Posted on July 14, 2020
Overcoming low self esteem isn't as easy as just practicing self-love. Read on for practical ways to build back your self esteem.
Suffering from low self esteem can happen to anyone, at any time. While many low self-esteem cases stem from childhood traumas or negative experiences, periods of low confidence levels can ebb and flow throughout a person’s life with inevitable highs and lows.
But, what is and what causes low self esteem, exactly? Low self-esteem is seeing yourself as inadequate, unacceptable, unworthy, unlovable, and/or incompetent. These beliefs create negative, self-critical thoughts that can impact your behavior, life choices, and relationships in ways that often perpetuate low self esteem. Often, depression and low self esteem often go hand-in-hand. Trauma or negative experiences with authority figures or close relationships can cause low self esteem, leaving individuals vulnerable to depression. In a vicious cycle, depression leads to more low self-esteem.
While low self-esteem issues may be deeply rooted, you can start chipping away at the layers before reaching a more serious place. Sometimes, therapy for low self esteem (with the help of a therapy matching service) is necessary but there are different ways to help overcome it outside of that. Each day has ample opportunity to engage in an activity that can improve self esteem.
Wondering how to overcome self esteem? Here are some tips on dealing with self esteem, whether it’s in the moment or over time.
It can seem like a cliché to keep a regular journal of your feelings, but holding negative thoughts in your head only makes them bigger. Journaling about these thoughts brings them out into the world, and down to size. If you choose, this practice can also force you to bring your life into fuller focus, allowing you to acknowledge and focus on more positive elements in your world rather than a negative thought. It is one of the great self esteem therapy activities that you can do at home to silence your inner critic!
Take a step back and evaluate the people in your life. Who makes an effort to lift you up, and who intentionally, or not, brings you down. While you don’t necessarily need to cut anyone out of your life, it might be worth considering putting some distance between you and people who don’t always make you feel your best. Instead, make an effort to spend time and build stronger relationships with people who bring out your confident side.
Visual cues provide perspective and help curb negative self-talk, so surrounding yourself with visual inspiration can help reduce low self esteem. You could leave notes with positive affirmations or random positive thoughts around your home and workspace, in addition to hanging art that sparks joy. It could also help print and display friends and family’s photos throughout your living and work spaces to remind you of favorite memories. It’s also helpful to find books, calendars, and websites that are uplifting and inspiring to look at or visit daily. This will help generate positive thinking and help you find greater happiness in your life.
Oftentimes, low self esteem stems from feelings of inadequacy around big life events, benchmarks, and success. Take a break from the big stuff and focus on small ways to feed your mind, body and soul in ways that make you feel special. For instance, you might carve out time in your day for quiet and stillness. Enjoy simple comforts such as a hot cup of coffee, a new playlist, or a walk around the neighborhood. Telephone a friend to catch up, or write an old fashioned letter. Finding joy in smaller moments might help you let go of negative feelings around larger life progressions.
When low self esteem consumes your focus with negativity, self doubt, and anxiety, it can be easy to let your passions fall to the wayside. Take the time to write a list of things you used to love but for whatever reason stopped doing, in addition to the things you always wanted to do but haven’t done yet. Be careful not to get overwhelmed by the list! Choose one or two things to rediscover and don’t set any unrealistic expectations or success benchmarkers around them. Decide it’s just for fun and self-fulfillment. Finding a passion can help with self confidence in a unique way!
When you are able to catch yourself with internal negative self-talk, try to take a moment to recognize what you’re doing consciously. A painful experience or even a negative experience can result in low self confidence and a critical internal voice only makes it harder in social situations or in everyday life. Pivot your thoughts to something more positive. It’s easy to switch gears by simply acknowledging and celebrating skills or traits that you like about yourself. You can also do this by taking time to write down a list of at least three things you do well.
Eating well and exercising boosts endorphins, the body’s natural opiates, which make you feel good on the inside to simulate a more positive mood. Exercising doesn’t need to be anything more than a brisk walk, a cheesy dance party for one, or light stretching to feel the effects of boosting self esteem. Likewise, making healthier choices in meals or snacks can help give your body the nutrition it needs to stay active and alert.
Getting out of your head to focus on another person’s needs can help to not indulge negative thoughts that contribute to low self esteem. This can be for a friend, family member or even a classmate who is struggling with their work or a personal problem. You could offer advice or just be there to listen. It’s amazing how much our confidence is boosted when we do selfless things to help someone else without expecting anything in return.
Research shows that negative thinking is the linchpin responsible for setting off low self-esteem. Negative thoughts become destructive, making you susceptible to poor decisions and potentially more serious conditions like depression. Addressing these corrosive thoughts and feelings is critical. One of the most effective ways to deal with more serious low self-esteem cases is through therapy. Working with a therapist is a great way to work on self esteem issues at any level, but will greatly reduce the chances of problems worsening. Finding a therapist for low self esteem is easy with Advekit, but tapping your personal network for referrals is also a great option.
The reality is that everyone has strengths and weaknesses, and some days or weeks feel better than others. Having solid self-esteem means accepting and appreciating all your sides. You deserve love as much as anyone else, so make sure to surround yourself with love, safety, and acceptance in whatever way makes the most sense for you. Now that you know how to deal with self esteem, you’ll be well on your way to a happier, more confident life.
Alison LaSov, LMFT
Alison LaSov is a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist with experience treating clients struggling with anxiety and depression. She predominantly focuses on mental health intervention for children and adolescents, particularly those who are in crisis. She has worked within the Los Angeles education system treating students with Individualized Education Plans (IEPs), as well as supervised a non-profit Teen Crisis Hotline out of Cedars-Sinai Hospital. Alison earned her B.A. from UCLA and M.A. from Pepperdine University. She is a native to Los Angeles and co-founder at Advekit.