Many people come to therapy when they feel that their personal worth is jeopardized. They say things like:
- “I constantly feel I am at fault.”
- “I feel like I’m being judged by everyone around me.”
- “I discount all my successes and achievements. I don’t believe I deserve them.”
If you relate to the statements above, you may be struggling with low self-esteem.
Low self-esteem can lead to a number of mental health problems such as anxiety and depression. It can make it difficult for us to pursue our goals and it can negatively affect our relationships.
Here, I’ll talk about five habits you can develop to avoid feeling trapped in low self-esteem.
#1. Cultivate self-compassion
According to Dr. Kristin Neff, a pioneer in the field of self-compassion, people with high self-compassion tend to have high self-esteem.
“In essence, self-compassion is kind of a healthy source of self-esteem,” says Neff.
Self-compassion is the act of treating yourself with kindness. When we fail, make errors, feel inadequate, or are faced with difficulties in life, we should strive to encourage ourselves instead of being self-critical.
According to research published in Personality and Individual Differences, self-compassion involves accepting self-doubt, negative self-evaluations, and adversity as part of the human experience. People who treat themselves with compassion are better equipped to handle life’s trials and tribulations.
Here are two ways you can practice self-compassion to elevate your self-esteem:
- Try the “how you would treat a friend” exercise. How would you respond to your friend who feels bad about himself/herself in a challenging situation? Reflect on how you think things might change if you responded to yourself in the same way. It’s true that we are often our own harshest critic. Treating yourself as you would a close friend is one way to increase your level of self-compassion.
- Use supportive touch. When you notice that you’re under stress, take a few deep breaths and gently place both of your hands over your heart as if you were hugging yourself. Feel free to tap yourself gently as you continue to hug yourself and embrace the feeling until you are at ease.
#2. Surround yourself with people who are encouraging and accepting
Research has shown that acceptance and approval from others boosts our self-esteem. For instance, one study found that affirming feedback among teenagers led to enhanced self-acceptance and self-respect.
Focus on building relationships that give you the space, support, and encouragement you need to become the best version of yourself. Don’t be afraid to re-evaluate your relationships to sieve out people who criticize, blame, and shame you. Always be mindful of who you allow into your life.
#3. Celebrate small wins
We often chase accomplishments without taking a moment to appreciate how far we have come. We have big dreams and desires and tend to operate on extremes. This can leave us feeling overwhelmed and can hamper our self-esteem because we feel like we are not in control of our situation.
According to research, celebrating small wins improves morale and resilience and fills us up with a sense of positivity.
As challenging as it is, we need to remind ourselves of the importance of breaking big goals into small manageable tasks and reward ourselves for achieving mini-milestones. This will help keep track of our progress and motivate us to keep pursuing our big-picture goals.
#4. Replace your inner critic with positive affirmations
Give yourself credit for who you are and what you do.
According to an article published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, positive affirmations enable us to view otherwise threatening information as more self-relevant and valuable.
Therefore, when you notice your self-esteem slipping, try replacing negative self-talk with supportive mantras, such as:
- “Focusing on progress is better than focusing on perfectionism”
- “I am resilient. I can get through this challenging situation.”
- “It’s okay to err. My mistakes don’t define me. I will continue to learn and grow.”
#5. Distance yourself from social media
A study published in the European Scientific Journal found that spending an hour on Facebook each day was associated with significant declines in self-esteem. Distance yourself from social media. You’ll find that it helps you break the cycle of comparing yourself to others and gives you more time to focus on the things that truly make you happy.