There are many reasons why we may lack confidence and a strong self-image. Often, the causes of lasting low self-esteem lie within our own perceptions rather than being the result of any real fault. In that case, the issues that led us to feel less worthwhile than others should be addressed in therapy. However, there are both internal and external factors that affect the way we feel about ourselves, and even the most confident among us are sometimes in need of a boost to strengthen our self-image. Here are a few simple ideas that may be of help.
Attend to minor issues that make you feel self-conscious
We’re often painfully aware of aesthetic issues that may make other people turn away from us in aversion. To be realistic, you may need a consultation with friends, family, or mental health professionals to be sure you’ve pinned them down. After all, we tend to focus more on our own real or perceived aesthetic defects than others do, and it’s just possible that the thing that bothers us most about our looks doesn’t affect the perceptions of others as much. However, there are a few obvious candidates for attention.
For example, if your teeth are stained or irregular, a little work with your dentist may make you feel more confident about your smile. Those experiencing thinning hair, particularly if they are women, may benefit from a visit to a hair transplant clinic, or you may feel better when appearing in public if obvious facial moles are removed. These interventions are relatively non-invasive, cost-effective, and could make all the difference to your self-image. When you know you look good, you feel good and it’s a great confidence booster.
Spend time thinking about what makes you special
We’re all taught to avoid being conceited, but it’s also possible to be overly humble. There is nothing wrong with recognizing your strong points. It’s even OK to feel like you’re better than most others in certain ways – as long as you don’t brag about it.
Spend a little time every day reflecting on the good points that define you. Don’t compare yourself to others in the process. Just think about you and what’s great about you. Having difficulty with the exercise? Start small and work your way up. Make it part of your early morning meditation and give yourself the kind of positive reinforcement that you usually reserve for others.
Positive self-talk (and negative self-talk) can be self-fulfilling prophecies. They prime you to exhibit certain characteristics, so kick out the negatives and zone in on positives. Say ‘I can,’ instead of ‘I can’t,’; say ‘I am,’ instead of ‘I want to be,’ and you just boosted your self-image by a whole lot.
Remind yourself that perfection is an imaginary construct
If you’re a perfectionist, you work harder than most people to get everything just right; and you place yourself under a great deal of pressure in the process. ‘Good enough’ is… well… good enough. If it works, don’t fix it. All things and all people are imperfect in one way or another, and any claims to perfection that others make are merely smoke and mirrors. There’s even a philosophy that says imperfection is beautiful in its own right.
It’s fine knowing that there are less than perfect things about yourself and the things you do, but don’t focus on them. Instead, look on the bright side. Recognize what’s right and good and allow yourself to feel satisfied. If you find yourself being overly self-critical, take a step back and try to be realistic. Even if you make mistakes and mess up, everybody does that at some time or another. It certainly doesn’t make you less worthwhile as a person or less able to get it right and succeed in the future.
Unable to get yourself out of the doldrums? Get help
While some of us just need a little lift to our spirits to get back on track, there are some who suffer from cripplingly low self-esteem. If this is you, do yourself a favour: get professional help to build a more realistic perspective and a positive mindset that primes you for happiness and success.
Tommy Williamson did his degree in psychology at the University of Edinburgh. He has an ongoing interest in mental health and well-being.