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Self-esteem can shift from moment to moment, and day-to-day. Sometimes, your sense of self-worth is high — you’ll feel like nothing can bring you down. Shortly afterward, your mind may become flooded with negative thoughts.
Maybe you start scrolling through social media with ample self-confidence after a great post, but soon after, you feel it plummet. You can feel this change in your self-esteem several times a day, even within the same hour.
Having high self-esteem takes energy every single day. It can be exhausting. Research shows that the constant pursuit of high self-esteem isn't healthy. Commit to improving your well-being by learning how to improve and maintain your self-esteem without making it your top priority.
What is self-esteem?
Before you can care for your self-esteem, it helps to define the term.
Self-esteem refers to the degree to which we evaluate ourselves positively. It represents how much we like or value ourselves, and is often based on comparisons with others.
Dr. Kristin Neff
According to Kristin Neff, who writes and talks extensively about her research on self-compassion as an alternative to self-esteem, the way self-esteem can fluctuate is a big part of its problem. So, too, is the way it focuses on judgment, of ourselves and others.
Self-esteem revolves around your opinion of yourself and what you have accomplished. When we are surrounded by social media and inundated with lifestyle content, our opinion of ourselves can't help but be relative. Self-esteem can take a hit every time you open your newsfeed.
Self-esteem can affect how you practice “self-talk.” If you assess yourself and find yourself lacking, you may get focused on negative thoughts and self-criticism. However, for people too concerned about preserving their self-esteem, the opposite can happen. They might focus on building themselves up and putting others down in order to feel better.
Your self-esteem results from your life experiences, beginning in childhood. Any trauma you’ve experienced, dramatic life changes, and your environment impact your self-esteem. Even at a younger age, your self-esteem fluctuates and develops.
There’s a difference between self-esteem and confidence. Your self-esteem affects how you see yourself. In contrast, your self-confidence dictates how you perceive your own skills and talents.
You build self-confidence in a specific situation by developing and using your own skills and prior experiences related to the task. Believing in your abilities to complete a task while doubting your self-worth is an example of having high self-confidence but low self-esteem.
If you constantly think you aren’t good enough, it can affect your relationships, physical health, and how well you do your job.
Why is it important to pay attention to it?
Take time to pay attention to how you speak to yourself. It’s a good indicator of how well you take care of yourself.
Self-esteem fluctuates. Still, lower self-esteem can signal something in your life is harming your well-being. Or, if you have high self-esteem, you could be practicing some excellent self-care.
Pay attention to other people’s self-esteem, too. If you notice a loved one or a coworker is voicing a lot of self-doubt, they might need your support.
Self-esteem issues can creep up on you. It doesn’t take much out of your day to take a moment and notice how events affect your mood and self-esteem.
Once you’ve identified the areas you want to improve on, it can be hard to figure out what your first steps will be. If you’re looking for help getting started, our BetterUp can support you with personalized coaching to help you find your self-esteem and cultivate your self-compassion.
What can happen if I have low self-esteem?
When you have low self-esteem, your mental health can suffer. Frequent negative self-talk can worsen your mental health.
People with poor self-esteem are very critical of themselves. They have difficulty moving past challenges and mistakes. It may lead to people isolating themselves because they want to protect their self-esteem.
In reality, self-isolation only hurts them more. It keeps people within their comfort zones instead of seeking new opportunities or hobbies to enjoy in life.
Low self-esteem can also contribute to depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues. Negative ways of thinking can halt efforts to build confidence or self-worth. Negative thoughts also hinder efforts to develop a growth mindset.
5 tactics to improve your self-esteem
It’s no easy task to build self-esteem but achieving a healthy level of self-esteem can make a difference to your well-being.
Take a look at these five tactics to help bolster your self-esteem. Think about which ones you’d like to start implementing in your daily life. But don't stop there, remember that the best way to achieve healthy self-esteem is to focus less on esteem and more on practicing self-compassion and improving self-confidence.
1. Write out a list of things you admire about yourself
It can be challenging to sit down and think about our admirable traits — even awkward. But acknowledging your skills or things that you like about yourself can improve your self-talk. Try keeping a journal of things you’ve done that you enjoyed or admired. Gratitude journals also work wonders for improving your outlook on life.
Don’t just write down any positive affirmation you come across. Instead, look for relevant affirmations and consider how to accept yourself. What is it that you appreciate and admire? Remember these attributes when you notice your mind is filled with negative thoughts.
2. Stop being a people pleaser
People with poor self-esteem can feel obligated to say yes to requests. They often put helping others before their own mental health. This can lead to getting overloaded with work or personal responsibilities and cause a lot of stress.
It’s nice to be helpful and supportive when you can, but your self-esteem eventually suffers when you tie your self-worth to how much you do for others. Learn how to say no to others.
3. Step outside your comfort zone
Those with low self-esteem tend to avoid challenges and new opportunities. This can be due to fears or self-doubt. But when you succeed in any big or small way, you show yourself that you can persevere through rough moments.
Stepping outside your comfort zone doesn’t mean that you have to throw yourself into highly uncomfortable situations. It means that you’re willing to try new things even if you may enter difficult situations.
4. Stop comparing yourself to others
Your progress and self-worth shouldn’t be connected to how well other people are doing. There will always be someone better at something than you, but that doesn’t mean you’re not good at what you do, or good enough.
It’s not easy to stop comparing yourself to others. Staying away from social media platforms can help this effort. If you do scroll, remind yourself that people only share the best, most flattering parts of their life online. Don’t let likes on a photo dictate your self-worth.
Appreciate your differences compared to others, but remember that you’re not in competition with anyone else’s progress.
5. Forgive yourself for your past thoughts
As you work to build your self-esteem, you need to forgive yourself for how you treated yourself before. You can’t move forward with your progress without accepting that you used to judge yourself and others harshly. It's a hard habit to break. Acknowledging this weakness exercises your self-compassion and resilience by helping you see yourself clearly. You are building a more solid foundation when you make a choice to have a healthier relationship with yourself.
Get support on your journey
While you’re learning how to improve your self-esteem, you’ll experience setbacks. You’ll have days where your poor self-esteem seems overpowering. Be patient with yourself. Progress doesn’t happen overnight and isn’t always linear.
Celebrate that small stuff. If you find even just one tactic that makes a difference in your well-being, that’s something to be proud of.
At BetterUp, we’re all about finding ways that make you feel proud of yourself and your accomplishments. This helps you feel more motivated to guide your progress forward. Plus, it builds your self-confidence when you encounter any challenges.
Content Marketing Manager, ACC