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Elevating Your Self-Worth: Strategies for Improving Self-Esteem

Low self-esteem can result from many different factors, including childhood upbringing, trauma, social or economic factors, and much more. It is important to recognize that, while it is completely normal to struggle with low self-esteem, this does not mean that it is something you need to struggle with forever. Consistently utilizing the tips in this post, along with therapy, you absolutely have the potential to improve your self-esteem!

Someone can have high self-confidence, but low self-esteem. What’s the difference?

Self-esteem has more to do with how you see and value yourself, whereas self-confidence is your belief in your ability to do something. Our level of confidence can change from one situation to the next. For example, someone may be confident in their abilities to solve a math equation, but not confident when it comes to painting a picture. Self-esteem and self-confidence overlap, but it is important to note that they have their differences.

Steps to Improve Self-Esteem:

As mentioned, our self-esteem is the way we see ourselves. It’s how we value and appreciate ourselves. With consistency, self-esteem can be significantly improved over time. If you have been speaking unkindly to yourself for years, it’s going to take some time to learn how to speak kindly to yourself – so be patient and remain consistent.

1. Recognize Triggers:

Certain events, people, pictures, and stimuli may be triggering negative thoughts that then trigger you to feel your self-esteem to drop. Recognize what these triggers are and learn the best ways to navigate them. For example, if you notice a family member often triggers your feelings associated with low self-esteem – it might be time to set some physical and mental boundaries with that individual. This could look like, distancing yourself from that individual, giving yourself a pep talk before dealing with them, or letting them know how you feel.

2. Challenge your Inner Critic:

We all have that nagging, imaginary voice in our minds telling us we “aren’t good enough, smart enough, pretty enough” from time to time. We call that voice the “inner critic”. The inner critic is often developed early on in childhood and may become louder as time goes on, so loud that we start to believe what it’s telling us. A helpful tip to manage this inner critic is to begin by simply noticing it – notice what it says, when it says those things, and how it makes you feel. The next step is to challenge it by countering the negative comments it makes with more helpful ones (even if you don’t believe them at first).

3. Achievable Goal Setting:

There is no doubt that when we accomplish small tasks or goals we feel a hit of the happy hormone dopamine, which makes us feel great. Start with setting small attainable goals each day, and each week in different categories of your life. Then create an action plan towards those goals, and most importantly, be sure you celebrate yourself once you reach those goals. For example, one goal could be to make your bed every day this week or get outside for a 20-minute walk each day.

When we achieve the goals we set, it tends to be a domino effect for more goals and achievements. The important factor here is to notice how you feel after accomplishing any small task or goal and change that inner critic’s voice to a much kinder and uplifting one. Instead of saying “Oh that’s such a small goal I achieved, I shouldn’t feel proud”, try saying “That felt good to achieve, I didn’t feel like doing that and I did it anyway and now I feel great, what if I chose to feel proud of myself in this moment, what would that feel like, or how could I celebrate this?”

*Remember, that inner critic in your head has been telling you something for years so it’s going to take time to reverse what it’s been saying.

Want to read more about Self-Esteem? Check out Psychology Today

Picture of Mackenzie Stanke
Mackenzie Stanke

Mackenzie works with clients with anxiety, depression, and self-esteem issues using CBT and Person Centered methods to create a safe space for her clients to express themselves and heal. In her free time she can be found shopping for new home decor, cooking and going on long walks with her partner and her dog Lexi.

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Searchlight Counselling provides in-person and virtual therapy for individuals and couples in Burnaby, Vancouver, and across British Columbia. Specializing in BIPOC & 2SLGBTQIA+.