When it comes to your self-worth, only one opinion truly matters — your own. And even that one should be carefully evaluated; we tend to be our own harshest critics. Especially me, I used to be way too hard on myself. Although I’ll admit that got me quite far. But it’s chill time.
Glenn R. Schiraldi, Ph.D, author of The Self-Esteem Workbook, describes healthy self-esteem as a realistic, appreciative opinion of oneself. He writes, “Unconditional human worth assumes that each of us is born with all the capacities needed to live fruitfully, although everyone has a different mix of skills, which are at different levels of development.” He emphasizes that core worth is independent of externals that the marketplace values, such as wealth, education, health, status — or the way one has been treated.
Some navigate the world — and relationships — searching for any bit of evidence to validate their self-limiting beliefs. Much like judge and jury, they constantly put themselves on trial and sometimes sentence themselves to a lifetime of self-criticism. And that’s not fun at all.
Following are five steps you can take to increase your feelings of self-worth.
1. Be mindful of your thoughts.
We can’t change something if we don’t recognize that there is something to change. By simply becoming aware of our negative self-talk, we begin to distance ourselves from the feelings it brings up. This enables us to identify with them less. Without this awareness, we can easily fall into the trap of believing our self-limiting talk, and as meditation teacher Allan Lokos says, “Don’t believe everything you think. Thoughts are just that — thoughts.”
As soon as you find yourself going down the path of self-criticism, gently note what is happening, be curious about it, and remind yourself, “These are thoughts, not facts.”
2. Avoid falling into the compare-and-despair rabbit hole.
“Two key things I emphasize are to practice acceptance and stop comparing yourself to others,” says psychotherapist Kimberly Hershenson, LMSW. “I emphasis that just because someone else appears happy on social media or even in person doesn’t mean they are happy. Comparisons only lead to negative self-talk, which leads to anxiety and stress.” Feelings of low self-worth can negatively affect your mental health as well as other areas in your life, such as work, relationships, and physical health.
3. Channel your inner rock star.
Albert Einstein said, “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” We all have our strengths and weaknesses. Someone may be a brilliant musician, but a dreadful sweater knitter. Neither quality defines their core worth. Besides do you really care if you can’t knit sweaters? Of course not, so stop caring that you can’t do the same things that another person can. Recognize what your strengths and talents and allow your confidence to soar. Cause guess what? There’s something you can do amazingly well, that others can’t. Have you figured out your strengths yet? .
Psychotherapist and certified sex therapist Kristie Overstreet, LPCC, CST, CAP, suggests asking yourself, “Was there a time in your life where you had better self-esteem? What were you doing at that stage of your life?” If it’s difficult for you to identify your unique gifts, ask a friend to point them out to you. Sometimes it’s easier for others to see the best in us than it is for us to see it in ourselves.
4. Exercise (AKA take your butt to the gym)
Many studies have shown a correlation between exercise and higher self-esteem, as well as improved mental health. “Exercising creates empowerment both physical and mental,” says Debbie Mandel, author of Addicted to Stress, “especially weight lifting where you can calibrate the accomplishments. Exercise organizes your day around self-care.” She suggests dropping a task daily from your endless to-do list for the sole purpose of relaxation or doing something fun, and seeing how that feels. Other forms of self-care, such as proper nutrition and sufficient sleep, have also been shown to have positive effects on one’s self-perception.
5. Do unto others.
Volunteer to help someone else figure out their problems. It will take your mind off your own problems and renew your sense of self.
David Simonsen, Ph.D., LMFT, agrees:
“What I find is that the more someone does something in their life that they can be proud of, the easier it is for them to recognize their worth. Doing things that one can respect about themselves is the one key that I have found that works to raise one’s worth. It is something tangible. Helping at a homeless shelter, animal shelter, giving of time at a big brother or sister organization. These are things that mean something and give value to not only oneself, but to someone else as well.”
There is much truth to the fact that what we put out there into the world tends to boomerang back to us. To test this out, spend a day intentionally putting out positive thoughts and behaviors toward those with whom you come into contact. As you go about your day, be mindful of what comes back to you, and also notice if your mood improves.