Self-esteem isn't just how you view yourself, it's at the centre of everything you do — your decisions, your thoughts and how you carry yourself through the world. A healthy esteem allows you to feel secure in your decisions and comfortable with your abilities — giving you the confidence to try new things and achieve your goals.
Improving self-esteem might seem like an impossible task, especially if self-doubt is swirling through your head. Luckily, there are some simple ways to boost your self-esteem and we chatted with psychologist Amy Newsom to find out more.
1. Challenge negative self-talk
"Just one small positive thought in the morning can change your whole day." ― The Dalai Lama
Negative self-talk is the little voice inside your head telling you, “You can't”, “you shouldn't” and “you're not good enough”. Your inner dialogue is extremely powerful, with the potential to limit belief in your abilities and the capacity to reach your potential.
It might seem strange at first, but challenging those thoughts is a powerful tool for improving self-esteem. Ultimately, you should treat yourself with the same kindness you would afford to the people you love the most.
Amy's advice: "Imagine what this 'inner critic' voice looks like or sounds like and really try to separate it from yourself. Once you've done that, you can talk back to it with more helpful self-talk as if you are your own ‘inner cheerleader’. And telling yourself that you can in fact do something is the first step to believing you can."
2. Be kind to others
"No one is useless in this world who lightens the burdens of another." ― Charles Dickens
Giving back to others is one of the most underrated ways to improve your mood. Not only does it release feel-good hormones, but it's a fool-proof path to boosting your self-esteem — going against the self-belief that you lack value. On top of these benefits, you get to make other people's lives a little bit better.
Amy's advice: "Humans have a tendency to mirror each other's emotions, so if you are putting out kindness you will most likely receive kindness back."
3. Don't compare yourself to others
"Comparison is the thief of joy." ― Theodore Roosevelt
Theodore Roosevelt was right; comparing yourself and your life to others is a guaranteed path to feelings of inferiority or superiority — none of which are synonymous with emotional health. However, humans have a tendency to compare themselves to people they consider better than them, rather than the other way around, so you rarely come away from a comparison feeling good.
Amy's advice: "If you notice you're comparing yourself to others, try to take a less judgmental, curious approach. For example, if you find yourself staring at the one person on the bus who you consider more beautiful than you, look around at all the other people on the bus, and notice the diversity of everyone's appearances ― some people are shorter, taller, with longer legs or a wider face ― and that is okay!"
4. Fake it until you make it
"If somebody offers you an amazing opportunity but you are not sure you can do it, say yes—then learn how to do it later!" ― Richard Branson
Human beings are naturally risk-averse, particularly if the risk is looking silly. It's common for people to avoid trying new things, or saying yes to new opportunities, because they are afraid of looking foolish, or even worse, failing.
You don't need to know everything to try something new — in fact, nobody starts out as an expert. And once you cross the precipice into the unknown, you'll find that almost everyone is figuring things out as they go: your friends, your boss and even your parents.
Amy's advice: "Start by doing more of the things you're good at to remind yourself of your strengths. Then, apply this to other activities which you might still be learning. If you go in with the same 'can do' attitude, then you're much more likely to succeed rather than going in focusing on all the things you struggle with. There is a feedback loop between the brain and body - sometimes you’ll have to motivate yourself with thoughts first, but other times you can start with the action and then the confident thoughts will follow."
5. Surround yourself with supportive people
"Always work with and surround yourself with people who help make you a better version of you. Kindly avoid those who don't." ― Don Roff
The people in your inner circle can have a profound effect on your self-esteem. Surrounding yourself with positive people, can help uplift you when you’re struggling to uplift yourself. In fact, we tend to mirror people's behaviour, so soon enough you might find yourself being positive and uplifting too.
Amy's advice: "People who back you help you back yourself! Find friends and a support network who focus on your strengths and make you feel good about yourself, rather than people who leave you feeling inadequate."
6. Celebrate the small things
"It's the little details that are vital. Little things make big things happen." ― John Wooden
Every discovery, breakthrough or achievement in history didn't happen overnight — they were the result of a million different achievements rolled into one. It's easy to fall into the trap of judging yourself on 'big' achievements and only feeling pride when ticking off the whole task.
Celebrating your small victories is a great way to build self-confidence and achieve bigger goals. Success breeds success, so if you can start small and build momentum, you are much more likely to reach your goal.
Amy's advice: "If you are struggling to work towards something in the future, pause at the end of the day and remind yourself of all the small things you've already achieved. Did you make your bed? Bought groceries? Support a friend? Write these down and tick them off to remind yourself of things you have already done."
7. Challenge yourself
"You can choose courage, or you can choose comfort, but you cannot choose both." ― Brené Brown
Your comfort zones might feel safe and secure, but you are potentially missing out on growth and opportunity by staying in it. If you listen to your ‘inner critic’ you are less likely to put yourself out there and try something new.
Pushing past your comfort zone can be both scary and rewarding, proving to yourself that you are capable of more than you give yourself credit for.
Amy's advice: "If you use positive self-talk, focus on your strengths and break goals down into smaller challenges, you can break out of your comfort zone and build up your self-esteem step by step."
8. Practice saying no
"No" is a complete sentence." ― Annie Lamott
Boundaries set the guidelines for how we would like to be treated by others. They remind us that we are just as important as everyone else and that we deserve the same respect and consideration that we give the people around us. Good boundaries ensure that personal relationships are mutual, respectful and caring and allow us to be uplifted by relationships, instead of dragged down.
Amy's advice: "Reflect on where your boundaries are, in relationships, at work or in your household. Once you decide where you will draw the line, stick to it as best you can. Saying no may feel uncomfortable in the short-term, but will improve your sense of self in the long term. On the flip side, saying yes may help to please someone else in the short-term, but have a long-lasting impact on you."
9. Make time for self-care
"You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection." ― Buddha
Making time for yourself always seems like the least important item on our to-do list. However, self-care is the ultimate act of self-love, which shows yourself that you’re worth looking after. Self-care is not just a compassionate thing to do, it's a smart thing to do.
Taking time to do things just for us makes us more productive at work, more engaged when we catch up with friends, and more focused when we approach a challenging task.
Amy's advice: "Remember the oxygen mask analogy on an aircraft — we are told to fit our own oxygen masks first so that we can help others. If we don't take time out for us, we leave ourselves vulnerable to burn out and fatigue."
10. Move your body
“Do something today that your future self will thank you for.” ― Sean Patrick Flanery
The benefits of exercise are undeniable. In addition to the obvious physical benefits, exercise releases chemicals in the body that reduce feelings of depression and anxiety, improves memory, cognitive function and self-esteem. Although the ideal amount of exercise is 30-60 minutes three times a week, a short burst of daily physical activity is enough to enjoy all the benefits exercise offers. No matter your abilities, there’s a way to move your body and improve your mood.
Amy's advice: "Choose a form of physical activity that you enjoy. There is no point in doing exercise that you dread. To make you feel even better, link movement to something else you enjoy, such as catching up with a friend or listening to your favourite podcast."
About Amy Newsom
Amy is a registered psychologist with a keen interest in the treatment of eating disorders, and extensive experience working with people with a disability and their families. Amy is passionate about making a difference in the lives of individuals, using an empathic approach and a range of therapeutic styles.