By Annan Boodram — The Caribbean Voice
Glenn R. Schiraldi, Ph.D, author of The Self-Esteem Workbook, describes healthy self-esteem as a realistic, appreciative opinion of oneself — that is independent of externals that the marketplace values, such as wealth, education, health, status — or the way one has been treated. People with positive self-esteem consistently enjoy good mental health and are happier and more successful. On the other hand, low self-esteem can negatively affect virtually every facet of life, including relationships, job and health and can even lead to fatal consequences. So here are some tips to boost self-esteem.
Embrace yourself: Aesop’s Fables teaches us, “He who tries to please everybody pleases nobody.” Indeed, if you spend your life trying to please everyone, then you are pretending to be someone other than yourself and this can lead to low self-esteem. On the other hand, embracing your authentic self puts you on the track to positive self-esteem. So turn your gaze inwards and analyze what really drives you and brings you joy. It may feel strange at first, but there is no wrong emotion in this scenario — all are important towards your real self and increased self-esteem.
And in this process, it is important to acknowledge and celebrate your successes. It is common for us to downplay our successes. We say, “It wasn’t that big of a deal. Anyone could do it.” This leads to the feeling that we haven’t achieved much with our lives and definitely hurts self-esteem. To boost self-esteem, celebrate successes, no matter how small. Reflect on the person you were and recognize how much you’ve grown. Write successes down. In time the list of accomplishments will amaze you.
Be mindful: We can’t change something if we don’t recognize that there is something to change. By simply becoming aware of our negative self-talk, we begin to distance ourselves from the feelings it brings up. This enables us to identify with them less. Without this awareness, we can easily fall into the trap of believing our self-limiting talk, but as meditation teacher Allan Lokos says, “Don’t believe everything you think. Thoughts are just that — thoughts.”
“Sometimes automatic negative thoughts like ‘you’re fat’ or ‘you’re lazy’ can be repeated in your mind so often that you start to believe they are true,” says Jessica Koblenz, Psy.D. “These thoughts are learned, which means they can be unlearned. You can start with affirmations. What do you wish you believed about yourself? Repeat these phrases to yourself every day.”
Thomas Boyce, Ph.D., supports the use of affirmations. Research conducted by Boyce and his colleagues has demonstrated that “fluency training” in positive affirmations (for example, writing down as many different positive things you can about yourself in a minute) can lessen symptoms of depression as measured by self-report using the Beck Depression Inventory. Larger numbers of written positive statements are correlated with greater improvement.
Don’t beat yourself up: We are frequently harder on ourselves than we are on others. In fact, many of us view our mistakes as personal and/or moral failures. Instead of dwelling on our mistakes as some sort of personal punishment, try to view them as opportunities for self-improvement. There is always something to learn from a mistake, even if it’s just ensuring that the mistake is never repeated. And this perspective definitely boosts self-esteem.
In this process practice self-forgiveness and forgiveness of others. “Forgiving self and others have been found to improve self-esteem,” says Schiraldi, “perhaps because it connects us with our innately loving nature and promotes an acceptance of people, despite our flaws.” He refers to the Buddhist meditation on forgiveness, which can be practiced at any time: “If I have hurt or harmed anyone, knowingly or unknowingly, I ask forgiveness. If anyone has hurt or harmed me, knowingly or unknowingly, I forgive them. For the ways I have hurt myself, knowingly or unknowingly, I offer forgiveness.”
Nurture a positive attitude: A positive outlook can be difficult to cultivate, as our brains naturally tend to dwell on the negative. Positive self-talk, emphasizing successes and being grateful for what you have, help to create a positive attitude; so too associating with positive people.
Psychotherapist and certified sex therapist Kristie Overstreet, LPCC, CST, CAP, suggests asking yourself, “Was there a time in your life where you had better self-esteem? What were you doing at that stage of your life?” If it’s difficult for you to identify your unique gifts, ask a friend to point them out to you. Sometimes it’s easier for others to see the best in us than it is for us to see it in ourselves.
As well as to avoid falling into the compare-and-despair rabbit hole. “Two key things I emphasize are to practice acceptance and stop comparing yourself to others,” says psychotherapist Kimberly Hershenson, LMSW. “I emphasis that just because someone else appears happy on social media or even in person doesn’t mean they are happy. Comparisons only lead to negative self-talk, which leads to anxiety and stress.”
Commit to your decisions: Another way to cultivate positivity in your life is to fully commit to your decisions. Once you have decided on a course of action, don’t waste your energy on self-doubt and second-guessing yourself. Use that energy to do the necessary research and work to see your task through. Reach out for help and guidance. Oftentimes friends and family feel valued by being given such consideration. On the other hand, when you give in to self-doubt and second thoughts, you are telling yourself that you don’t view yourself as a competent individual, capable of making the right decisions and successfully completing a task. The fact is that totally committing yourself to your decisions boosts your self-esteem by eliminating those doubts and insecurities. And each completed task does wonder for your self-esteem.
Learn how to say no: When you learn how to say no, you let others know that your boundaries are to be respected and that you won’t be taken advantage of. In effect, you affirm such boundaries. This ensures that you avoid getting stuck with unwanted tasks and commitments that drain your energy and damage your positivity.
Be generous to others: Making your needs a priority and learning how to say no doesn’t mean that you have to shut out others. Humans are social creatures and a lack of meaningful human connections can severely impact your self-esteem. Helping others provides a sense of meaning and purpose in life. If you have the time and the means, give to charity and/or volunteer your time to a cause you feel passionate about. Hershenson suggests volunteering to help those who may be less fortunate. “Being of service to others helps take you out of your head. When you are able to help someone else, it makes you less focused on your own issues.
David Simonsen, Ph.D., LMFT, agrees: “What I find is that the more someone does something in their life that they can be proud of, the easier it is for them to recognize their worth. Doing things that one can respect about him/herself is the one key that I have found that works to raise one’s worth. It is something tangible. Helping at a homeless shelter, animal shelter, giving of time at a big brother or sister organization, supporting an NGO and/or a cause – these are things that mean something and give value to not only oneself but to someone else as well.”
There is much truth to the fact that what we put out there into the world tends to boomerang back to us. To test this out, spend a day intentionally putting out positive thoughts and behaviors toward those with whom you come into contact. As you go about your day, be mindful of what comes back to you, and also notice if your mood improves.
Self care: Many studies have shown a correlation between exercise and higher self-esteem, as well as improved mental health. “Exercising creates empowerment both physical and mental,” says Debbie Mandel, author of Addicted to Stress, “especially weight lifting where you can calibrate the accomplishments. Exercise organizes your day around self-care.” She suggests dropping a task daily from your endless to-do list for the sole purpose of relaxation or doing something fun, and seeing how that feels. Other forms of self-care, such as proper nutrition, sufficient sleep, self-grooming, have also been shown to have positive effects on one’s self-perception. So do take time off as often as possible to focus on self-care; ‘me time’ does wonder for your self-esteem.
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