How to build self-esteem and value yourself

Let’s run through a few practical steps you might take, and habits you might get into, in order to build up your self-esteem. The strategies you pick out for yourself should suit your personality and lifestyle.

1. Look out for confirmation bias

If you’re dealing with chronic low self-esteem, then it can be difficult to accept compliments or to notice your successes. By contrast, failures might jump out at you, and stick with you for days, or weeks, afterwards.

This is often a result of something called confirmation bias. You’ve told yourself a story — that you’re dreadful. Your mind is hunting for evidence that confirms that story. Take a step back and try to be objective, and recognise this impulse for what it is.

2. Accept praise

Your confirmation bias might get in the way of you accepting praise. Therefore, you should be proactive about recognising praise and your impulse to dismiss it. If you’re struggling with confidence in the workplace, then it’s worth bearing in mind that you are valuable to your employer — if you weren’t, they wouldn’t be paying you!

3. Write a list

If you’re struggling to keep track of the things that you like about yourself, then it can be helpful to write them down in a list. That way, when you’re tempted to talk yourself down, you’ll have a physical reminder of all of the things that you actually do like about yourself.

4. Practise mindfulness

You might think of meditation practices as a little bit flakey and impractical. But they’re actually immensely beneficial — provided that you actually practice regularly. The point of the exercise here is to become aware of what’s happening in your consciousness in the present moment. To begin with, you might be slightly startled by what you discover.

This is something that self-compassion researcher Kristin Neff notes in this video from Monash University on Practising self-compassion, which is part of the university’s course on Maintaining a Mindful Life.

By developing your sense of compassion, you’ll also build broader mental toughness and resilience, as explained in this open step on Compassion for self and others. On the other hand, you might look into practising gratitude with the help of the University of Michigan’s Gratitude Teach-out.

Daily stress-management activities of this kind are covered in the first week of the University of Edinburgh’s course on Self Care and Wellbeing — which is well worth checking out.

5. Challenge yourself

Taking up a hobby can often be a great way to demonstrate to yourself that you’re actually quite capable. Set yourself a goal, and aspire to achieve it. It doesn’t have to be something spectacular like running a marathon. It can instead be something that you’ll enjoy doing regularly, and that you can track your progress with.

You can apply this goal-oriented thinking to your professional life, too. In Luleå University’s course on surviving the workplace and managing stress — specifically the sections on developing yourself and your skills — they suggest that forming long-term and short-term goals is an essential step.

6. Exercise regularly

As advice goes, it might sound a little bit folksy, but ‘healthy body, healthy mind’ is difficult to argue with. Regular exercise has a whole range of benefits, and it’s even been proven to bolster mood. Even if it’s something low-intensity, like walking, the effects can be profound. Plus, it’ll get you out in the open air.

7. Sleep properly

If you aren’t getting enough sleep, then you’ll suffer from all kinds of knock-on consequences — many of which will lead to poor self-esteem. Make sure that you form the right habits for good sleep. Keep a regular schedule, and avoid screen time in bed. This is covered extensively in the University of Michigan’s Sleep Deprivation: Habits, Solutions and Strategies online course.

8. Build a healthy diet

If you aren’t eating properly, then you can expect to feel lousy. This is especially true if your eating habits are associated with a weight you’re unhappy with, or an unhealthy perception of how you look. Learn how to cook a few healthy meals, and develop a taste for whole foods. If you’re eating more than 5 portions of fruit and veg a day, then you’re likely to get everything you need.

If your perception of your own body is skewed, you might feel dissatisfied with it. In some cases, this can develop into an eating disorder. The good news is that if you’re in this position, there is help available.

If you suffer from poor body image, you might look into Jameela Jamil’s course on body neutrality, presented in collaboration with Tommy Hilfinger. However, if your relationship with your body or appearance feels debilitating, a medical professional can offer you support and treatment options.

9. Address your weaknesses

If you’re uncertain of your competence in a specific area, it might be tempting to simply avoid it. You might think of a football player who always wants to bring the ball onto their stronger foot because they lack the confidence to shoot with the weaker one. If this reluctance extends to practice sessions as well as competitive matches, then it’s difficult to see this player ever overcoming this particular shortcoming.

By throwing yourself at the areas where you lack confidence, you might determine that they’re not as intimidating as you supposed.

10. Look for support

Low self-esteem is something that lots of people suffer from. Sitting down to have a chat with a friend or a family member can often provide you with a well-needed mood boost or a feeling of solidarity.

If you find that your feelings are persistent and strong,  then it might be time to get more formal about the support you seek. Visiting your GP, a counsellor, or a psychiatrist might be extremely helpful.

If you’d like a few more tips, or you’d like to be more proactive about caring for your mental health, then take a look at our blogs on how to take care of your mental health and 12 simple self-care tips.


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