4 Activities to Improve Your Self-esteem Right Now
Have you ever been told that you have low self-esteem? Or been curious how to improve self-esteem? Do you wonder how your self-esteem and social media are connected?
In certain contexts, self-esteem can seem like such a woo-woo, self helpy buzzword, but what does it even mean? Well, self-esteem refers to how much confidence we have in ourselves, our abilities, and our worth. It’s important for everyone to feel good about themselves, but sometimes people struggle with low self-esteem.
So, what does this look like in real life? And, why is self-esteem important in psychology?
Low self-esteem for adults will often show up in how we hold boundaries in relationships, our tendency to people-please, the struggle to say ‘no’, or even our inability to make decisions. When we are feeling anxious, depressed, stressed, lonely, or just plain blah, our brain chemistry changes. Our nervous system is more on edge and we have a much harder time seeing the big picture. Here are some simple things you can do right now to improve your self-esteem.
4 Activities to Improve Self-esteem
1. Take a Deep Breath. I know it sounds super cliché, but hear me out. When we are stressed, anxious, having trouble making decisions, worried about what other people are thinking – we tend to hold our breath or have more shallow breathing. Our brain responds in kind, thinking that we are in danger and it sets off a series of signals. When the stress hormones are released, in combination with the fight or flight area of the brain becoming more activated, saying ‘no’, holding that boundary or making a decision become even more difficult.
Breathing, and more importantly exhaling, is our body’s natural way of resetting the system and signaling that everything is okay and that you are safe. When we are able to let out a great big exhale (like a sigh of relief), it cues the body to rest. Our prefrontal cortex (the smart part of the brain) comes back online and we can start to see the big picture, options in front of us, and that we aren’t really so bad afterall.
Daily meditation or breathing exercises can help train your brain so that calling on this activity becomes almost second nature.
There are several self-help apps that can be really helpful in starting up a routine.
2. Be Good to Yourself. It is easy to fall into a self-loathing or self-hatred spiral if we don’t intentionally take note of what we are doing well or times that we are feeling good about ourselves. In order to improve self love, you need to pay attention to the small things and explore ways to increase your self-care. If you feel better about yourself after going to the gym – go workout. If you notice feeling lighter after spending quality time with friends – reach out and set something up. If you are overcommitting to everything and everyone and need a night to yourself – get cozy on the couch and get a book or watch some TV. Sometimes it can be helpful to just notice the super little things you do for yourself like taking a shower, having a fancy cup of coffee, or making a nice meal. Being good to yourself is not the same thing as being selfish. We all deserve to feel good about ourselves and when we are feeling low it can be helpful to increase your self love and find a way to treat yourself.
3. Use Positive Affirmation Meditation. A positive affirmation can be anything that is positive, feels personal to you, and ideally is in the present tense. For some, this can be really difficult in the beginning and saying things like ‘I am confident’ or ‘I am enough’ can seem fake or even wishful thinking. If this is the case, start smaller. Try ‘I am ok’ or ‘I am good enough’. If that is still too tender of a spot, try adding a label that you know to be true or someone close to you has said and you can get behind. An example of this would be ‘I am a good worker’ or ‘I am a good parent’.
When you find one or two positive affirmations that you believe or can start to believe, write them down. I’m a big fan of writing notes on post-its and leaving them where I will see them often. As you feel more comfortable reading your positive statements you can then turn them into a positive affirmation meditation by simply taking a moment to inhale deeply, repeat the affirmation aloud or in your head, and slowly exhale. The more often you are able to do this, the easier it will become to challenge the negative thoughts and you will notice your self-esteem improving.
4. Take a Social Media Break. The effects of social media on mental health have been studied at length and it has been noted that there is a connection between increased social media use and increased symptoms of anxiety, depression, FOMO (fear of missing out), social isolation and lower self-esteem. I have seen this in my work with clients as well as in my own life. Social media shows us the edited, filtered, most amazing views of someone’s world and it can be really hard to remember that this is the case and not real life.
If you find yourself caught in a doom scroll, know that your mind is subconsciously or sometimes consciously tallying how much happier everyone is than you, and this is not reality. It can be helpful to take a social media break from time to time just to see how it goes and notice how you feel. People will often report feeling better about themselves, having more time and energy, and feeling an increased sense of overall happiness, which are all pretty compelling reasons to take that break.
To Wrap Up
Everyone deserves to feel good about themselves and be proud of who they are. These four activities to improve self-esteem aren’t necessarily difficult on the surface, but they can bring up more difficult feelings. If this is the case, it makes sense and having additional outside support might help. With practice, you will start to feel better and this can lead to a more fulfilling, authentic, positive life.
One final thing to note is that struggling with low self-esteem can be really really hard and debilitating at times. If you are struggling with low self-esteem and this leads to thoughts of wanting to hurt yourself or thoughts of suicide, please know that help is available. The new suicide and crisis hotline (call or text 988) is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, so you can speak with someone today. You deserve to feel better and someone is available to help.