Ask The Expert: I suffer from low self-esteem, but you would never guess as I still try to be outgoing. When it comes to help, I am too embarrassed to join a support group or see a therapist. What can I do to strengthen my self-confidence?
Joan Responds: It’s very common for individuals with low self-esteem to over-compensate by being very outgoing—you’re not alone. While it’s encouraging and helpful to talk to someone about how you’re feeling, there are several things you can do on a regular basis to help strengthen self-esteem. From morning meditation to reading uplifting books and affirmations (see number 3 below). Below are a few examples.
1. Acknowledge Your Strengths: Writing down what makes you feel good about yourself, listing strengths and reflecting on your accomplishments can help you feel more positive and better about yourself. Keep this list in a safe place and read it every morning when you wake up. Here is a worksheet that is designed to help you “Toot Your Own Horn”.
2. Change your thoughts and focus on things you enjoy. The first step toward changing your behavior and learning to really like who you are is to change how you think about yourself. While it may be easier said than done, making a conscious effort to behave in a more positive way toward yourself will have a profound impact on your life. Focus on pleasure producing activities. Doing things that make you feel good about yourself sends a clear message to your brain that you deserve to be happy. This activity is one of my favorites: Create a “Pleasure List.” The next time you are feeling low self-esteem, unhappy and are judging yourself and others harshly, read your “Pleasure List” and focus your attention on imagining a particular item on the list or doing a specific activity on the list. Then notice your attitude change.
3. Change your self-talk script with positive affirmations. If you’re constantly telling yourself, “I can’t,” with great conviction, you will eventually believe it as truth. Replace these negative words with, “I do my best,” or “I am learning how to __________.” An affirmation is a useful tool to reinforce your focus on your goals, dreams and desires and boost your self-esteem. An affirmation is a statement that clearly, directly and concisely declares your intention. Below are some positive affirmations you can use to change your self-talk script:
- I create my experience through my thoughts.
- I deserve to be happy.
- I am responsible for my life.
- I have the power to change.
- I make choices and decisions based on my goals and dreams.
- I am flexible and open to change in every aspect of my life.
- I am open to miracles.
- I am committed to transforming my life
- I am pursuing a new way of thinking.
- I choose to forgive so I can move on.
- I am open to the magic of life.
- I am leaving the past behind.
- I am open to new possibilities.
- I love and accept myself.
- I am responsible for my happiness.
- I choose to be gentle with myself.
4. Get involved: Take part in different activities with your friends and volunteer your time in your local community. Research shows that when you take part in social activities and give of yourself to others, you feel better because you gain a sense of purpose. Ask yourself what are my talents, abilities and skills and then go out and do activities that let you express yourself.
5. Remind yourself that you’re not alone: It’s important to remember that even people with healthy self-esteem have struggled and doubted themselves at some point in their lives. Take a look at this video—you might recognize a few of these people!
While these tips can help most people strengthen self-esteem, if any are difficult to put in action, seek advice from a professional. Research shows that people who seek professional help or join a support group will feel better faster and sustain their personal growth longer than people who do not. People are social beings and we learn by sharing our experiences with others.