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Understanding and Improving Self-Esteem

October 14, 2019 | Judy Zellner, LPCC

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What do you think of when you hear “self-esteem”? I’m sure we all have an idea of what this means. Simply stated, it is what we think, feel and believe about ourselves. However, it really isn’t as simple as that. An important thing to know is that there are many factors that influence self-esteem at any given time in your life and it can fluctuate throughout your lifetime.

The things that lower self-esteem can be different for everyone. Difficult life experiences, such as abuse as a child or an adult, relationship problems, inability to work/financial issues, physical health problems, can typically be a factor. How you treat yourself can also influence your self-esteem. How you talk to yourself (self-talk), criticizing yourself, seeing yourself as “not important” are all influences on self-esteem.

Many of us in the mental health field see individuals that are experiencing low self-esteem. It is possible to build your self-esteem and to have a healthy sense of who you are. You can become less critical of yourself and others, you can better handle the stress in your life, you can better express yourself, and stand up for yourself. You can make better decisions and be able to bounce back when faced with life’s challenges. You can believe that you deserve happiness and fulfillment.

So, we need to ask ourselves, how can I improve my self-esteem? There are many useful ways to do this, but don’t get discouraged if one or more of them don’t work for you. Experiment with some of these ideas, and realize that you may not see improvements overnight. Keep your eye on the prize—feeling better about yourself.

  1. Stop comparing yourself to others. It’s a very easy thing to give in to, especially with all the social media outlets. Just remember, someone’s life is probably not as perfect as they portray on social media.
  2. Stop belittling yourself. Ask yourself, would I talk to a loved one or my best friend this way? We need to stop beating ourselves up and be kinder to ourselves.
  3. Use positive self-affirmations as a way to build our self-esteem. Examples are “I believe in me,” “I am not my mistakes,” “positivity is a choice and I choose to be positive,” “I am enough,” and “I deserve love, compassion and empathy.”
  4. Surround yourself with positive, supportive people. When you are around positive, supportive people, you feel better about yourself and your self-esteem will increase.
  5. Dwell on your positive qualities. Make a list and read it often. Most people dwell on their negative qualities, which lowers self-esteem.
  6. Give back. Not necessarily in a financial way. When you do things for others, you feel as you have value. For example, smile and say “hi” to someone in the grocery store. You may be the only one that person has talked to on that day.
  7. Pay attention to self-care. Get enough sleep, do some physical activity, and spend some time outside Do things that you enjoy. Stay away from alcohol and recreational drugs. Good self-care can definitely improve self-esteem.

Judy Zellner, LPCC is a new Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor with Fisher-Titus Behavioral Health. Judy has been providing counseling services to patients in the community since 2013. Judy and the Fisher-Titus Behavioral Health Team will be at the Fisher-Titus Women’s health Fair on October 26. For more information about this event, follow @FisherTitusHealth on Facebook or visit fishertitus.org/upcoming-events.