8 of the Best Ways to Improve Your Self-Esteem and Confidence
Is receiving criticism painfully hard for you?
Do you notice that you judge yourself harshly most of the time?
Do you feel nervous or shy when you’re in social situations?
Do you tend to doubt your capabilities?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, you might benefit from working to improve your self-esteem.
Improve Your Self-esteem
Having a strong sense of self-worth, research shows, is associated with greater happiness, life satisfaction, and fewer negative moods.
Conversely, when poor self-esteem goes unaddressed, it can impact your entire life trajectory. Having low self-worth can lead to inaction, underachieving when it comes to realizing dreams, and remaining in unsatisfying and even unhealthy relationships.
In terms of mental health, people with low self-esteem tend to struggle more with low mood, feelings of anxiousness, thoughts of self-harm, addictions, and more.
Indeed, taking steps to improve your self-esteem and confidence is a worthy investment of time and energy. It has the potential to improve virtually every area of your life.
The following tips are based on the collective wisdom of mental health experts and published research. Practicing them can help to improve your self-esteem from the inside out and naturally boost your confidence.
8 Ways to Improve Your Self-Esteem and Confidence
- Change Your Self-Talk
You can start building your self-esteem and confidence right this moment by becoming aware of how you talk to yourself and making a concerted effort to reframe negative thoughts.
Dr. Daniel Amen calls these not-so-friendly thoughts that destroy self-confidence automatic negative thoughts (ANTs). They’re often extreme, all-or-nothing statements, like, “You’re always such an idiot” or “You never do it right.”
One way to combat ANTs is by using the work of author and speaker Byron Katie. Write down some of your persistent negative thoughts and ask yourself these 4 questions about them:
- Is this thought true?
- Can I absolutely know that it is true?
- How do I react or feel when I think that thought?
- Who would I be without that thought? Or, how would I feel if I didn’t have that thought?
If you practice this regularly, it will likely put some space between yourself and your negative thoughts, allowing for kinder, more accurate, and constructive thoughts – which will likely have a positive effect on your self-esteem.
- Give Yourself Credit
People who struggle with self-esteem tend to have a more pronounced negative bias. They see what they haven’t done rather than noticing progress.
Start giving yourself credit for the small wins. Research shows that celebrating smaller achievements boosts morale and resilience, promoting overall positivity.
What does that look like?
If you sit down to work on something even for 20 minutes, give yourself credit for making progress. If you hurt someone and you earnestly apologize and make a point to correct the wrong or behave differently, give yourself kudos for apologizing and making amends – rather than beating yourself up for your behavior.
- Practice Gratitude
An abundance of research shows that contemplating what you’re grateful for builds greater self-esteem and well-being. Make it a habit or ritual.
List what you’re grateful for every evening before going to sleep. It could be as simple as appreciating your lungs and the ability to freely breathe in and out, or the beautiful blossom that appeared in your garden overnight, or the kindness of someone you encountered during your day.
Look for gratitude even in seemingly unpleasant or difficult life situations. Perhaps there’s a challenging person at work and it’s forcing you to be more assertive. You might find appreciation in the growth opportunity it’s providing.
- Move Your Body
Engaging in physical activity not only boosts your mood, it increases your self-esteem as well.
Developing muscle tone, strength, coordination, balance, and flexibility creates an overall feeling of being more physically competent, which contributes to a better body image and self-esteem.
Additionally, the stress relief that comes from exercise, as well as the increased blood flow, which supports better brain function, add to overall well-being. Of course, there’s the sense of accomplishment after exercise that contributes to positive self-regard, too.
Be sure you approach exercise gently without a lot of high expectations or perfectionist demands related to body image, kindly giving yourself ample credit for any progress made.
- Practice Forgiveness
Research indicates that forgiveness is associated with higher self-esteem and greater life satisfaction, as well as fewer instances of low mood, feelings of anxiousness, and hostility.
Experts suggest you can begin practicing forgiveness in small ways. When someone cuts you off in traffic, consider it isn’t personal and forgive the offender. Let people off the hook. By practicing forgiveness of others, you might find that it’s a little easier to forgive yourself too – which is a big boon to self-esteem!
- Form Positive Relationships
Take steps to foster positive social relationships. Research reported by the American Psychological Association shows that social support and social acceptance overwhelmingly help shape the development of self-esteem in people of all ages.
This may sound like a tall order if you’re lacking in self-esteem and confidence. A first step might be joining some kind of support group.
Or, if you’re feeling more comfortable about increasing your social connections, take a look at online groups like Meet Up. Pursuing a hobby is a great way to make new, positive connections. At the same time, you’ll have the added bonus of developing one of your genuine interests, which is good for self-esteem too!
Ask a friendly neighbor, or perhaps someone from work, to join you for coffee. The key is to spend time with positive people.
- Speak Up
One vital way to value yourself is to honor your needs and speak your mind.
This might mean speaking up and setting boundaries as needed. When you lack healthy levels of self-esteem, it’s common to fall into people pleasing and doing things you don’t want to. Start being assertive by simply saying “no.”
Watch people who are assertive and let them serve as inspiration for you. Emulate what they do until you find your own rhythm in speaking your mind.
- Seek Help
It’s possible you may need the support of a qualified mental health professional to help you build your self-esteem. Having a professional in your corner is a very powerful way to help you to face past traumas, shame, addictions, or mental health issues that may be impacting your self-esteem.
Research shows that cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is highly effective in self-esteem building. There’s no weakness in asking for help; it’s a strength, and another reason to feel good about yourself.
Cultivating healthy self-esteem is a lifelong practice. It takes time.
If you notice you have a little more confidence, or are taking on challenges, or treating yourself with more compassion, these are all signs that your self-esteem is growing.
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