My mother was brushing my hair before school when I asked her a question when I was around six years old. Are you ugly? I questioned while seeing her and my own image in the mirror in front of me.
When she heard the question, she exhaled in terror and put down the brush in my hair. She replied, “No” (thanks, mom! ), and then inquired about the origin of the query. On the playground, a boy in my class called me ugly.
The first time I can recall feeling self-conscious was then. However, that was only the start of a very long and very rocky relationship with myself. The young boy who called me ugly on the playground was by no means the first. He was undoubtedly not the only individual to cause me to doubt my identity.
I’m sure I’m not the only one that feels this way. If you’re reading this, you could have a similar experience about the first time you ever questioned whether or not you were “ugly,” “not smart,” or a “bad person” out loud or in private.
My self-esteem reached an all-time low a few months after turning 31. Then, however, something gave way: I had had enough with my negative self-esteem and my dislike for everything about myself. There are a lot of pointless clichés about self-esteem on the internet; encouraging someone with low self-esteem to “love yourself” isn’t going to help. I was looking for practical ways to boost my self-esteem that I could apply in my daily life.
This article was written for me as well as for anyone who has ever questioned how to deal with continuous low self esteem.
1. Challenge your negative beliefs
Negative ideas can be quite persuasive. Many of the dreadful things I thought about myself, I actually did believe. Psychotherapist Daniel Fryer of the Priory Hospital Bristol advises confronting your negative ideas. According to Fryer, if you have a negative thought or statement about yourself, counter it with thinking back on a moment when you excelled or accomplished something. In doing so, “you will be substituting self-compassion for self-criticism.”
You shouldn’t believe everything you think, according to former NHS clinical head for mental health and psychotherapist Owen O’Kane. According to O’Kane, it’s common to fall into patterns when individuals, places, or circumstances are misunderstood. “If you have a tendency to think critically, harshly, or pessimistically, it could give you false viewpoints.” He suggests paying attention to your perspectives and reassessing them if they frequently involve self-criticism.
2. Use unwavering self-acceptance.
Fryer explains that evaluating ourselves on our accomplishments is akin to how we feel about ourselves.
Your perception of your shortcomings may be the basis for your poor self-esteem. According to Fryer, when you build your confidence on your “things,” you need something to go well for it to increase, but when something goes wrong, your confidence plummets.
Because you are who you are—a human being on this planet—you have value just as you are.
According to Fryer, Dr. Albert Ellis’ rational emotive behaviour therapy (REBT), a type of cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT), encourages unconditional self-acceptance. With it, he claims, “every single person on the earth is a deserving, imperfect person, capable of both success and failure.”
This quote from Fryer should serve as your daily affirmation if you need one to repeat to yourself on difficult days. “Because you are a human being on this world, you have value just as you are. Build your self-assurance on the idea that you are valuable and sufficient just the way you are. Every day, remind yourself of this.”
3. Keep a gratitude journal.
A daily journal of “every nice remark, complement, or praise that is said about you” or your job is advised by counsellor Sophie Robinson-Matthews of Counselling Directory(Opens in a new window), a database of 15,000 licenced therapists in the UK. Why not give it a shot, even though you might feel a little strange doing it?
Keep a count next to any comments that you receive more than once, but continue keeping this journal every day, she advises. “Review the log at the conclusion of each week, and then ask yourself these questions: What do I think when I first read this journal? How strongly do I believe that each of these flattering qualities about myself, on a scale of 0 to 10—where 0 denotes none and 10 means a great deal?” Ask yourself which comments you believe to be true, which ones are perhaps true, and which ones you don’t believe as you read over the statements you’ve written down in the log.
4. Keep a success journal.
Try keeping a record of your accomplishments if penning a list of compliments isn’t your thing. Write down your accomplishments or things you performed well each day, Fryer advises. This could be something you feel proud of, such as finishing a job project, taking care of some personal business, or packing your own lunch the night before.
A professional nursing adviser for the British healthcare provider Bupa, Fatmata Kamara, suggests keeping a journal to record your various emotions and eventually channel them toward the good. You can also list a few positive aspects of yourself in the journal, she advises. “It could feel awkward at first, but as you practise it more, you’ll feel more at ease.”