How to Improve Self-Esteem

March 12, 2024

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Low self-esteem can adversely impact all areas of life. Fortunately, it’s possible to improve self-esteem by making some simple behavioral changes.

What Causes Low Self-Esteem?

Low self-esteem can be influenced by many interrelated variables. Common causes include:

  • Childhood experiences: The foundation of a person’s self-esteem is built in childhood. Negative experiences like bullying, neglect, or abuse – emotional, physical, or sexual – can dramatically impact self-esteem. Lack of praise, love, or affection may also contribute to someone developing a poor self-image in adulthood.
  • Family dynamics: The dynamics within a family, including the relationships between parents and children or between siblings, can affect self-esteem. Comparisons, favoritism, or high expectations may make some family members feel inadequate or less valued.
  • Educational experiences: Negative experiences in school – difficulty learning, bullying, or social exclusion, for instance – can lead to low self-esteem. Conversely, positive reinforcement, support, and recognition can help with improving self-esteem.
  • Social comparisons: With the rise of social media, people often compare themselves to others. This can trigger feelings of inadequacy, especially when exposed to a highlight reel of perfectly curated lives.
  • Societal and cultural expectations: Cultural norms and expectations can play a central role in shaping self-esteem. Societal pressures regarding appearance, success, or gender roles are often associated with feelings of inadequacy. 
  • Personal experiences: Failures, rejections, or not meeting the expectations of self or others can lead to a negative self-image. Achievements and successes, on the other hand, can boost self-esteem, although this may come at the cost of basing self-worth solely on external accomplishments.
  • Mental health issues: Conditions like depression, anxiety, eating disorders, and other mental health issues can both cause and inflame low self-esteem.
  • Physical health and appearance: Issues with health, body image, or physical appearance can negatively impact self-image, especially in cultures that place a high value on physical attributes.
  • Life changes and stress: Major life changes, even if they are positive, can cause stress and impair self-esteem. This includes events such as moving to a new place, starting a different job, or going through a breakup.
  • Harsh self-talk: A harsh internal critic can perpetuate a cycle of low self-esteem. Negative self-talk and a focus on perceived flaws or mistakes can prevent some people from seeing their value and worth.

Addressing low self-esteem often involves exploring these underlying causes and working through them with the help of therapy, self-care, and building a support network. Keep in mind that improving self-esteem is a process, and you might need to engage with professional help along the way.

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10 Ways to Improve Self-Esteem

Here are 10 actionable ways of improving your self-esteem:

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  1. Identify your positive qualities
  2. Improve the quality of your self-talk
  3. Avoid comparing yourself to others
  4. Distance yourself from negativity
  5. Behave more confidently
  6. Establish personal boundaries
  7. Learn to say no
  8. Challenge yourself
  9. Stop trying to please everyone
  10. Reframe your mindset

1) Identify your positive qualities

Start by reflecting on what you admire about yourself. By developing an awareness of your strengths and positive qualities, you can improve the way in which you speak to yourself. 

2) Improve the quality of your self-talk

Pay attention to your internal dialogue, especially if it’s filled with negative or self-defeating statements. Challenge these thoughts by considering what you would say to a friend in a similar situation. Offering yourself the same kindness and encouragement can gradually transform your self-perception to recognize your abilities and competence. Treat yourself as you would treat your best friend.

3) Avoid comparing yourself to others

Your self-value should not hinge on the achievements of others. Constant comparison is a trap, especially with the seemingly perfect lives many people portray on social media. Try to limit your exposure to these platforms and focus on your unique journey, celebrating your own milestones.

4) Distance yourself from negativity

The influence of negative people can significantly affect your mood and self-esteem. If someone constantly highlights your flaws or doubts your capabilities, it might be time to reconsider their role in your life. Surrounding yourself with positivity leads to improved self-esteem.

5) Behave more confidently

Sometimes, adopting confident behaviors can bring about feelings of confidence. Ask yourself how a confident person would act in various scenarios and mimic those actions. The fake it until you make it approach can sometimes inspire genuine confidence as your actions feed into your self-belief.

6) Establish personal boundaries

Define clear boundaries in all areas of your life and stick to them. Understanding and asserting your limits improves self-respect and prevents others from taking advantage of you. This may require different strategies in personal and professional settings.

7) Learn to say no

Assertiveness is about mutual respect for needs and opinions. Observe and emulate the assertiveness of others you admire. Remember, saying no is essential for maintaining your well-being and doesn’t usually harm relationships. It’s perfectly acceptable to prioritize your needs without apology.

8) Challenge yourself

Venturing beyond your comfort zone is a powerful way to build self-esteem. You don’t need to start with grand gestures – small challenges can lead to significant personal growth and reinforce your capability to handle adversity.

9) Stop trying to please everyone

Continuously striving to meet the demands of others can be exhausting and damaging to your self-esteem. Try to balance being helpful with maintaining your emotional health. Prioritizing yourself is not selfish but central to your well-being.

10) Reframe your mindset

Replace negative thoughts with positive affirmations. Forgive yourself for mistakes, avoid absolutes like should and must, and focus on the positive aspects of your life. Learn from experiences, label upsetting thoughts as cues for change, and acknowledge your progress. Celebrate the steps you take toward a positive self-image.

Therapies to Improve Self-Worth and Self-Esteem

There are many therapeutic approaches which can help people improve self-worth and self-esteem, such as:

  • CBT: CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) is a widely used talk therapy that helps people identify and challenge negative thought patterns that contribute to low self-esteem. By altering these thought patterns, individuals can develop a more positive outlook on themselves and their abilities.
  • Mindfulness-based therapies: Practices that encourage mindfulness like MBSR (mindfulness-based stress reduction) and MBCT (mindfulness-based cognitive therapy) help people become more aware of their thoughts and feelings without judgment. Through increased awareness and acceptance, people can develop more compassionate and accepting views of themselves.
  • DBT: DBT (dialectical behavior therapy) provides strategies to manage emotions and improve relationships with others. It incorporates mindfulness, distress tolerance, emotion regulation, and interpersonal effectiveness, which can be especially beneficial for those whose self-esteem issues are intertwined with emotional or relational difficulties.
  • Narrative therapy: This therapeutic approach focuses on the stories a person tells about their life. Narrative therapy helps people reframe their life stories in a way that highlights their strengths and abilities, allowing them to rewrite the narrative of their lives in a more empowered and self-affirming way.
  • Group therapy: Participating in group therapy can provide a sense of belonging and support from peers with lived experience of similar issues. Sharing experiences and offering mutual support in a safe and structured environment can be incredibly validating and affirming, contributing to improved self-worth over time.
  • Self-compassion focused therapy: Self-compassion focused therapy encourages people to be kinder to themselves, understanding that imperfection is part of the human experience. Learning to treat yourself with the same kindness and understanding that you would extend to a friend can greatly improve self-esteem.
  • Positive psychology: While not a therapy in the traditional sense, interventions based on positive psychology focus on cultivating positive emotions, strengths, and virtues to improve overall well-being. Practices such as gratitude exercises, identifying personal strengths, and engaging in acts that promote happiness can dramatically improve self-esteem.

These therapies offer different pathways to improve self-worth and self-esteem, and they can be personalized. Engaging with a mental health professional can help determine the most suitable approach based on personal goals and challenges.

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Get Therapy for Improving Self-Worth at Connections

If you feel that engaging with therapy might be beneficial for improving self-esteem and self-worth, we offer a variety of mental health treatment programs at Connections in Southern California.

Choosing inpatient treatment enables you to participate in therapy sessions away from the distractions of everyday life. You can benefit from the support of a small number of peers tackling similar issues at our luxury beachside facility. We limit intake to six people at one time to reduce overwhelm and ensure that everyone gets personalized care.

Treatment for mental health issues at Connections is personalized, and our compassionate and expert healthcare professionals will guide you through talk therapies, counseling, motivational therapies, and holistic treatments for a whole-body approach to wellness.

Call 844-759-0999 today and learn how to improve self-esteem and restore functioning. 

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