Many of us can recognize the value of improving our feelings of self-worth. When our self-esteem is higher, we not only feel better about ourselves, we are more resilient as well. As much as we would love to have a higher self-esteem, it turns out that improving it is not an easy task.
Part of the problem is that our self-esteem is rather unstable to begin with, as it can fluctuate daily, if not hourly. For example having someone have a bad reaction to tasting a meal you just prepared will hurt a chef’s self-esteem much more than someone for whom cooking is not a significant aspect of their identity.
Having a high self-esteem is a great thing, but only in moderation. Very high self-esteem - like a narcissist - is often quite brittle. Such people might feel great about themselves most of the time but they also tend to be extremely vulnerable to criticism and negative feedback and respond to it in ways that stunts their psychological self-growth.
That said, it is certainly possible to improve our self-esteem if we go about it the right way. Here are four ways to nourish your self-esteem when its low:
One of the trickiest aspects of improving self-esteem is that when we feel bad about ourselves we tend to be more resistant to compliments - even when we need them most. So, in return set yourself the goal to tolerate compliments when you receive them, even if they make you uncomfortable. Whenever you receive a compliment, train yourself to use simple responses such as “thank you” or “how kind of you to say”. In time, the impulse to deny will fade which will also be an indication your self-esteem is getting stronger.
Unfortunately, when our self-esteem is low, we are likely to damage it even further by being self-critical. Since our goal is to enhance our self-esteem, we need to substitute self-criticism with self-compassion. Whenever your self-critical inner monologue kicks in, ask yourself what you would say to a dear friend if they were in your situation? Doing so will avoid damaging your self esteem further with critical thought and help build it up.
Positive affirmations such as “I am going to be a great success!” are popular, but they have one critical problem - they tend to make people with low self-esteem feel worse about themselves. Why? Because when our self esteem is low, such aspirations are simply too difficult for our current situation. For affirmations to work when your self-esteem is lagging, tweak them to make them more believable. For example, change “I’m going to be a great success!” to “I’m going to persevere until I succeed!”
Think about the conditions or situations that seem to deflate your self-esteem. Common triggers might be:
Being able to recognize which situations trigger these emotions will help you control them. Being able to remove yourself from certain situations or challenge inaccurate thinking during these times can be proactive.