Everyone wants to have high self-esteem — but attaining it can often be very difficult.
Part of the problem is that our self-esteem is rather unstable to begin with, as it can fluctuate daily, if not hourly. Further complicating matters, our self-esteem comprises both our global feelings about ourselves as well as how we feel about ourselves in specific areas of our lives such as within our family or our work.
But when our self-esteem is high, we not only feel better about ourselves, we are more resilient as well. Also when our self-esteem is higher we are also less vulnerable to anxiety.
Here are five ways to nourish your self-esteem when it is low:
1. Use positive affirmations correctly
Positive affirmations such as “I am going to be a great success!” are extremely popular, but they have one critical problem — they tend to make people with low self-worth feel worse about themselves. For affirmations to work when your self-esteem is lagging, tweak them to make them more believable. For example, from “I’m going to be a great success!” change it to “I’m going to persevere until I succeed!”
2. Identify your competencies and develop them
Self-esteem is built by demonstrating real ability and achievement in areas of our lives that matter to us. If you pride yourself on being a good cook, throw more dinner parties. If you’re a good runner, sign up for races and train for them. In short, figure out your core competencies and find opportunities and careers that accentuate them.
3. Learn to accept compliments
One of the trickiest aspects of improving self-esteem is that when we feel bad about ourselves we tend to resist compliments - even though that is when we most need them. So, set yourself the goal to tolerate compliments when you receive them, even if they make you uncomfortable.
4. Eliminate self-criticism and introduce self-compassion
Unfortunately, when our self-esteem is low, we are likely to damage it even further by being self-critical. Since our goal is to enhance our self-esteem, we need to substitute self-criticism with self-compassion. So whenever your self-critical inner monologue kicks in, ask yourself what you would say to a dear friend if they were in your situation. Doing so will avoid damaging your self-esteem further with critical thoughts, and help build it up instead.
5. Affirm your real worth
Make a list of qualities you have that are meaningful in the specific context. For example, if you got rejected by your date, list qualities that make you a good relationship prospect, for example, being loyal or emotionally available. If you failed to get a work promotion, list qualities that make you a valuable employee such as you have a strong work ethic and are responsible. Then choose one of the items on your list and write a brief essay (one to two paragraphs) about why the quality is valuable and likely to be appreciated by other people in the future. Do the exercise every day for a week or whenever you need a self-esteem boost.