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Self-esteem is the thoughts or feelings we have towards ourselves. If you’re experiencing low self-esteem, then you might have noticed you also have negative thought patterns. You might find yourself catastrophising, self-blaming or seeking evidence to support the negative version you believe you are. In turn, all of these things affect our happiness, courage and resilience to push through challenges.
Building your self-esteem can take time, but there are different things you can do to help improve it.
Here are the top four tips for acceptance, resilience, and self-esteem building:
Keep a daily log of good experiences
In 2021, I worked with a cognitive behavioural therapist to overcome the same kind of thoughts. These thoughts began impacting many areas of my life including my desire to socialise with people or push myself at work. She advised me to keep a daily positivity log to note down at least five good experiences that had happened that day. This might simply have been ‘I made a really lovely cup of coffee today’ to ‘I had excellent feedback on a project I completed for work.’
My next challenge was to find the positive quality that went with each of those. For example, it could be things like being talented, determined, creative, and reliable. Doing it over time meant that I was able to change some of the negative and critical beliefs I had, build evidence to believe in my positive qualities, and change those thoughts to more helpful ones.
Face your fears
Facing your fears when you are experiencing low self-esteem can seem impossible and terrifying. But confronting them head-on is the only way you can truly overcome them. Just the simple act of showing enough courage to embrace the challenge will boost your self-esteem.
Rather than immediately doubting your abilities in a situation, face the situation you fear and remind yourself that your worries are often just in your head. When you challenge yourself to push outside of your comfort zone, you’ll often find that you are much more capable than you first believed. And that feeling of achievement and worth is what’s needed to keep going.
Avoid comparing yourself to others
They say comparison is the thief of joy for a reason: comparing ourselves to others stops us from seeing our own unique qualities. We can’t control what others do or how they decide to live their lives. You might also be quick to judge someone without knowing the full picture. We never truly know what is going on for another person. What we can control is our own decisions and how to make our lives as best as they can be.
After keeping a daily log of positive experiences and positive qualities, you can spend more time embracing your strengths, nurturing your talents and spending more time on what you love. Take a moment to look down your list of qualities. Are there ones that surprised you? Are there ones you want to build upon?
Having self-compassion is really caring for ourselves the way that we would care for others. Compassion is understanding another person’s situation, hardships and failures without judgement. And having self-compassion is no different. It involves speaking to yourself the same you would if you were talking to a good friend. The chances are, we wouldn’t respond to our friends’ struggles the same way most of us respond to our own, by giving ourselves a harder time than necessary. To boost your self-compassion, think of a past mistake. As individuals, we tend to view these experiences differently. Someone with low self-esteem would see them as evidence of being flawed or unworthy in some way. Others would see them as inevitable and a simple part of growing.
Build a list of five past experiences you wished you’d have handled differently. For example, you may have said something unfavourable in the heat of the moment, or become irritated at a waiter. Next to the experiences, evaluate the behaviour e.g. “I responded abruptly and irritability to a waiter, and this means my behaviour was impatient and unthoughtful.” By the end of the exercise, you’ll have hopefully been able to separate your mistakes and behaviours from yourself as a person and have a better insight into them for next time.
Disclaimer: I’m not a qualified CBT practitioner or psychologist. This is purely based on personal experience with CBT methods.