Boost Yourself: How To Improve Your Self-Esteem



February is International Boost Self-Esteem Month – and isn’t it the perfect time of year for it? Maybe you’re in the midst of the post-holiday doldrums. Or you’re facing a frustrating case of seasonal affective disorder. But this month (or any time of year, really) spend some time thinking about what your self-esteem is like and how you can give it a boost. Self-esteem is a natural human trait that helps us navigate situations and come out of them looking no worse for wear. It shows how much we value ourselves, outlines our perceptions and helps us decide what we are capable of. Our thoughts and the story we tell ourselves help drive confidence.

Sometimes we hear about self-esteem and how important it is for kids – and it’s true. There is an association between negative events and social adjustment in children. Things that help build confidence include past experiences and your physiological state. However, it’s also true that self-esteem isn’t only learnable at a young age. It’s possible to earn and grow at any stage of life. Why is it important to work on this confidence, or maintain what you already have? Because self-esteem is very important for mental health and resilience. In fact, poor self-esteem often means more self-criticism and a longer time spent trying to bounce back from stressful situations. It will influence your behavior and achievements, thus introducing a vicious cycle of unwelcome outcomes leading to lowered self-esteem, leading to more poor results.

Putting Self-Esteem to Work

Just as resilience can be situation-specific, self-esteem and confidence are, too. For instance, spilling coffee on your white shirt before leaving for work is likely a more manageable situation than staining your shirt right before a presentation in front of your boss. When you can take your self-confidence and face up to challenging conditions, you’ll be able to maintain your positivity and outlook during stressful times. When you reach this understanding with yourself, you’ll be able to set goals that get you where you want to go in life – and be better able to accept yourself for who you are. You can also identify your strengths, leading to more resilience. Ask yourself what skills, attributes or past experiences you have that will help you in this situation. They could include the number of presentations you’ve already done successfully; the times you’ve been told that you are articulate and engaging; the fact that you know your stuff and your experience in the industry. A better understanding of yourself is key to understanding how to be resilient.

Another perk of high self-esteem? People with it tend to be happier. Since we know how important mental health is to our overall health, when you feel your self-esteem start to slip, boost it back up with a few of these tips.

  • Be kind to yourself. Ditch the negative self-talk and avoid catastrophic thinking.
  • Take inventory of your strengths and weaknesses.
  • Don’t compare yourself to others. Accept your imperfections and embrace your quirks.
  • In the immortal words of Elle Woods: “Exercise releases endorphins. Endorphins make you happy.”
  • Do what makes you happy and don’t be afraid to say no.
  • Celebrate small victories.
  • Mistakes are going to happen. Learn from the experience and move on.
  • Be a friend and surround yourself with supportive people.
  • Stay focused on what’s within your power to change.

From Amateur to Pro

Not only can boosting your self-esteem help your own confidence, but it can help others, too. Once you’ve shown that something is doable, others will know that it is and be able to jump those hurdles themselves. Take middle-distance runner Roger Bannister, for example. In 1954, he became the first recorded athlete to run a mile in under four minutes – nearly 40 others followed shortly after because Bannister had proven it was possible to do. Actually, there are a few things that can be learned from elite athletes when it comes to boosting your self-esteem. The first is that anyone wanting to become a professional or an expert has to train. It’s not a skill that can be learned overnight and some effort is required to learn it. Another is that your skills may lag if you don’t keep up your practice. Just like building muscle, if you don’t use it, you lose it. One difference between self-esteem boosters and athletes? You’re not in competition with anyone. We’re all at different points in our journey and comparing ourselves to others isn’t good for mental health and well-being. Every time you start to compare yourself to someone, stop. Remind yourself that the goal of boosting your self-esteem is confidence and resilience, not being the best.

What this means is that you shouldn’t get down on yourself if you don’t have a lot of self-esteem or you’ve lost your confidence over the years. It’s possible to build it back up, leading to better mental health and resilience.