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How to Improve Your Self-Esteem: Practicing Self-Love

How to Improve Your Self-Esteem: Practicing Self-Love

Your self-esteem is the reflection of your overall opinion on yourself. This can include how you feel about your worth and what beliefs you have about yourself. It is important to have a good self-esteem as it lets us know that we are worthy and it helps us to feel good about ourselves. 

Note that there is a trigger warning on this article.

Why is it important to have good self-esteem?

If you have good self-esteem, you are more likely to have a better positive outlook in regard to who you are. If you have a very low self-esteem, you are more likely to have negative thoughts and feelings about who you are. This can make it harder to deal with personal challenges and difficult personal choices. A higher self-esteem makes these things easier to process.

Low self-esteem typically starts in early childhood and can be a result of not feeling good enough or not being able to meet expectations by those who have set them for you. Victims of domestic violence, bullying and other forms of abuse, will often have very low self esteem. This is due to negative information being fed to them about themselves that leads to the process of believing it. Belittling individuals can reduce their self-esteem.

The causes of low self-esteem can be from the following:

  • Critical childhood in regard to your abilities
  • Struggling with academics with low grades when trying hard
  • Relationship breakdown
  • The effects of abuse, domestic violence and trauma
  • Mental Health conditions
  • Stressful life events/financial problems

What are the signs of low self-esteem?

Having low self-esteem is different for everyone, but there are some common factors that can be a universal experience for those with low self-esteem. This can be the following:

  • Having negative feelings about yourself that are self-critical and continue onto feelings of depression, sadness, anxiety, anger and guilt. You may even feel shameful.
  • Low ability for self-care in the form of failing to care for yourself. This can be through drinking too much alcohol, drug abusive or forms of self harm. This is also considered to be a self-harming behaviour that caused increased risks for those who suffer with low self-esteem.
  • A fear of judgement from others. This can lead to the avoidance of trying to performs certain tasks as they have a fear of being criticised or judged. This can also lead to being self-conscious and a fear of trying.
  • Relationship problems. If you have feelings of being unworthy, it may feel as though you have to earn love and respect, which can lead to problems forming healthy relationships.
  • Angry outbursts. If you have a low self-esteem, it can also lead to you bullying and becoming angry towards others.

What are the signs of a high self-esteem?

Alternatively, there are people who have high levels of self-esteem and have positive thoughts and feelings about themselves. Signs of good self-esteem are:

  • The ability to express your needs and any thoughts or feelings in regards to how you are feeling.
  • When you are presented with a decision, you are able to make a confident choice.
  • The ability to form healthy and safe relationships where you are believe that you have the right to be loved, respected and protected from harm.
  • Acknowledge that your ability to perform successfully every time is unrealistic and not to be too overly critical of your abilities. This can be physically or academically.
  • You are more resilient to stress and negative events that impact you.

How to improve your self-esteem?

Improving your self-esteem should be a process that you are comfortable with. Push yourself out of your comfort zone, but do not push too hard. Small victories and goals are a great way to strengthen and successfully build your self-esteem.

Create a positive list

Creating lists is a great way to look at something objectively. Writing a list about positive things, perhaps positive things about you, is a great way to think about yourself in a positive way. Answer the following:

  1. What am I good at doing?
  2. What do I enjoy doing?
  3. What is important to me?
  4. Am I a good person?
  5. Am I happy?

At first, the answer to these questions may not be as positive as you are wanting, and that is okay. This is something you can work on until you are where you want to be. Note that our answers may not always be positive, it is okay to have bad days and feel them, but it is important to acknowledge these days and try to think about why we are having them. It is useful to answer these question regularly, such as once or twice a week. This means that you will be able to look back at your answers and loosely monitor your improvement.

Acknowledge your negative beliefs

We all have negative emotions sometimes, but when you notice that these are becoming too often, or simply do not go away, then acknowledging the negative beliefs that you have about yourself allows you to challenge them. Acknowledging these emotions can remove the power that they have, and through moving the power, we are less likely to have the belief.

To take this process a step further, you can cross reference these with the positive list to dismantle the belief, for example:

Negative thought: 'I am bad at everything'

Positive thought: 'I am good at playing football'

By doing this, you are able to deconstruct the belief and break down that negative thought you have about yourself.

Maintain positive relationships

When we do not think we deserve to be treated with respect, it can be hard to ensure that we are treated well. This can be hard, but try to establish whether the relationships you have with those around you is healthy. This can be done by noting down how you feel after interacting with these people. Are you happy and motivated? Or do you feel unmotivated and exhausted? If it is the latter and this is a regular occurrence after each interaction, then it is more than likely that this relationship is negative.

Going forward try to establish positive relationships with people who treat you respectfully.

Be more assertive

This can be a useful practice for building healthy relationships. Learn to express what you like and don't like whilst maintaining respect. Ensure that you respect other peoples opinions and their needs, whilst expecting them to value yours in the same way. The NHS suggests the process of being assertive can be developed by looking at others who are assertive and copying what they do.

Note that this is not about copying someone and being somebody else, it is about picking up on their practices and applying them to your own situations. If there is a situation where you want to say no, look to somebody else who is able to say no and use that to influence your own ability to do so. This will eventually become part of your own common practice.

Say 'no!'

It is really important that you start to say no to things that you do not want to do. This can start somewhere small, such as changing the way you say it without using the word, for example:

  • Thank you for the offer, but I can't
  • I am sorry, but I am unable to do that
  • Sadly, I can't do that
  • I am unable to do that right now

Although, you shouldn't be apologising for not wanting to do something, these can be a great way to start saying no without being pulled down by guilt or negative feelings. Note that you should not apologise for setting boundaries and establishing what is a good opportunity and what is not. It is your life and you need to ensure that you are making the best decisions for you, and sometimes this can involve saying no.

Challenge yourself

Staying within your comfort zone can feel safe, but sometimes we need to reach outside of our comfort zone to reach our full potential. You may feel nervous or anxious, but after you have completed the challenge, you will feel a great sense of success that is more powerful. This can help you take on new challenges and trying new things, hopefully helping you to reach your goals and increase your self-esteem.

Do not be too hard on yourself

Remember that this is a process. It will not be done quickly or easily, but you can do it. It takes time and that is okay, but remember that each person if different, if it take you longer than someone else, that is still okay. The important thing is that you are happy with where you are and where you want to be. Any amount of progress is still one step ahead of where you were and you should always be proud of that.

How to add self improvement into your daily routine

If you are wanting to add self improvement into your daily routine in order to reflect on who you are as a person, there are some simple steps that you can take to do so.

Gratitude Journal

Keeping a gratitude journal can be a great way to track what you are thankful for. It can help you to develop a positive and thankful mindset for what you have around you. This can limit your daily stress and introduce you to a new way of thinking.

Digital detox

Selecting a short amount of time in your day to detox from digital items can be helpful to be present with your thoughts and feelings away from the influence of social media. Instead, try putting this energy into another activity that is more beneficial or motivating, such as a hobby or walking.

A mindful meal

Eating mindfully is great for putting yourself into the present and making a calculated decision on a choice. Eating can often be something that we do without thought, we grab something to eat, eat it and continue with our day. However, if you can pick one meal a day to focus on and eat mindfully by eating slowly, notice when you are fully, pick your meal carefully to ensure you are getting the most out of your meal, and eat without any distractions, such as a tv or phone, it can be extremely beneficial.

What is self-love?

Self-love comes hand in hand with good and healthy levels of self-esteem. It is defined as the state of appreciation for oneself. This doesn't have to be instant and it can grow over time through actions such as self-improvement and growing your self-esteem. You can have a high regard for your happiness and your characteristics that make you who you are. It is great to have the ability to see ourselves as flawed, but still be capable of holding yourself to a high regard. This can help us to not fall into the area of low-self esteem, by promoting love for ourselves regardless of our abilities.

Self-Love vs Selfish

When we practice self-love or other forms of self-care, it can feel like we are being selfish because we are choosing to focus on our own needs instead of others. However, it is really important to know that self love is about being open and honest with yourself and loving who you are without judging yourself or a fear of being judged for who you are. By working on yourself, self-love can lead to a greater sense of love and care for those around us, which is something the selfishness does not do. It is okay to take a moment and prioritise your own needs. This does not mean that you are ignoring everybody else's.

Please do not hesitate to get help for any of the issues explored in this article if they are affecting you. Some of the best ways to find help are by:

  • Contacting your doctor
  • Visiting a local mental health centre
  • Find a GP that specialises in mental health
  • Contact the Samaritans
  • Call the mental health helpline

There is no shame in getting help throughout your journey to healthy self-esteem, happiness and self-love.

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