kind of true when it comes to self-esteem. In plain speak, this just means that you try different things and create realistic expectations as part of the process. By doing this, you give yourself the opportunity to assess and strengthen your skills and abilities on a number of fronts.
7. Connect with others
Try to widen your network of friends, which may be empowered by the previously mentioned point. The way to build bonds with others is by doing new things together. This, however, does not happen through magic. You need to put yourself out there and approach these experiences with the mindset of gratitude.
8. Avoid self-victimization
If you want to increase your sense of self-esteem, stop engaging in learned helplessness. Remember that martyrs may be admired but begging for sympathy gets super old, real fast. Plus, when you play the victim card, you reinforce a negative self-narrative that has the ability to live on in perpetuity.
9. Focus on self-care
Whenever you take a shower, brush your teeth or wash your face, you are engaging in self-care. These kinds of actions tell your mind and body that you matter. What would it be like if you went beyond the basics and tried caring for yourself in new ways? Examples include engaging in exercise, trying different types of meditation or changing your diet? You get the point – doing healthy things helps to reinforce that narrative we hinted at earlier.
10. Practice self-compassion
Having compassion for yourself means acknowledging all that you have experienced in life that has been painful. There is a difference between acknowledging and blaming. If you want to increase your self-esteem, you need to forgive yourself for past mistakes. Remember – the past is the past – it is gone forever. You only have this very moment in time. This particular point is a key point of mindfulness based living.
Increase Self-Esteem Resource
Here at 2nd Story Counseling, we like workbooks. We often recommend these kinds of tools to clients as a way of augmenting therapy and helping with the personal transformation process. One resource we would like to recommend on this front is entitled: The Self-Esteem Workbook by Glenn R. Schiraldi.
Self-esteem doesn’t grow overnight. It takes time, patience and personal determination. Many people find engaging in one on one counseling helpful in the process of strengthening self-concept. Don’t let the word “psychotherapy” scare you. All talk therapy really is exploring you’re the essence of you in a strength based way.