Steps to improve self-esteem

Feeling down about yourself is one of the many characteristics of low self-esteem. Learning about its causes, and taking practical steps to build your self-esteem, can help to overcome your negative thoughts. But if you feel like nothing's working, there is also professional support available.

 

This might help if:

  • You have low self-esteem
  • You’d like to learn how to build self-esteem
  • You’d like to know the causes of low self-esteem
 

Signs of low self-esteem

It’s totally normal for people to feel down about themselves from time to time, but when these feelings start to hang around all the time it’s usually an indication of low self-esteem. If you have low self-esteem it means that you have negative ideas about your worth and value as a person. There are various signs of low self-esteem, including:
  • Being really critical of yourself
  • Focusing on the negatives and ignoring your accomplishments
  • Comparing yourself to others
  • Not accepting any compliments that you receive
  • Negative self-talk

Causes of low self-esteem

The first step to building up self-esteem is figuring out why it’s low in the first place. There are lots of different things that could be the cause of low self-esteem, including:

 

  • Loneliness
  • Poor academic performance
  • Bullying
  • Neglect
  • Abuse
  • Feeling like you’re the odd one out
  • Being unemployed
  • Something going on at a deeper level

Sometimes it can be hard to identify what the cause of your low self-esteem is. It might be something that you’ve never really thought about, or maybe it’s too difficult to determine when it first started. Whether or not you know exactly what the cause is, there are steps that you can take to build your confidence and bring your self-esteem up to where it belongs. 

 

Steps to improve low self-esteem

1. Positive self-talk

The way that you think about yourself has a huge influence on your self-esteem. If you keep telling yourself that you’re no good, you might just start to believe it even though it’s not true. If you notice that you practice negative self-talk often, check out some ways that you can challenge your negative thinking and build your confidence levels.

 

2. Don’t compare yourself to others

 

It can be really tempting to measure our own worth against other people. So what if your friend is awesome at table tennis and gets great marks? You just need to figure out what your niche is. Everyone is great at something - what are your strengths?

 

3. Exercise

 

Exercise helps to improve your mood. End of story. 

 

4. Don’t strive for perfection

 

It’s really great if you want to do things well, but keep in mind that perfection isn’t possible. Check out one person’s story of coming to terms with their sweet imperfection.

 

5. Don’t beat yourself up when you make a mistake

 

Everyone on the planet makes mistakes – it’s in our basic human nature. Why should you be any different? When you stuff up, don’t stress, just learn from it and move on. 

 

6. Focus on the things you can change

 

There’s no point wasting all your energy thinking about things that you can’t change. Why don’t you have a think about some of the things that are in your power to control and see what you can do about those?

 

7. Do things that you enjoy

 

If you’re doing things that you enjoy you’re more likely to be thinking positively. Schedule time for fun and relaxation into every day.

 

8. Celebrate the small stuff

 

Start small and work your way up – you can’t expect any huge progress to be made overnight. 

 

9. Be helpful and considerate

 

Not only is helping people a great way to boost the moods of others, but you might find that you feel better about yourself after doing something particularly excellent.

 

10. Surround yourself with supportive people

 

Don’t hang around people who bring you down. Find a group of people who make you feel good about yourself and avoid those who tend to trigger your negative thinking. 

 

Not helping?

If you’ve tried putting these tips into action for a while and you haven’t noticed any differences in the way you feel about yourself, it’s a good idea to talk to someone you trust about it, like a friend or family member. You might also want to make an appointment with a counsellor who can work with you to figure out exactly what’s at the root of your low self-esteem, and how to fix it. Dealing with self-esteem isn’t easy but these people are there to help you if you want it. 

 

What can I do now?

 

How to Find Your Life Purpose: An Unconventional Approach

BY LEO BABAUTA

Let’s say you’re feeling unmotivated, unsure of yourself, aimless, can’t find your passion, directionless, not clear on what your purpose in life is.

You’re in good company — most people are in the same boat.

Now, there about a million things online telling you how to find your passion in life, and that’s a good thing. It’s a search worth undergoing.

I’m not going to give you a fool-proof method, or a 5-step method, nor share my passion manifesto with you today.

I’m going to give you a one-step method.

However, that one step is a doozy.

The One Step to Finding Your Purpose

It’s simply this: learn to get outside your personal bubble.

Your personal bubble is the small world you live in (we all have one), where you are the center of the universe. You are concerned with your wellbeing, with not wanting to look bad, with succeeding in life, with your personal pleasure (good food, good music, good sex, etc.).

This is the bubble we all live in most of the time, and people who say they don’t are trying to prove something.

When someone tells you you look fat, this only hurts because you’re in your personal bubble. You take that statement (a colleague who says you look fat) and believe that it’s about you, and feel the pain or embarrassment of how the statement affects you. It matters a lot, because in your bubble, what matters most is how everything affects you personally.

I’m the same way, and so is everyone else.

Some other problems caused by this personal bubble:

  • In our bubble, we’re concerned with our pleasure and comfort, and try not to be uncomfortable. This is why we don’t exercise, why we don’t only eat healthy food.
  • This fear of being uncomfortable is also why we get anxious at the thought of meeting strangers. It hampers our social lives, our love lives.
  • Because we don’t want to look bad, we are afraid of failing. So we don’t tackle tough things.
  • We procrastinate because of this fear of failing, this fear of discomfort.
  • When someone does or says something, we relate that event with how it affect us, and this can cause anger or pain or irritation.
  • We expect people to try to give us what we want, and when they don’t, we get frustrated or angry.

Actually, pretty much all our problems are caused by this bubble.

Including the difficulty in finding our life purpose. But more on that in a minute — I ask for your patience here, because this is important.

What Happens When We Get Out of the Bubble

If we can learn to get outside this personal bubble, and see things from a less self-centered approach, we can see some amazing things:

  • When someone says or does something, it’s not really about us — it’s about pain or fear or confusion they’re feeling, or a desire they have. Not us.
  • When we have an urge for temporary pleasure (TV, social media, junk food, porn), we can see that this urge is a simple passing physical sensation, and not the center of the universe.
  • We can start to see that our personal desires are actually pretty trivial, and that there’s more to life than trying to meet our pleasures and shy from our discomfort. There’s more than our little fears. Including: the pain and suffering of other people, and compassion for them. Compassion for all living beings. Wanting to make the world better.
  • We can tie our daily actions, like learning about how our minds and bodies and habits work, or getting healthy, or creating something, not only to our personal satisfaction and success (trivial things) but to how they help others, how they make the lives of others better, how they might lessen the suffering of others.

We become less self-centered, and begin to have a wider view. Everything changes, from letting go of fear and anger and procrastination, to changing our habits and finding work that matters.

How does this relate to finding our life purpose? Let’s explore that.

The Wider View, and Our Life Purpose

Once we get out of the bubble, and see things with a wider view, we can start a journey along a path like this:

  1. We can start to see the needs of others, and feel for their suffering.
  2. We then work to make their lives better, and lessen their suffering.
  3. Even if we aren’t good at that, we can learn skills that help us to be better at it. It’s the intention that matters.
  4. As we go about our daily work, we can tie our actions to this greater purpose. Learning to program or become healthy (for example) isn’t just for our betterment, but for the betterment of others, even in a small way. This gives us motivation on a moment-to-moment basis. When we lose motivation, we need to get back out of our bubble, shed our concern for our discomfort and fears, and tie ourselves to a bigger purpose.

In this path, it doesn’t matter what specific actions you take or skills you learn to make people’s lives better. What career you choose is not important — what matters is the bigger purpose. You can always change your career and learn new skills later, as you learn other ways to fulfill this purpose. You’ll learn over time.

What matters is becoming bigger than yourself. Once you do, you learn that you have a purpose in life.

How to Get Out of the Bubble

Sounds great, but getting outside this personal bubble isn’t as easy as just saying, “Let it be so.” It takes work.

First, you must see when you’re stuck in the bubble. Whenever you’re angry, frustrated, irritated, fearful, anxious, procrastinating, feeling hurt, wishing people would be different … you’re in the bubble. These are signs. You are at the center of your universe, and everything is relating to you and your feelings. When you can’t stick to habits, or have a hard time with a diet, you’re in the bubble. Your momentary pleasure is what matters in this bubble. Outside the bubble, they’re just little events (sensations of desire, urges) that can be let go of.

Second, when you notice that you’re in the bubble, expand your mind and heart. See the bigger picture. Feel what others must be feeling. Try to understand rather than condemning. See how little and petty your concerns and fears have been. Realize that if others treat you badly, it’s not about you, but about their suffering.

Third, wish others well. Genuinely want their happiness, just as you want your own happiness. See their suffering and wish for it to end or lessen.

Fourth, see how you can help. How can you lessen the suffering of others? Sometimes it’s just by paying attention, just listening. Other times you just need to be there, just lend a hand. You don’t need to go around solving everyone’s problems — they probably don’t want that. Just be there for them. And see if you can make people’s lives better — create something to make them smile. Make one little part of their world — a cup of tea, an article of clothing you’ve sewn — be a little space of goodness.

Repeat this process multiple times a day, and you’ll get better at it.

You’ll learn to be bigger than yourself. You’ll learn that the life we’ve been given is a gift, and we must make the most of it, and not waste a second. You’ll learn that there is nothing more fulfilling than making the lives of others a little better.