Graham Price shares some practical steps to build your self-esteem

Our self-esteem has a major impact on the way we live our lives.

Often confused with self-confidence, self-esteem is a measure of what we think about ourselves. Self-confidence is about how able and effective we feel generally, or in a particular situation. The two are related and one may influence the other, but they may also be very different in specific situations. A person could have high self-esteem but may feel unconfident when playing a game of tennis.

Although our self-esteem is greatly impacted by childhood experiences, it is by no means set for life. There’s much we can do to build self-esteem at any time in our lives.

Here are eight exercises and behavioural changes we can carry out to boost self-esteem:

1. Make a list of things about you that you believe to be favourable

including what you like about yourself, things others may like about you, things you’re good at, your achievements, and contributions you’ve made to others. Then look through your list and congratulate yourself for each item.

2. If you experience uncomfortable feelings such as anxiety or feeling low, see how much you can accept them for now

Focus on the feeling and be willing to fully experience it. Ask yourself if you’re being harmed by the feeling (a feeling has ever harmed nobody, though they may be harmed by what they do with a feeling) and if you can bear it (anything short of extreme pain is bearable). Then say to yourself: ‘It’s okay to have this feeling for now, even though I might prefer not to’. Accepting uncomfortable feelings usually diminishes them and, more importantly, enables us to behave in ways not determined by our feelings (see next suggestion).

3. Make a list of beliefs and characteristics you’d like to have, and could have, but don’t currently have

This might include things like social confidence, high self-esteem, a warm smile, more energy, fitness or being a better listener. Next to each item, write the behaviour you think you’d be displaying, that you aren’t currently displaying, if you had that belief or characteristic.

Now see how far you can go towards displaying that behaviour. If that raises uncomfortable feelings, accept them. Behaving as though we have a belief or characteristic is a powerful way to convince our mind that we have the belief or characteristic. It also unwinds any negative beliefs that are driving our uncomfortable feelings. It’s often called ‘fake it ‘til you make it’.

4. Get more exercise

Exercise releases endorphins that make us feel better. Exercise also gets us fitter and healthier. If you can afford to join a gym and attend a regular exercise class, great. Otherwise find your own opportunities such as jogging, cycling or swimming.

You can include exercise in your daily routine by walking more, walking up stairs and escalators and walking faster. Or join a weight loss programme that incorporates exercise (see point 8 below). A healthy body contributes to a healthy mind.

5. Find ways to contribute to others

This might include helping people who are worse off than you or who need help. It might involve finding a charity you can contribute your time. (See The Charity Commission). Or it might include passing on particular skills or knowledge you have to others.

6. Develop a passionate interest

For example, developing a hobby that interests you, joining your local tennis club, attending an evening class or doing an Open University degree.

7. Make a list of all you are grateful for

It could include things like being alive, living on this amazing planet, having enough to eat, being healthy, your senses, your mobility, sunshine, people in your life and your possessions. When you’ve finished, read through the list and re-affirm your gratitude.

8. Do something to take control of an area of your life that’s not currently in control

For example, give up smoking or lose weight.

Periodically review your lists, adding to them if you can. Keep enhancing your new behaviours, while continuing to accept any uncomfortable feelings.

Graham W Price is a chartered psychologist, personal and executive coach and development trainer. He’s an accredited member of the British Association of Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapies (BABCP) and a leading provider of Acceptance Action Therapy ... (Read More)

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