By: Dr. Cassandra Faraci
I can’t tell you how many people have come to our practice with low self-esteem despite having many endearing personality qualities and life accomplishments. It’s perplexing to wrap our minds around just how many people don’t love themselves. Why aren’t we taught to do that from an early age? When do we begin to not love ourselves? Where do we get the messages that we’re unlovable, unworthy, or just overall not good enough? Wouldn’t it be wonderful if children are given the tools needed to work through life’s hurdles and continue to see themselves in a positive light? It would do so much prevention work so that these children don’t become adults who struggle with mental health issues.
In light of International Boost Self-Esteem month, we’re highlighting 5 things you can begin doing right now to get yourself on the path to loving yourself.
- Change Your Focus. If you struggle with low self-esteem, the odds are that you can easily answer the questions, “What would you change about yourself?”, “What are your weaknesses?”, and “What did you do wrong today?” We often tell our clients that this is only part of your life (and may not be totally accurate, but that’s for another topic). It’s like watching a movie and only paying attention to and remembering the scary, uncomfortable scenes. What about the rest of the picture? Do you take inventory of your life as a whole, or do you hyperfocus on what doesn’t go according to plan and your regrets? Try to force yourself to see your good qualities, the things that go right, your contributions to those around you, any personal wins (no matter how small you might believe they are), and see how this change in focus positively affects your mood (and your sense of self!).
- Be mindful of your people. Do you surround yourself with negative people who highlight the negative? How do you feel when you’re with your family and friends? Do they inspire you? Do they feel like a breath of fresh air? Do you laugh and smile? Do you feel as though the energy is draining out of you? Are you criticized? There is a difference between, “I’m not surprised you didn’t get that job. What have you done recently to better yourself?” and “I’m so sorry to hear that you didn’t get the job. Don’t give up. The right fit will come along if you don’t stop looking.” We aren’t only products of our own thoughts about ourselves; we’re affected by the messages we receive from those around us.
- Don’t Be Afraid of Challenges. We get a nice self-esteem boost when we accomplish something – anything – even if it’s small. Many who struggle with self-esteem avoid challenges because they predict and fear that they will fail. Without allowing yourself the opportunity for success, you naturally go through your days without getting that boost of pride in your accomplishments. Make sure you set realistic goals, and start with small ones if you must. Multiple small feats throughout the day can feel just as good as one big accomplishment. Give yourself a pat on the back for cleaning out that one closet you’ve meant to tackle; have pride in the fact that you planned for, shopped for, and made a home-cooked meal for your family (they probably appreciate you for this even if they aren’t communicating this!); take a 30-minute walk, and find pleasure in the fact that you prioritized YOU. These all count!
- Take Care of Your Physical Health. I know, I know…you might be tired of hearing your doctor tell you to eat right, exercise, and get enough sleep. You might even dread seeing these recommended on the internet. We know what we have to do, but it’s not always easy to do them. Seriously, though, taking care of your physical health does wonders for your mental health and can have a positive impact on your self-esteem that goes beyond how you look on the outside. Feeling good on the inside and knowing that you’re taking care of the body that will house you for the rest of your life can help you feel good about yourself. If it were easy, everyone would be doing it! So, tackling this challenge not only will help you feel physically good but can be one of those challenges you’ve tackled (see above).
- Be Mindful of How You Handle Setbacks. I’m saving this for last because, despite attempting numbers 1-4, you might not always find success, and how you talk to yourself when you’re not successful is paramount. Do you globally attack yourself as a human being with phrases such as, “I’m terrible!” or “I’m no good. Why bother?”, or do you have a growth mindset and remind yourself that failures are part of life and are often the best sources of learning? Do you try again, or do you give up? Practicing phrases such as, “Ok, today wasn’t my best day for this, but tomorrow is a new opportunity to try again” and “Hmmm, I did my best, and it didn’t work. What got in the way, and how can I come up with a new plan to tackle this?” sends the message that, despite the failure, you’re still a valuable, worthy, and competent human being who came across a hurdle (which is a normal part of human existence).
You want to make sure that you’re constantly being fed the message that you’re a good and worthy person with value to others and the world. That message needs to come from you and those around you. Make yourself a promise today that your goal for 2022 is going to be to love yourself!