First of all, what is Self-Esteem? Self-Esteem is a term coined by psychologists to describe to what extent a person “esteems”, that is, values, them-Selves. Having good self-esteem is healthy. But when it’s exaggerated and unrealistic it can lead to psychological disorders like “Narcissism”. The people suffering from Narcissism build an inflated sense of self-esteem. They see themselves as “special”. Unfortunately this sense of “specialness” is hiding a real sense of being inadequate, incompetent, and weak. Whenever reality shows narcissists that they, in fact, are not special, their artificial self-esteem crumbles. They sink into despair, anger, and depression. Then, they run to restore their false sense of self-esteem, by desperately seeking admiration, or at least approval from others, often going as far as becoming subservient in order to secure approval. They also engage in escapist behaviors like drug use, acting out sexually, to convince themselves that they are attractive and wanted, or any other behavior that can restore their sense of specialness, and help them escape their feelings of inadequacy.
Instead, healthy Self-Esteem is a sense of feeling worthy, capable, and confident that you have the internal resources to handle the challenges of life. With healthy self-esteem you are aware of the realistic value in yourself, and in people. Because of their ability to enjoy a true sense of worth, those with healthy self-esteem are also less likely to develop mental health issues such as, anxiety, depression, and addiction. It’s then clear that building and maintaining healthy self-esteem is vital to your mental and emotional wellbeing. So how do we do that? Below are are 6 ways to do so.
1. Journal for 20 minutes.
This is the hardest habit that I have ever tried to create. The paradox is that nothing has been proven to work better for you. Daily journaling allows you to ground yourself in reality, show you in how many ways you are competent, and what areas of your life you should be working to improve. It is like looking in a mirror. And the image you get back can be a constant source of information that tracks your small accomplishments, and builds your realistic self-esteem.
2. Make a daily or weekly to-do list and cross things off as you go along.
This is directly related to the above technique, only more technical. This practice will help you focus on your accomplishments, building your confidence a little every day.
3. Sit Up Straight.
Do you think this one is silly? What if I told you that is completely proven by modern Social Science? There’s more. Also take up space. Take up space with your body, don’t slouch, hold yourself, cross your legs, or in any way try to shrink the space that your body occupies. Confident people display a confident posture. It also works in reverse. Adopting a confident posture will make you feel more confident. Standing with good posture – back straight, shoulders back, head held high – will make you feel stronger and more confident in about 2 minutes, boosting your self-esteem.
4. Focus on achieving small goals.
Achieving goals will give you confidence in your abilities to handle life’s challenges. Set a goal early in the day – like getting up without hitting snooze – and you’ll feel the confidence from that one small achievement all day.
The other habit that I continuously work on creating. Exercise releases endorphins and other feel-good chemicals in your brain. You’ll feel good for doing something good for your body, and your body will reward you in kind. Here’s the secret: don’t set yourself up with perfectionistic expectations of becoming a model in the cover of Shape magazine. The true benefit of exercise for self-esteem building comes from 20 minutes of aerobic exercise, e.g. treadmill, running, jogging, fast walking, doesn’t matter. 20 minutes will give you a shower of endorphins.
6. Challenge Negative Beliefs.
Instead of dwelling on the negative, force your mind to stop self-criticizing thoughts and challenge it to provide evidence for the truth of your negative beliefs. Evidence based in reality. You will discover that most of your negative beliefs are not grounded in reality; that they are based on fears, and irrational teachings that you have learned, and accepted as true. Once you see their irrationality, replace your negative beliefs with realistic ones. Instead of thinking “I can’t do this,” think “I need to learn how to do this”. Instead of “this is horrible” think “this is unfortunate, uncomfortable, etc.”. Instead of thinking “I can’t do this”, think “this is a great opportunity to learn something.”
Self Esteem is part of your foundation. When balanced it can provide you with confidence, clarity of mind, and joy. When out of balance it will be a source of instability, psychological pain, and lead to mental illness and addiction. The above strategies can provide you with a practice that strengthens and perpetuates a balanced and consistent Self Esteem. Treat yourself good, and practice them.