Our self-esteem is, essentially, the opinion we have of ourselves. This can be affected by lots of different things, including experiences in our childhood. If you’ve ever been bullied, overly criticised or experienced an abusive relationship, you may struggle with low self-esteem and confidence.
Having low self-esteem can affect your mental health and your sense of self-belief. You might find it hard to try new things and feel held back in life. The good new is, self-esteem is totally buildable.
The opinion you have of yourself is something you’ve learnt and interpreted from past experiences, and these can be negative and simply untrue. Building self-esteem is often about unlearning this false opinion and starting again. Here are a few tools you can use to do exactly that.
1. Self-awareness – get to know your limiting beliefs
The first step to any type of change is awareness. Understanding where you’re at now and what’s affected your self-esteem can pave the way for positive change. There are lots of different self-awareness activities you can try to help with this, including meditation and journaling.
Try writing down any potentially limiting beliefs you have about yourself, for example, “I’m not creative” and challenge them. Consider where they may have come from (a particularly critical art teacher perhaps?) and acknowledge that they may not be true. Becoming aware of where you may be holding yourself back and tuning into your intuition here is key.
2. Affirmations – change your self-talk
Once you have identified what limiting thoughts may be hindering your self-esteem, you can work on changing them. Changing your self-talk can be tricky, but with regular practice and a support system in place, it can be done. Try using positive affirmations to counteract your limiting beliefs and repeat them regularly.
Sometimes making internal changes like this alone is difficult. This is why we recommend putting a support system in place. Your support system can be made up of friends and family, or you may want the support of a professional, like a coach. Coaches working in this area will be able to guide you on this journey, encouraging you to take steps forward, even when it’s scary.
3. Reflection – look back at what you’ve achieved
Thanks to the brain’s negativity bias, us humans have a tendency to remember negative experiences and forget the positive ones. This can have a damaging effect on our self-esteem over time, so it’s important to be as intentional as you can when it comes to holding on to the positives.
Try looking back regularly and noting what you’ve achieved. Having your successes written down gives your mind evidence that you are capable of achieving. Refer back to it whenever you’re struggling with your self-esteem.
4. Celebration – acknowledge every win
As our brain struggles to remember the positive moments that happen, it can help for us to mark them with a celebration. Try setting yourself a goal or a challenge, and then decide on a celebration for when you achieve it. Find a celebration that feels good to you, it could be going out for dinner with a friend, booking a massage or even going on holiday.
Try to celebrate every win, no matter how small to keep yourself motivated. Another way to help the brain hook onto the positives is by having a gratitude practice. Try noting down one thing you’re grateful for at the end of every day. Over time your mind will naturally tune into the more positive aspects of your day.
5. Reference points – change them!
It’s human nature to compare ourselves to others and this is another opportunity for our self-esteem to take a hit. Our brains are constantly taking in reference points from the world around us, including the TV we watch and social media. Without even realising it, our brain uses these reference points as comparison.
One way to reduce the negative impact of this is to change your reference points. If you’re consuming content that makes you feel bad about yourself, whether that’s following people who appear to have ‘perfect’ lives on Instagram or watching TV shows that depict wealth and fame as something you should be clamouring for… stop. Try expanding your horizons and consume content from people with diverse backgrounds and those who make you feel uplifted.
Reducing your time on social media can help too, take a look at how going scroll free could save you 100 hours of your life.
As we mention here, often building self-esteem requires some support. If you feel your self-esteem issues are rooted in your past, perhaps because of a difficult relationship or bullying, you may find it helpful to speak to a counsellor. A counsellor can be especially helpful if your self-esteem is affecting your mental health.
Coaches who work in self-esteem can then help you overcome limiting beliefs you feel unable to shake and encourage you as you rebuild your self-esteem. This can give you the tools you need to feel more confident in life and more able to take risks and pursue your dreams.