Overcoming Low Self-Esteem

The term “self-esteem” refers to how you feel about yourself; it’s the confidence you have in your own ability and worth. Although it is not a concrete diagnosis, many people suffer from low self-esteem. These individuals often find it difficult to complete seemingly normal daily activities and tasks. Thus, is important to learn how to overcome low self-esteem in order to live a happy and productive life.

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What is low self-esteem?

Low self-esteem can manifest itself in a variety of ways. It is not always obvious, as many individuals are good at masking their low self-esteem by putting up a front. People with low self-esteem have a tendency to:

    • Feel incompetent, inadequate, unlovable, unwanted, and/or unworthy.

    • See disapproval or rejection even when it is not present.

    • Feel “lesser than” their peers.

    • Be very troubled by failure.

    • Exaggerate events in a negative way.

    • Interpret non-critical feedback as critical.

    • Constantly compare themselves to others.

    • Experience social anxiety.

    • Lack interpersonal confidence.

    • Have difficulty being assertive and holding boundaries.

    • Demonstrate people-pleasing behavior.

    • Fear rejection.

    • Be hypersensitive to criticism and overly self-critical.

    • Avoid new activities or opportunities.

    • Be preoccupied with personal problems.

    • Have a difficult time taking compliments.

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What causes low self-esteem?

As previously mentioned, low self-esteem is not represented by its own medical diagnosis; although, it is often experienced concurrently with mood disorders, such as depression and anxiety, as well as addictive behaviors and eating disorders. Some common indicators of low self-esteem include, but are not limited to:

    • Negative relationships

    • Trauma or abuse

    • Stressful life events

    • Unsupportive authority figures

    • Guilt about previous choices

    • Bullying

    • Loneliness

    • Poor performance

    • Mood disorders

    • Unrealistic goals

    • Constant comparison


12 Ways to Overcome Low Self-Esteem

It is important to view self-esteem as malleable. Just because you have low self-esteem now does not mean you will forever. There is no magic formula to cultivating healthy self-esteem; different approaches will work for different people. Below we have listed 12 measures that could help you develop healthy self-esteem.

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  1. Cultivate self-compassion.

        • Self-compassion is cultivated when you relate to yourself with kindness. It is easy to be compassionate towards others while being overly self-critical. Nonetheless, be supportive, understanding, and gentle to yourself; forgive yourself; recognize the difference between being a bad person and making a bad decision; be mindful of your self-talk; and avoid harsh judgments of yourself because after all, nobody’s perfect!

  2. Journal.

        • It is easy to go about daily activities rather mindlessly. Journaling helps you articulate the subconscious thoughts and feelings that permeate your mind throughout the day and fuel your self-talk. Seeing your thoughts on paper allows you to label and dismiss irrational, negative self-talk. Journaling also serves as a healthy outlet to release negativity.

  3. Practice mindfulness meditation.

        • Oftentimes, insecurities are rooted in a past event, or the anticipation of an upcoming event. Mindfulness meditation teaches you how to let go of what you cannot control and enjoy the present moment.

  4. Adopt a beginner’s mind.

        • It is quite common to get stuck in the same thought patterns, especially when participating in familiar activities. Low self-esteem contributes to this vicious cycle, and may lead you to reinforce your negative self-image with the same negative thoughts day-in and day-out. When you approach each situation with the attitude of a beginner, you free yourself from your limiting belief systems and cognitive distortions. Each event becomes a new adventure with endless opportunity.

  5. Set boundaries, be assertive, and learn to deal with the discomfort that comes with both.

        • People with low self-esteem often feel uncomfortable putting their needs first out of fear of upsetting others. In turn, they often let their resentments build up and are more likely to approach situations passive aggressively. Rather than letting it get to that point, it is important to learn how to set and maintain boundaries. Being assertive will probably feel uncomfortable at first, but you do not grow in the confines of your comfort zone. 

  6. Use positive affirmation statements.

        • You may not even realize how often you put yourself down. The practice of positive self-talk allows you to counteract your irrational and negative beliefs with affirmations that are more likely to generate productivity and happiness. For example, rather than saying “I suck because I failed at this task”, try saying “I believe in my skills and abilities, and am grateful for this learning experience”. Some people even find it helpful to write a positive affirmation on a post-it note and put it on their mirror.

  7. Remind yourself that thoughts and beliefs are not reality.

        • People are not thinking about you as much as you think. With this in mind, it is useless to take everything personally. Moreover, while your feelings are always real and valid, the thoughts that fuel your insecurities are often irrational. Thus, for the person with low self-esteem, it is imperative to distinguish thoughts from reality.

  8. Find your passions and invest in them.

        • When you pursue something that you are passionate about, you are getting in touch with your authentic self. Passions help you cultivate a sense of purpose; and when you feel like you have a purpose, you are more likely to set achievable goals that will in turn boost your self-efficacy.

  9. Service to others.

        • It feels good to help others, even if that just means holding the door open for someone. When you serve others, your kindness is reaffirmed and your positive impact is internalized, thereby generating self-love.

  10. Connect with people you love and surround yourself with supportive people.

        • Connection is the currency to wellness. It is difficult to dwell on negative thoughts when you are connecting with someone on a genuine level. Avoid those who bring you down and seek out those who make you feel supported and allow you to be your authentic self.

  11. Give yourself credit.

        • Those with low self-esteem often have a tendency to attribute positive outcomes to external forces, while associating negative outcomes with personal deficits. In order to cultivate a positive self-concept, it is important to recognize when your hard work pays off. Give yourself credit where credit is due.

  12. Accept compliments.

        • Many people with low self-esteem feel uncomfortable taking compliments and automatically respond with rejection, deflection, or dismissal. Next time you receive a compliment, accept it, own it, and remind yourself that you deserve it.

Overcoming low self-esteem is often a difficult process that can be made easier with an extra layer of support. At Recovery Fusion, our dedicated Recovery Support Specialists work in tandem with licensed professionals to implement a treatment plan that is customized to fit the strengths and needs of each individual. Click here for more information on this service.

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