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By Marcia Murphy, MA

We hear from many directions about the importance of having confidence in yourself. However, some of us may struggle with finding this within ourselves. But what does it really mean to have low self-esteem? And what can be done about it? 

Low self-esteem shows up in many ways including: doubt in your abilities, feeling out of place in your group of friends, looking to other people for validation/affirmation and detrimental people-pleasing. At the most severe, one can experience a lack of really knowing what identifies them as a person or have a sense of worthlessness. Low self-esteem contributes to a lack of security in relationships, difficulties in work environments, and no sense of direction for life.

So what can be done about this? Fortunately, there are tactics and activities that can help someone overcome low self-esteem, building confidence, security and self-worth. Here is a list of 8 ways to build self-esteem:

1. Recognize the Positive

We have a tendency to focus more strongly on the negative in any situation than the positive. It’s much easier (and sometimes more…rewarding?) to complain than to praise. However, a continuous focus on the negative, inhibits our ability to see anything good ( even in ourselves). Making a conscious effort to find the good in any situation and focus on this can help shift this mindset to a more optimistic view of yourself and the world.

2. Focus on Successes & Strengths

Just as we can focus on the negative in situations, we can allow this negative focus to turn inward, and in doing so, we then feed these feelings of low self-esteem, worthlessness and shame in who we are. We can shift this focus toward recognizing what it is we like about ourselves and celebrating our successes. Make a list of the characteristics you like about yourself and read them aloud. (“I am kind. I am a good mother. I can sing.”) Also, look back over your life and name the times when you had a success, be it large or small. You may realize that there is more good in your life and in yourself than there are things not to like!

3. Accept Imperfections & Mistakes

So maybe you went through this last activity and said, “yeah, but…I really screwed this thing up…”. This is where we recognize and remind ourselves that no perfect person exists. We all have flaws in character and all have made mistakes. Acceptance of our imperfections is a step toward complete acceptance of ourselves. Also, remind yourself that the best way to learn in life is from our mistakes. If you do mess up, see it as an opportunity to grow, not as proof of your inadequacy.

4. Let Go of the Uncontrollable

Ah, wouldn’t it be lovely if we could control every aspect of our lives and every person that we encounter along the way? This (unfortunately) is not reality. In fact, there are many things that we are unable to control. Yet we expend much energy, anxiety and stress trying to do just that. In trying to control the uncontrollable, we allow the situation or person to then control our reactions and emotions. The ability to let this go gives us the freedom to just be ourselves, controlling only what we are able to and brings a sense of peace and stability.

5. Build Those Self-Validation Skills

When we rely on others to build us up, we are often disappointed and left feeling worse than before. We start to bend over backward to win the approval of others. We need to develop the ability to affirm ourselves and embrace our own strengths. Here are two suggestions to do this and begin to take your self-confidence back. Begin by developing a “Bill of Rights” for yourself. This could include:

  • I have the right to be treated with respect.
  • I have the right to my feelings and opinions.
  • I have the right to say no.

Another method is using the acronym: FAST

  • F – Be Fair to yourself and others
  • A – No Apologies for who you are
  • S – Stick to your values and behave accordingly
  • T – Be Truthful and take responsibility for your own choices

6. Avoid Comparing Yourself to Others

Comparisons are one thing that is guaranteed to undermine our self-esteem. When we look at the outward face that others show us, and compare the entirety of who we are to this false appearance, we are going to believe that we do not measure up. But guess what? Each of those people we are comparing ourselves to have their own insecurities and secrets that they never allow to show on social media and the like. When you find yourself comparing your life to another, check yourself and remind yourself that what you are seeing is not the full picture. Instead, compare who you are now to who you had been in the past and the progress that you have made over the course of your life.

7. Practice Self-Care & Gratitude

When you take care of yourself, you show yourself love and worthiness. This includes getting the rest you need, eating healthy, and exercise. But it can also be pampering yourself, enjoying a treat, immersing yourself in nature – anything that brings a sense of joy and peace. Spend time each day focusing on what is good in your life that you are grateful for. This can be both small items and significant parts of life that make each day enjoyable. As with looking at your positive characteristics, focusing on these good parts of your life will build up your self-esteem.

8. Help Others

One of the most rewarding things that we can do is to help each other through this life. There are many people who could use your help, whether it be through charity, lending a listening ear or offering encouragement. There are many ways to volunteer or offer your assistance that are in line with your interests. The more you look outside yourself to do good for others, the less you focus on what you see as not right in your life. And as an additional benefit, you start feeling better about the person you are! What’s not to like about that?

You aren’t alone!

If you are finding yourself struggling against feelings of inadequacy, depression and isolation that just don’t go away, you might benefit from professional counseling. Lime Tree Counseling offers trauma therapy, addictions treatment, Christian counseling and marriage therapy along with other services. We offer online counseling in Colorado, online counseling in North Carolina and online counseling in Pennsylvania. In-person counseling is offered in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania. Reach out and schedule today!