Six practices I’ve adopted that have helped boost my self-esteem.

Hey everyone – hope you’ve missed me! My apologies for not posting much lately.  I’ve had a lot going on and I’ve also been trying to get my project finished. I hope to have it out at the end of this month in honor of Mental Health Awareness Month, so look forward to it! For today though, I want to talk a bit about self-esteem. 

I’ve been toying with the idea of writing about it for a while, but my friend Lindsey (whose awesome mental health website Brains and Spoons you should totally check out!) shared the below picture in my Facebook group the other day, which prompted me to actually finish this.

Quote: "May your inner voice be the kindest voice you know."

In response to the image, I left the following comment: “That’s something I’ve had to work so much on. It used to be the meanest voice. Being bullied, I started to tear myself down about everything, not just stuff they’d say, as a weird preemptive defense mechanism – so whatever anyone could possibly say about me, I already felt about myself. That was a really hard way to live that I fortunately no longer internalize, but even still, I could be kinder to myself. Thank you for the reminder.”

I spent years living like that.  Honestly, my self-esteem lately is at a point where I feel it might be the healthiest it’s been since 1998 – crazy right?!  This is even despite a couple things currently that normally would have eaten me up in the past too. Having felt so low about myself for so many years, it’s pretty cool to actually hold value in myself again.  Having gone through that pain for so long too, I don’t want anyone else to feel similarly, so if there’s anything I can do to try to bolster someone’s self-confidence in an honest and genuine way, I want to do it.

When talking with people about the topic, I’ve been asked a fair amount what made this change in me. To be honest, at first I did not know at all, no idea.  I’ve reflected on it a lot, and here are a few things I’ve come up that I feel have helped me develop a better, healthier sense of self.  While my self-esteem has improved dramatically, I am still no by no means an expert on this.  I’m just someone growing who wants to share a couple tricks I’ve learned.  Try them out and see if they work for you!

6 Quick Tips for Building/Restoring Self-Esteem:

1) Accept compliments.

"Thank you!" text bubble - Always express gratitude!

What do you do when you receive a compliment?  I hope you are able to accept and value those words, while also expressing genuine gratitude… I know, large order.  Unfortunately though, this is hard for a lot of people, just like it was for me.  I even used to take it a step further than just rejecting, but instead point out exactly why I felt they were wrong. An article on Inc. attributes some the difficulty to four potential reasons: self-esteem, self-image, discomfort with expectations, and/or a desire to stay humble.  Understandable, but let’s try to push those out of the picture. Instead, resist the urge to shoot them down; rather, force yourself to just say “thank you” and you can even leave it at that for now. Just don’t turn it down.

I had read about this in the past and decided to adopt it a few years ago. No more turning a compliment into the chance to highlight my personally perceived flaws.  This was usually a habitually instant response for me, so at first I would often catch myself in the act.  Now it feels natural to just say thanks (another way gratitude starts to come naturally, as I shared about in my piece on radical gratitude).  Accepting compliments, even though it might not seem like much or you yourself might not believe them, you accept the endower’s words into your self-image in an ever so subtle way.  Even just not rejecting the words eliminates that much more negativity from your life.  You’re not subconsciously putting yourself down.

Another thing I highly recommend is that you adopt my “Screenshots for Success.”  I started that practice as a way to take this a step further.  Simply, it’s taking a screenshot every single time you receive a complement or other nice words as a way to practice gratitude and build self—esteem.  You can read all about screenshots for success here.

2) Talk with a friend when feeling down about yourself.

Coffee and conversations,

Oh man, I kind of touched on this slightly at the beginning of this post in my comment, but my mind used to run rampant with self-critique.  In the past, I would just let it run and run and run and run and would of course end up feeling worse and worse about myself.  I’m not saying I never think badly about myself anymore, not by a long shot.  I’m RESTORING my self-esteem, it’s far from perfect.  It’s not unbearably low anymore, but I also won’t say it’s at an optimum level yet.  I still have a lot of work to go! 

However, I’ve found for me what’s a good way to combat these moments before I go too far down the hole of self-deprecation… I talk to someone!  Let’s stop internalizing these undeserved attacks and cut off these negative feedback loops!  Fight your cognitive distortions!

I’ve found simply adding another voice – any voice – helps me, but you’ll have to figure out who would make a productive sounding-board for you.  Obviously a good friend who knows me and I can trust to be real with me is ideal and whom I reach out to first.  This is because 1) their corrections of the false narrative(s) in my head hold stronger to me and/or 2) if there are some attributes that need work, they will know how to best help me with it in a kind and constructive manner. 

While that would be the most desirable option, sometimes you can’t just get in contact with any of your top 8 (throwback MySpace reference), but there are so many people out there that that’s okay!  I’ve posted Facebook statuses seeing if anyone was on, found people whom I didn’t know in groups to chat with, browsed other social media platforms, even texted the Crisis Text Line (741.741) In this day and age, there are so many ways to connect with someone at anytime and I have faith you’ll figure something out.

For me, I know I process best when I share with others, so just having someone else helps me work through these moments. I do tailor the conversationalist I seek depending on what I have going on in my mind, though, but I have my amazing group chat I know I can always fall back on whenever about anything. If anyone would like to be added to this group (it’s via Facebook messenger app), please let me know! Maybe they’ll be the ones you turn to when you need to turn around your thoughts?

3) Cultivate your interests. 

Group meeting.

Our interests are a large part of what makes us unique and adds character to life. Grow yourself through your interests and hobbies. Lost touch with what exactly they are? That’s okay, but it’s time to reconnect. Start exploring with ideas and trying things out – there are so many possibilities. Here’s a list of 150+ Hobby Ideas Broken Down by Interest and Personality types to give you just a couple ideas. It’s probably the best guide I’ve come across online.

Once you’ve figured out some things that spark your attention, find communities focused on them. Talk about what it is you like with others who feel similarly (be careful of internet filter bubbles for certain things though). If you’re a group person, use a group venue; if you’re more of a one-on-one, reach out for pals in the community then break away. Avoid people who put down your interests and focus on those with whom you can further develop them.

For me, reaching out and talking with others with whom I shared things in common really helped my self-esteem, especially when some of what I got bullied for in the past was having “weird” interests and being “annoying” because I would get excited about sharing them with others. Guess what – I now have people with whom I can share those weird interests and they get excited when I have stuff I want to share! Knowing that alone has eased my anxiety and self-consciousness about even having interests at all when I used to hesitate before even admitting I was into something. It’s allowed me to be more me.

4) Do a positive self-assessment.

Brain composed of word attributes.

Building off our interests, what makes you the cool individual you are?  It was so easy for me to see the negatives but lately, I’ve been realizing, “hey, I’m actually a pretty cool and interesting person!” Start a list where you just jot down things about yourself as they come up that make you think “I’d find that cool in someone else.”  They can be your interests, life experiences, quirks, facts, etc. Humans have a million facets. This really comes out for me when others express an interest in something about me.  I try to take note in those moments. If you’re more of a worksheet person, Therapist Aid has some great ones to help you get started if you’re struggling!  Trust me, whenever things like this would come up in therapy or wherever without much prompt, I would sit there stunned and blank and struggle the whole time. 

5) Give yourself credit. 

Silhouette of a woman celebrating her success at the beach at sunrise/sunset.

I’ve started trying to be less dismissive and give myself the proper credit for my accomplishments and achievements – all of them.  What could be considered something creditworthy? In my opinion, it could be anything from recognition and awards received, to jobs you’ve had, art you’ve made, projects you’ve completed, skills you’ve cultivated, whatever it is you’ve done that makes you proud, right down to the tasks you cross off of your to-do lists…. Obviously it makes sense when it feels like a big accomplishment, but yes, I’m talking no matter how small.  A way I practice this daily is in fact with my to-do lists, haha.

So for me, I keep a detailed, running to-do list of everything I want to take care of that I update daily, but roll everything over during the course of the week. Each day at the top of the list, I put the couple most important tasks that I need or want to get done that day, followed by my running list of things I just want to take care of in general. I also try to break the items on the list down as best I can. For example, I won’t just put “clean kitchen,” but rather list each of the tasks that comprise cleaning the kitchen. Obviously once it’s done I cross it off, but it doesn’t quite come off the list just yet! Yep, for the rest of the week, every morning when I re-write my list, I’ll roll it over and keep it on the bottom, crossed out immediately. I don’t know why, but something about seeing everything I have accomplished that week at the end of the week is so satisfying to me. But yeah, just a weird, small thing I do in terms of giving myself credit. =)

6) Do something esteemable. 

Thumbs up composed of icons of various things.

This last one short and sweet and I feel like it doesn’t need too much explaining. A term I’ve come across a handful of times is “esteemable act.” My understanding of the term is any positive act that makes you feel good about yourself, from self-care to caring for others. For me, some examples are going for a walk, volunteering, putting on make-up before I go out or even just doing a face mask, to…. cleaning? (Wow, that’s weird to say because I hate cleaning, haha.) Here’s a super quick run-down on esteemable acts with a couple further suggestions to get you going! 

What do you think?

So yeah, those are how I’d describe the top things I could come up with when asked what I’ve done to help my self-esteem. Do you have anything you practice (consciously or semi-subconsciously) that you’ve found helps bolster your self-esteem? If so, I’d love if you would please share it!