Healthy self-esteem is comprised of self-worth, self-confidence, and self-acceptance. It does not mean that we are proud, arrogant, or think that we’re inherently better than other people, but that we feel worthy of respect and as if we are of value. In this state, we’re able to let go of self-centeredness, because we aren’t preoccupied with how we are or aren’t measuring up. While we take appropriate action toward our goals, they don’t define who we are as people. Thus, our self-esteem remains independent of our achievements or what other people think of us, although we still strive to maximize our potential.
Some ways to bolster your self-esteem:
- Be realistic. Don’t compare yourself with others, but just focus on doing your best. Also, recognize that your best may vary from day to day, based on factors such as how much sleep you got the previous night, the types of food you’ve been eating, how much work you have on your plate, and your social interactions.
- Focus on your accomplishments. At the end of each day, take a moment to review what you’ve been able to do. Give yourself credit for the advancements you’ve made and chances you’ve taken. Did you get out of your comfort zone at all? Taking consistent, healthy risks help build up your self-confidence and novelty enlivens you.
- Look inside yourself rather than at your external circumstances. Steer clear of materialistic, extrinsically-driven goals, such as believing that you have to own the most expensive house or car on the block. Don’t identify yourself by your possessions, which could come or go at any time. Who wants to base their self-esteem on such a flimsy foundation? Instead, determine your personal, intrinsically-driven sense of purpose. What truly matters to you? What values are near to your heart? Seeking to live these out will increase your self-esteem.
- Be an active participant in your life. Set goals and take regular, manageable steps toward the actualization of your goals. Although teamwork can create a powerful synergistic effect, don’t sit on your hands waiting for someone else to pick up the ball. Think strategically and do what is within your power to do.
- Engage in positive mental imagery. Imagine yourself succeeding. Create a clear vision of who and what you want to be, and rehearse this imagery in your mind. While you’re at it, rehearse being self-confident. Ask yourself, “What would a person who loves and respects himself/herself do?” and try to act accordingly.
- Think positive thoughts. Become mindful of your habitual thoughts and weed out those that are negative and self-sabotaging. This isn’t to say that you ignore red flags, but that you think realistically and optimistically about how you’ll be able to cope with setbacks or challenges. Instead of saying to yourself, “What could go wrong?”, ask yourself, “What could go right?” or “What’s the best possible outcome?” Accept that your thoughts are major contributors to your emotions.
- Be truly grateful. Express gratitude for all the blessings in your life right now. Even if you don’t feel grateful, rehearse gratitude, by writing a daily or weekly gratitude list, thanking people who have helped you or brought love into your life. Appreciate that your very life is a gift. Although your current circumstances may not be exactly what you might have ordered, they still contain blessings. Look for the silver lining.
- Practice healthy self-care. First of all, believe that you are worth the time and effect it takes to love and nurture yourself, not because you are “all that” but because as a human being you have intrinsic worth. Secondly, take good care of your health, eating nutritiously, getting sufficient sleep, exercising on a regular basis, and making room in your schedule for rest and relaxation.
- Meditate. Develop a regular (daily, if possible) practice of meditation, the most basic form being to sit quietly on a chair with your eyes closed, in a quiet environment, and simply notice your breath. When distractions arise, as they will inevitably do, just notice them and quietly bring your attention back to your breath. If your mind wanders 100 times during your meditation practice, this just means that you have 100 opportunities to rehearse regaining your focus. In addition to using your breath as your focus, you can simply sit or take a walk and think about pleasant, peaceful, happy things. Your body believes what your mind tells it. Meditation enables you to direct your thinking toward the good.
- Get your needs met in a healthy manner. The goal here is to obtain your objective without harming anyone else, or ideally while benefitting other people, in the process. So, rather than being passive (meaning that you respect other people but not yourself) or aggressive (meaning that you respect yourself but not other people), act assertively, demonstrating respect for all involved. So, first you need to identify what you need and then define what your choices are for getting those needs met. In doing so, you show yourself and others that you hold everyone in high esteem. While you may not end up getting everything you think you need (often in hindsight this is a blessing), you will have acted in a honorable way, which will bolster your self-esteem all the more.
Positive self-esteem takes practice and perseverance. Life will throw you curves. However, by utilizing some of the above suggestions on a daily basis, you will be on your way to a deeper sense of contentment with yourself and life in general.