Self-esteem refers to the thoughts, opinions, and beliefs we hold about ourselves. Our self-esteem tends to fluctuate but it has a relatively stable level. When self-esteem is healthy, we believe in our ability to create positive change, achieve our goals, interact confidently, and deal with life's ups and downs. But when our self-esteem is low, we see ourselves, and our lives in a negative and critical manner. We see ourselves in terms of the things we can’t do and as a result, we feel unlovable, inadequate, and unworthy.
These negative, self-critical thoughts affect our behaviour and the kind of choices we make, keeping our self-esteem low. If this sounds like something you struggle with, don’t give up, you can fight this!
Journal for self-reflection
Journaling can be helpful in many ways when combating low self-esteem. It can help you uncover the unhelpful beliefs, thoughts, emotions, or behaviours that keep you locked down. Once you are aware of these things, they become easier to act on. A good tip is to write down your exact thoughts and feelings without editing or rereading, or making the situation appear better than it. You can do this a couple of times whenever you feel low and then read through all you have written and take note of the patterns. What are the reoccurring thoughts or beliefs? What unhelpful behaviours are present? Often these thoughts/beliefs are false and the behaviour patterns show up in response to them. For instance, “I feel like I am a bother and nobody wants to talk to me’, so “I slouch and try to hide away from people. I don’t speak up for myself or seek help from others”
Create a table, write these false beliefs on one side and counter them with positive things on the other side. For example:
“I feel like I am a bother and nobody wants to talk to me”
"My friends love when I open up and chat with them"
If you struggle with finding the good things, ask your loved ones for some of their favourite things about you.
Work on self-improvement
Many factors may be contributing to your low self-esteem. Some of them are within your control to change and for some, you might need a little help. Taking active steps to work on the things you can change is one great way to boost your self-esteem. If your posture is a source of worry for you, you can start stretching and being mindful of the way you sit, stand, and walk. You can see a specialist if it requires some help to be resolved. If your speech or diction is a major low for you, work on it one word at at time. Watch speech/diction classes on YouTube and practice with a trusted friend/family member. Just taking steps to improve these things can be a major lift for you and once you start to see improvements, you will be amazed at how much better you feel.
Talk to a mental health professional
Raising low self-esteem can be a difficult, long-term task. If it feels too daunting or difficult, you should get some help. A mental health professional can help you uncover underlying issues that may be precipitating your low self-esteem such as childhood trauma, frequent comparisons with others, abuse, or mental health conditions like body dysmorphia or depression. Low self-esteem arising from issues like this can be difficult to tackle without support. A therapist will help you understand and resolve emotions and behaviours triggered by these factors, teach you coping strategies, and provide support through the process.
Overcoming low self-esteem takes a lot of time and patience. It’s a long-term journey and it can be easy to lose hope if you feel like there are no changes or you start to doubt yourself. Don’t give up! Think of what you want to achieve and why you started the journey in the first place. You are making progress even if you can’t see it yet.