How to Cope With Low Self Esteem

Three Parts:Dealing with Feelings of Low Self-EsteemImproving Low Self-EsteemMaintaining Self-Esteem

Self-esteem is your intrinsic feeling of self-worth. Nearly everyone experiences low self-esteem at some point, usually rooted in other feelings such as shyness, social awkwardness, insecurity, or uncertainty;[1] however, there are a number of things you can do to feel an increased sense of confidence in yourself. Through various forms of self-assessment and self-care, you can build up a sense of appreciation for who you are as a person and an important member of your family and your community at large.

Part 1
Dealing with Feelings of Low Self-Esteem

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    Assess your feelings. The first step in dealing with low self-esteem is understanding the source. Note when certain situations make you feel more confident or less confident than others. Is it when you enter into new situations, are assigned new projects, or are in social situations where you don’t know anyone? Or is it in interactions with people that you already know, such as friends, family, peers, or co-workers? Once you have more awareness of the cause, you can take steps to remedy it. For example, if you experience easily hurt feelings too often from people you know well, you can decide to find new sources of emotional support, or seek relationship counseling.
    • Keep a journal. You can note situations that make you feel a certain way, which can help you identify patterns, and reflect on and illustrate places where you can make positive changes. You may want to only record these thoughts a few times a week, or daily, but either way, try to keep the journal for at least two weeks. Making sense of your feelings and putting them in context is an important component in utilizing a journal method to improve mental and emotional health.[2]
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    Develop self-awareness of who you are as a person. Write down three positive things about yourself each day or week, or list your strengths, your achievements, and things that you admire about yourself. Reading and re-reading these notes will help to remind you that you are important to yourself and to others.
    • Ask for feedback. Discuss your strengths and weaknesses with trusted friends, family, or co-workers and ask them for their assessment and suggestions.[3]
    • Assess your personal likes and dislikes. This will help you understand who you are and what you stand for.[4]
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    Be compassionate with yourself. When you are coping with low self-esteem, it is easy to blame yourself, even for things that are out of your control. Focusing negatively on something you’ve said or done, being unhappy with the way you look, or putting yourself down with phrases like “I can never follow through” or “I’m a failure” affects your mental health. Recognize negative, intrusive, self-blaming, or self-defeating thoughts and replace them with kindness, understanding, and supportive thinking for yourself.[5]
    • Reframe your negative thoughts with positive self-talk.[6] Remind yourself what you are good at, what people like about you, and how you positively affect others’ lives. Remember that thoughts come and go, and sometimes there is no truth in them.
    • Examine the evidence. When you have a negative thought or feeling about yourself (such as “I’m a failure at work”) assess whether or not the thought is kind and productive. Would you say it to a friend? If not, change the thought to be kinder.
    • For example, you can change “I’m a failure at work” or “Sometimes I’m unsure of what to do.” This second version is not only kinder, but will give you a specific starting place to begin to help yourself feel more competent at work.You can then come up with a specific plan to increase your performance and quality of work.
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    Practice self-care. Part of successfully coping with low self-esteem involves feeling healthy. In addition to getting enough exercise, eating healthy food, and sleeping adequately, it is also important to manage your stress levels and engage in techniques that encourage self-affirmation.
    • Take alone time to recharge. Doing fun activities on your own clears your mind and improves your quality of life.[7]
    • Seek activities that you enjoy. Whether this is going to the movies, seeing an art museum, or going to a concert with friends, making time for fun outings can go a long way to improving your negative feelings about yourself.[8]
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    Seek therapeutic treatment. Often, self-esteem issues are deeply rooted and have their origins in traumatic life experiences. If this is the case, consider enlisting professional therapeutic help via both group therapy or individual cognitive behavioral therapy.[9]
    • To find a therapist or counselor, you can ask your primary care physician or health insurance for a referral. You can also search in online directories such as for licensed clinical social workers and therapists who can help you navigate what you are feeling.[10]
    • Group therapy has many benefits including helping to build a diverse support network or acting as a sounding board. Your physician can refer you to a group, or you can also check with local hospitals and medical centers who frequently host groups.[11]

Part 2
Improving Low Self-Esteem

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    Say what you feel. Being honest and standing up for what you believe builds self-confidence. Being authentic will help you pursue what you truly value.[12]
    • Allow your natural characteristics and personality traits to shine through. Keeping true to your personality in every interaction and situation will build your confidence.
    • Avoid boastfulness or putting down other people in your effort to build your own self-esteem. This will only highlight your insecurities and make people less likely to want to engage positively with you. [13]
    • When you are learning to become more authentic and assertive, it may take time for you to find a balance between not saying how to feel and coming on too strong. Remember you are learning a new skill. Be kind and patient with yourself even if it seems like you don’t get it right the first time.
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    Set manageable goals and challenges for yourself. Part of building your self-esteem involves respecting what your ability to meet and exceed challenges. If you can meet or exceed a goal, it will improve your positive feelings about yourself.[14]
    • Create S.M.A.R.T. goals – ones that are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely.[15]
    • Embrace what you are good at and recognize that change can happen slowly.[16]
    • Accept that failure is part of the process of working toward a goal or implementing a plan.[17] Allow yourself to feel frustrated, but don’t let it derail you. Focus on moving forward, note what didn’t work, and use that information to try again.[18]
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    Find a hobby. If you like sports, the arts, literature, or other similar activities, finding a group of like-minded people can help you boost your confidence.
    • Join a volunteer organization. You will develop self-confidence by working on volunteer projects with others.[19]
    • Change up your normal routine occasionally. Try a new sport or attend a concert by a band you don’t regularly listen. Doing something new may boost your self-confidence by helping you meet and interact with new people.
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    Minimize situations that are detrimental to your self-confidence. Set boundaries and distance yourself from people or circumstances that feel harmful.[20]
    • Work on self-assertion. Standing up for yourself is emotionally healthy and gives you confidence.[21]
    • Recognize toxic or unhelpful relationships. Trust your intuition that if a relationship is making you feel bad, it is not a healthy one.[22]
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    Limit social media. While the use of Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, and other social media sites has been linked to perceived higher levels of social support, some studies have also connected it to lower self-esteem in participants who compare their own accomplishments to those of their online friends.[23]
    • Take time to “detox” or unplug from the constant online interaction. You’ll gain new perspectives on yourself without the constant distraction.[24]

Part 3
Maintaining Self-Esteem

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    Avoid basing self-esteem on external factors. Measuring yourself by your accomplishments, appearance or approval from others can be counterproductive for your mental health.[25] Instead, work on transforming self-esteem into self-respect.[26] While esteem means to evaluate something positively, respect involves accepting all of yourself, including your weaknesses and failures.[27]
    • Use positive self-talk and relabeling to reframe negative situations or feelings.[28] Practicing this will help you create a positive pattern of responses to otherwise difficult situations.[29] Instead of thinking “I’m such an idiot,” reword it to say “I may struggle at times, but I am otherwise smart and competent.”[30]
    • Abandon all-or-nothing thinking, in which you either consider yourself to be perfect or a failure. This can engender feelings of shame and negativity. Thinking with nuance allows you to celebrate the successes without getting bogged down by perceived failure.[31]
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    Be yourself. Your true self, or your core identity, is who you are innately and is not connected to your job, your family, your friends or anything else external. Know that you have the right to be yourself, including the less than perfect parts.[32] Imperfection is natural and human.
    • Practice being authentic around everyone, including those who have more power or influence than you, such as your boss, your teacher, or those in your peer group.[33] Ask them questions, tell them your opinions, and engage in constructive conversation even if you feel intimidated or nervous.
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    Be appreciative. Appreciating what you have and who you are can go a long way in maintaining high self-esteem.[34] Focusing on the good in your life will help you become more secure in your own identity.[35]
    • Reflect on what your life would be like without certain things that you value. This may help you appreciate what is good in your life. Try keeping a gratitude journal where you note on a daily or weekly basis the things that you are grateful for in your life. [36]
    • Studies show that volunteering has a positive effect on how people view themselves. Seek out opportunities to be generous and donate your time or funds to causes that you care about.[37]

Sources and Citations

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Categories: Assertiveness & Self Esteem