How to Boost Your Self-Esteem: 6 Tips to Like Yourself More


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“You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.” ~Buddha

I have, as I believe many of us do, grappled with the thorny issues of self-esteem for much of my life. But it was only when I became terribly unwell with an autoimmune disease six years ago that I began to see how much low self-esteem was affecting my day-to-day life and my health.

I started to see how focusing on external validation and bending and folding, putting the needs of others ahead of mine, like a reed being dragged back and forth by the currents of a river, was a damaging way to live.

As I began to heal, I could see how not really valuing or trusting myself was filtering into almost every aspect of my life. I began to understand how even the little decisions that said “yes” or “no” to my true self were affecting my health and happiness.

I didn’t really know what I liked or didn’t like, who I was, or what I wanted from life. Well, at that point, I mostly wanted to be well, but I knew that emotional work was an important component of that. I also knew that developing greater self-worth would be key to my healing.

I began reflecting on what I value and enjoy. I began listening to messages from my body and from my intuition. I started to ask myself questions like, “Am I people-pleasing from a place of low self-esteem, or is my true self saying yes in all its honesty and wisdom?” and “Am I bending to please or placate someone else’s wishes just to accommodate them, to the detriment of my health and happiness?” I began to believe in myself and to recognize the value I add to this world.

Having high self-worth or self-esteem can be one of the most transformational and wonderful things for your happiness, health, and success, but how do we get from not holding ourselves in high regard to having high levels of love and esteem for ourselves?

Self-esteem is the way we value and see ourselves. It is our assessment of our overall worth or value. It is how much we like ourselves. It is something that forms over time, but, along with the rest of our subconscious beliefs, it is mostly formed at a young age.

Many of us suffer from low self-esteem, but it is totally possible to change and reframe our limiting beliefs.

“Low self-esteem is like driving through life with your handbrake on.” ~Maxwell Maltz

Having low self-esteem can really hold us back from living a full and happy life. We might feel anxious and awkward around others because we feel unlovable or paralyzed by low self-esteem, unable to move forward and succeed in life because we don’t feel we’re worthy.

Low self-esteem often leads to high levels of self-criticism and ideas of not being good enough. It’s a feeling of generally thinking negatively about yourself and your life.

It may stem from things like bullying or abuse, mental or physical illness, stress, work, or relationship problems. It can often begin in childhood and develop over the years.

Low self-esteem can manifest in numerous ways, such as:

  • people-pleasing
  • being indecisive
  • not having positive relationships
  • getting angry or irritated easily
  • regularly feeling overwhelming sadness
  • Having difficulty creating boundaries
  • holding a pessimistic outlook on life
  • doubting your capabilities and capacity for success

The great news, however, is that developing love for yourself and creating a happier, more successful life is totally possible. Here’s how.

1. Work on developing self-compassion.

I can be hard on myself at times—much harder on myself than on others. Nurturing self-compassion has helped me soften toward myself and, in doing so, view myself with a kinder lens.

Kristen Neff explains, “Tender self-compassion is the capacity that allows us to be with ourselves just as we are—comforting and reassuring ourselves that we aren’t alone, as well as validating our pain. It has the gentle, nurturing quality of a mother toward a newborn child.”

A useful technique for being kinder to yourself is to think about how you might respond to a good friend or a young child if they were beating themselves up about something. Just noticing how differently we speak to ourselves and beginning to adjust that to something kinder and gentler is an excellent way to start building compassion toward ourselves.

Loving-kindness meditations have been very helpful for me in cultivating self-compassion. Incorporating one into your routine is an excellent way to develop self-compassion as a tangible practice.

2. Set goals, and don’t break your promises to yourself.

Building trust in yourself and your capabilities is an important part of developing self-worth. However, be careful not to allow goal-setting to be just another stick to beat yourself with.

I live with a chronic illness, so setting goals can be challenging. My health can often dictate what I can achieve, so I have to be gentle in my approach to this. I keep my intentions reasonable, realistic, and compassionate. That means if I have a setback with my health, I don’t end up feeling bad for not keeping my promises to myself.

Showing up for yourself and not letting yourself down tells your subconscious that you’re worth it. As long as you remain flexible and kind to yourself, setting small goals and then reveling in your accomplishments can begin to change the narrative you might have created around your abilities and not being good enough. Set realistic goals so you don’t set yourself up for failure, and build up over time as you develop your confidence and self-worth.

If, like me, you have health woes, perhaps one of your goals might be to make sure you do a gentle yoga flow that you know helps with your pain. Or maybe even something as simple as making sure you spend ten minutes outside first thing in the morning so you get some sunlight and fresh air. The crucial thing is to show up for yourself and let your subconscious know that you matter.

Or, if you are terrified of speaking up in meetings at work, set yourself a goal to say something once in the coming week. This small goal will feel more manageable than committing to speaking up in every meeting, and you’re more likely to achieve it, thereby swerving the shame spiral and negative self-talk trap. When you do speak up, really celebrate it!

3. Take stock of your achievements.

Make a list of things you’re good at. Start with small things like: good at being kind, funny, on time, tidy, whatever it may be. Come up with as many as you can, but ten is a good goal. Just writing this list will boost your confidence and shift you out of negative thought patterns.

Then think about things you’ve achieved over your life—things like excelling in a sport or learning to cook or play an instrument.

Next, consider what you’ve achieved at school, university, or work. Chances are, you excelled somewhere along the way, but you’ve told yourself a story to the contrary. It’s time to rewrite that story. Really revel in those successes. Maybe you could even write some words of praise next to each one. Go on, give yourself a gold star—you know you want to!

I have an evening journaling practice, and sometimes, especially at times when I’m feeling a little down on myself, I write three things I did well that day. This always helps boost my mood and affects how I feel about myself.

4. Accept compliments.

I don’t know how many times I’ve deflected a compliment I’ve received: “You look nice today.” “Ugh, no, my hair’s awful” or some other such brush-off.

I’ve started making a conscious effort to simply say, “Thanks very much” when someone pays me a compliment. I can’t say I feel totally at ease with it all the time, but it’s a warmer experience of receiving appreciation. I think it probably feels nicer for the person bestowing their kind words too.

When we don’t feel good about ourselves, accepting a compliment can feel really awkward because we just can’t imagine how it’s true. It’s also considered culturally polite to modestly negate or refute a compliment, so it almost feels like a natural reflex to bat it away quickly and move on. But doing this keeps you in low self-worth and maintains the narrative of negativity you spin for yourself.

The next time someone pays you a compliment, I invite you to just say, “Thanks so much” or “How nice of you to say.” The more you practice responding in this way, the more you will start to elevate your thoughts and feelings about yourself and develop higher self-esteem.

5. Practice self-care.

Looking after yourself is such an act of love. Consistently putting yourself and your needs first tells your brain that you’re worth it. Putting yourself first does not make you selfish. It actually enables you to give more fully to the people and things in your life that matter. It really is true that you can’t pour from an empty cup.

Self-care absolutely looks like meditation, yoga, etc., but it also looks like getting enough sleep, eating well, moving your body, getting out in nature, and doing things you enjoy.

Add it to your plan for the week. Build it into your calendar because it’s just as important as the meetings or whatever else you have filling up your week (more so, IMO!). Self-care is a way to keep showing up for yourself, showing yourself that you are worthy of care and love, which will raise your self-esteem to no end.

One of my favorite self-care practices is to light a load of candles and incense, get some relaxing music on, and read a book. It makes me feel cozy and comforted and relaxes me. It can be all manner of things—whatever helps you show yourself the love you deserve.

6. Try positive affirmations.

Affirmations are a wonderful tool to help improve your self-esteem, but they need to be done right. Until I learned more about how affirmations work, they felt a bit meaningless to me.

For them to work, our subconscious mind needs to accept them as true.

If you have low self-worth, for example, chances are you won’t just immediately believe, at a subconscious level, the affirmation “I am worthy of love.” Once your self-esteem is a little higher, affirmations like that will work well, but when you’re coming from a place of low self-worth, your critical faculty won’t let “I am” affirmations pass go.

While you’re developing your self-esteem, try using affirmations like “I am learning to feel worthy of love” or “Every day, in every way, I am learning to show myself the love and respect I deserve.”

Affirmations like these feel much more credible to your belief system. Over time, they will help rewire your subconscious and, in doing so, help you raise your self-esteem.

I know firsthand that raising self-worth can be a slow and bumpy road, but it’s a journey well worth taking. Self-esteem is a crucial aspect of having positive relationships with yourself and others.

By being gentle with yourself, accepting loving words from others, focusing on your achievements and skills, continually showing up for and looking after yourself, and reprogramming your subconscious mind, you can make a huge difference to your levels of happiness and success in life.

A better relationship with yourself is the first step toward creating better relationships with those around you, and, if you ask me, loving, joyful relationships are what life is all about. As RuPaul says, “If you can’t love yourself, how in the hell are you gonna love somebody else?”

About Sarah Littlefair

Sarah Littlefair is an integrative hypnotherapist and somatic coach. She helps people reprogram their minds and regulate their nervous systems so that they can tackle the root causes of chronic stress, burnout, chronic illness, and emotional issues to feel calm and confident and live their happiest, healthiest lives. If you’d like to know more, please reach out: Website: Email: Instagram: @sarah_littlefair

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