Ask the Experts by Amy Lawrence-Skwiers
Q: How do I improve my self-esteem?
A: To change anything, we must first understand it. Self-esteem reflects the confidence we have in our own abilities and worth. It is not inherited but learned and can fluctuate between high and low depending on circumstances. Those with high self-esteem typically believe in themselves, recognize where they are successful, make assertive decisions, trust their own judgement and have a strong sense of self-worth. On the flipside, those with low self-esteem tend to be highly self-critical, hypersensitive, have a need to please people and struggle to enjoy life due to feelings of unworthiness.
Even those with self-esteem of steel can find themselves questioning their worth. Sometimes self-esteem takes a major hit, such as with an unexpected job loss or unanticipated end to a relationship. Other times little things chip away at the armor of confidence we have built until eventually we find ourselves feeling exposed and unworthy. Frustrations at work or school, relationship woes, parenting fails, altered friendship dynamics, unwanted changes in physical appearance or simply a compilation of everyday life stressors, it is common for situations that expose our vulnerability to invoke feelings of unworthiness.
There are steps to help improve your self-esteem if you find yourself doubting your value.
Practice positive self-talk. Instead of “I should be doing better at this point in my life” reframe that into “I am doing the best I can in this moment”. Be conscious of how often you insult yourself in your own mind and stop the thoughts in their tracks. If you have very low self-esteem reversing these thought patterns will be difficult but vital to instilling confidence back into your self-worth. Be nice to yourself!
Surround yourself with positive people and ditch toxic ones as they will only hinder your progress. In situations where you can’t cut ties, drastically limit interactions. On the other hand, learn to accept compliments from those building you up. Instead of deflecting, putting yourself down or disbelieving the authenticity, take it, say thank you and put it on repeat in your brain playlist.
Stop comparing yourself to others. You do you. Limiting social media plays a role in this step. Scrolling along and self-deprecating because you are stuck at work and not on a beach in Tahiti like your former best friend from second grade is a killjoy. Comparisons distract from our own value and fulfillment.
Focus on your body language. Sit up straight, hold your head high, make eye-contact and smile. Simple changes in posture and attitude will naturally help you to feel better about yourself and be perceived more positively by others.
Move out of your comfort zone. We don’t grow unless we are open to new experiences; join a club, take a class or dine alone. Work toward being comfortable being uncomfortable and you will begin proving to yourself how strong and capable you truly are.
Low self-esteem is not a mental health diagnosis, but it often accompanies depression and anxiety. If you feel that you need assistance in navigating the path reach out to a professional for guidance.
Amy Lawrence-Skwiers, LMSW, is a psychotherapist in private practice. She works with adults and couples that are seeking assistance with anxiety, depression, trauma, grief and loss, improving relationship/marital issues or simply feeling overwhelmed by the stressors of everyday life. Her practice, Abundant Wellness, is in St. Clair Shores and is a member of The Family Center’s Association of Professionals. Amy can be reached at 586-914-5914 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org