By: Barrie Davenport
I was talking with a friend this weekend who is suffering from low self-esteem.
After hearing the way this lovely young woman was talking about herself, so blind to her own beauty, intelligence, and talents, I blurted out, “You must begin to love yourself. You have so much to offer.”
She looked at me with defeated eyes and said, “How do I just love myself? What does that mean?”
When your self-esteem is low, the concept of loving yourself is completely foreign. You see yourself as lacking and unworthy and feel there’s nothing to love. In fact, there seems to be far more reason to loathe yourself than love yourself.
Low self-esteem is a self-fulfilling prophecy. The worse you feel about yourself, the less energy and motivation you have to do what it takes to turn your self-esteem around. Your self-esteem continues to plummet as your brain locks in on negative and circular thinking, further entrenching you in beliefs that have little or no basis in reality.
Self-esteem improves by changing both your thoughts and behaviors. You must practice new thoughts and behaviors until you begin to turn the tide of your feelings about yourself. And you must continue practicing them to maintain a healthy love for yourself.
Here are 50 actions you can take to begin improving your self-esteem:
- Become proficient at something
When you practice and become skilled at something you enjoy, your increasing competency and the discipline of practice will be a source of pride and fulfillment for you.
- Reclaim your integrity
If you are living outside of your integrity, you will feel disoriented, guilty, and drained. Define what integrity means for you, and make the necessary changes to live in accordance with it.
Exercise makes you feel better physically, mentally, and emotionally. It provides a sense of control over your health and vitality.
When we serve and support other people, we feel uplifted and valued. We have found a way to show empathy and connection through service.
- Take care of a pet
Pets offer unconditional love and fulfill our longing for attention and affection. Pets teach us compassion and responsibility, taking the focus off of our own problems.
- Care about your appearance
When you look your best, you feel better. You project an outward image of self-esteem and confidence — even if you don’t feel that way. But when you act “as if” you have self-esteem, eventually your feelings will catch up.
- Do something creative
Creative endeavors put you in the “flow” state in which you are intently engaged in what you are doing. It stimulates the brain and potentially leads you to a passion or avocation.
- Heal past wounds
Past issues and traumas can keep you trapped in low self-esteem. Seek the support of a trained counselor to help you heal the wounds of the past.
- Plan something exciting
Plan for a trip or adventure so that you have something exciting to look forward to. Just the planning process with make you feel engaged and purposeful.
- Have a change of scenery
Actually going on a trip, working from another location, or spending time out of your house will give you a boost of energy and motivation.
- Spend time with a friend
Good friends accept us as we are, love us for who we are, and provide an outlet for fun and companionship. Our best friends are a reflection of the good in ourselves.
- Get clear on your values
Determine your core values in life, the principles around which you want your life centered. Examine your life to see where you are not in alignment with the values and make the necessary changes to fix that.
- Write down your accomplishments
Think back through your life to all that you’ve accomplished as a youth and adult. List everything you have done that you feel proud of.
- Read something inspirational
Read books and articles that uplift you and make you feel positive. Stay away from negative television programs, web sites, advertising or anything that reinforces a poor self-image.
- Stretch yourself
Step outside of your comfort zone in some way. Stretch yourself to try something new, meet different people, or approach a situation in an unconventional way.
- Take care of your relationships
Focus your love, time, and attention on the people you care about most. Nurture your relationships and find ways to communicate fully and enjoy a richer experience with your loved ones.
- Teach someone
You have skills and abilities to share with others. Teach someone who is interested in learning. Offer your knowledge and experience as a gift.
- Practice affirmations
Keep an affirmation journal in which you write positive, loving statements about yourself. Repeat those affirmations daily when you awaken and before you go to sleep.
- Challenge limiting beliefs
When you catch yourself thinking negatively about your self-worth, challenge the beliefs with evidence to the contrary. Find reasons why your limiting beliefs are untrue — or at least not completely true.
- Seek your life passion
If you have not found your life passion, make time in your life to seek it out. The process of having a goal to find it will give your life a sense of purpose.
- Give and receive affection
Offer and receive physical affection from family and friends. Physical touch supports bonding between people, reduces anxiety, improves your mood, and creates connections.
- Increase your standards
Begin to demand more of yourself in various areas of your life. Challenge yourself to do a bit better, go a bit farther, behave more lovingly than you have in the past. Set the bar higher, and you will feel proud of who you are.
- Have a purpose
Start considering what your life purpose might be. Why are you here? What could be your legacy and how can you make that a centerpiece of your life?
- Live in the right place
Are you living in a community or city that makes you feel comfortable and at home? Or are you living somewhere that doesn’t reflect your values and ideal lifestyle?
- Let go of draining people
If there are people in your life who put you down, drain you of energy, or take advantage of you, begin to gently let them slip from your life. Surround yourself with loving and supportive people who value you.
Expand your network of friends and associates to broaden your horizons and create new life and career opportunities.
- Ask for forgiveness
If you have wronged someone, don’t live with guilt or shame. Apologize, make it right, and ask for forgiveness.
- Pay off your debts
Living with debt can drain your self-esteem and cause on-going anxiety. Pay off your debts and begin to live within your means.
- Don’t smoke, drink too much, or use recreational drugs
All of these excesses are unhealthy, make you feel bad physically and make you feel undisciplined and dependent on substances to soothe your emotions.
- Create personal boundaries
Know what your personal boundaries are and how you will react when people cross them. Don’t allow others to take advantage of you or manipulate you.
- Be a mentor
Be there for someone who needs support, leadership, and guidance. Their respect will add to your self-respect.
- Slow down and simplify
An over-scheduled and complicated life will lead to stress and overwhelm. You have no time to make positive changes in your life that lead to self-esteem. Begin to clear things off your to-do list and simplify all areas of your life.
- Detach from the opinion of others
When you worry about what others will think of you, you never feel free to be yourself completely. Begin making choices and decisions based on what you want, not what you think others want for you.
- Stop gossiping
Gossip may be momentarily powerful and thrilling, but it leaves you with a residue of distaste for yourself. Make a point to stop gossiping.
- Be an initiator
Don’t wait for others to make the plans, call the shops, or come up with the ideas. Be the initiator, the first responder, the one who takes charge. Practice this even if it feels uncomfortable at first.
- Learn to manage anger
Anger is often a response to feelings of low self-worth and despair. Find appropriate outlets for your feelings. Express them to a supportive person before they turn to anger.
- Embrace failure as part of growth
Shift your thinking about perceived failures. See them as a necessary part of growth and learning. Failures are evidence of effort, and you always learn something from them.
- Stop over-thinking
Jump off the gerbil wheel of repetitive thoughts that percolate constantly in your brain. Instead, take some kind of positive action that is distracting and worthwhile.
- Eliminate time-wasting behaviors
Find productive, creative, life-affirming ways to spend your time, rather than watching endless hours of TV, surfing the net, or playing video games.
- Be willing to ask for help
Asking for help and support isn’t a sign of weakness. It’s a sign of determination and courage. Asking for help means you are ready for positive change.
- Be honest with yourself and others
If you are living a lie, telling yourself or others stories about who you are and how you feel, you are entrapping yourself in unhappiness. You must be authentic and accepting to open your heart to self-love.
- Stay focused on the present moment
It is the only reality. When the past and the future feel painful, focus on the task at hand and do it with your full engagement.
- Practice gratitude
Every day, write down all that you feel grateful for, all of your blessings, all of the people whose lives have touched you in a positive way.
- Shift from an inferiority mentality to an equality mentality
Stop comparing yourself to others and measuring your worth against what they might have and you don’t. View everyone you encounter as your equal and your potential friend, regardless of their station in life, appearance, or intelligence.
- Keep learning
View yourself as a life-long learner and approach all things with a beginner’s mentality — open, eager, and willing to learn.
- Re-frame fear
Begin to shift the feelings of fear to energy for change. When you feel fear, use this powerful emotion to take action on something positive and forward-moving.
- Redefine success
What is success for you? Is it wealth, power, or possessions? Begin to view success in terms of fulfilling experiences, loving relationships, and meaningful work.
- Set small goals
Every day, set one or two small goals for yourself that are non-negotiable. At the end of a year, you will have achieved more than you ever expected.
- Study personal evolution
Become a forever student of personal growth and self-improvement. Read, listen, study, and learn about how to live with emotional intelligence and maturity. See personal evolution as a life-long journey.
- Give away love
Never hesitate to show your love, even if you’ve been hurt by love in the past. The move love you give away, the more it comes back to you. Start with yourself. Begin to love yourself the way you would love your best friend or sibling.
Self-esteem often takes practice and commitment. You must value the importance of feeling good about yourself, having self-worth and being comfortable with who you are. The alternative is staying stuck in depression, unhappiness, and negative thoughts.
Begin to practice self-esteem fostering thoughts and behaviors. Start acting as though you believe in yourself and love who you are even if your feelings haven’t caught up. Give yourself legitimate reasons to feel proud, accomplished, and worthwhile through learning, personal growth, goal-setting and achievement.
Once you accept the unique perfection of who you are and what you offer the world, you will find that you are more deserving than anyone of your own love and affection.