Raising Your Self-Esteem

Written by Dr. Andrea Potthoff PhD LP
Many patients I see in my private practice talk about having low self-esteem. It seems to be an almost universal complaint. It may be difficult to imagine for some, but feeling good about who you are and accepting yourself can change most aspects of your life. Here are some techniques that can help improve your self-esteem:
One way to start building self-esteem is to start measuring it in different domains. Someone might think of themselves as having low self-esteem, only to find that this really only applies to their romantic life or career. Some key domains to think about are your career/work life, appearance, family relationships, friendships, romantic life, physical health, spiritual health, intellectual pursuits, and hobbies. Once we start breaking down self-esteem, we often find that we have more strengths than we were realizing.
Consider Where It Hurts You
One way to start building self-esteem is to evaluate ways in which your lack of confidence gets in your way. For example, maybe you make less money because you are too anxious about asking for a promotion. Or maybe you are not in a romantic relationship because your negative feelings about yourself make it hard to try dating. Whatever the case may be, take those areas of impairment and turn them into areas of motivation.
Say What You Want
Consider using an affirmation to start changing your level of confidence and self-acceptance. It may feel ridiculous at first, but research shows that there are numerous benefits of using affirmations. Try creating a short affirmation in the present tense. For example, “I am smart.” Repeat it out loud daily and especially during times of self-doubt. It can be difficult to change how you think, but saying what you want out loud is the first step.
Avoid Comparisons
In the age of social media, comparison is an everyday occurrence. It surprises few people that current research shows that social media use is correlated with lower self-esteem and depressive symptoms. In order to improve your self-esteem, do everything you can to limit comparing yourself to others. This might include deactivating your social media accounts, focusing more on what you are proud about, and avoiding social interactions that tend to bring you down.
Practice Self-Compassion
Recent research shows that self-compassion can buffer against the negative effects of low self-esteem. Self-compassion incorporates three main skills: being kind to oneself, acknowledging that failures and disappointment are part of being human, and look at one’s negative thoughts and feelings with neutral awareness. As long as people were rated as high in self-compassion, self-esteem had little effect on one’s mental health. Self-compassion is more like a muscle than it is a personality trait. The more you practice it, the more you have.
If you would like to learn more about ways to increase your self-esteem, please call us at 612-470-4099 or email us at andrea@dendrinospsychology.com.