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Building Self-esteem from Within

(This blog post was written by Reena Singh, LMHC. Reena is an Associate Therapist at our practice and specializes in working with individuals.)

As human beings we are, sadly, more inclined to focus on all our flaws rather than the positive aspects of ourselves.  This negative focus inevitably leads us down a path of diminished self-esteem that affects our work and relationships, and can ultimately wreak havoc on our emotional and physical well-being.

As a method of self-preservation, we often develop a set of maladaptive strategies to conceal these “flaws” and compensate for what we think is wrong with us.  We constantly look for ways to improve ourselves instead of focusing on all we have to offer in this very moment.  While “Improving” oneself can be positive in some respects, it can also become dangerous when the need to do so constantly renews itself –think of it as a mountain that keeps growing ahead of you as you hike it.  The only way to reach the summit, or our goal of improved self-esteem, is when we choose a trail that helps us to build our self-esteem from within.

We can help ourselves along this journey through the cultivation of acceptance, mindfulness and gratitude which are healthy alternatives for “self-improvement.”  Read more about this below:

Acceptance: Human beings are wildly imperfect which is also what makes us beautiful and interesting.  Instead of rejecting your imperfections, learn to accept all parts of yourself even those that are “less-esteemed” than others parts.  You are you and you are wonderfully unique.  Your values, opinions and perspective comprise who you are as a person; cherish that and trust that is enough.

As you go through your day, occasionally check in with yourself and ask yourself “Do I accept who I am in this very moment?”  This task brings us back to the “here and now” and enables us to become more aware of our accepting/rejecting thoughts.  By simply becoming aware of these thoughts, we can gain control of the way that they play out in our lives.

Mindfulness:  In moments that we find ourselves feeling unworthy or inadequate, we can often get carried away with the negative stories that we have on repeat to accompany those feelings.  One negative emotion can snowball into an endless story in our mind of why we are not good enough.  An emotion typically lasts for 90 seconds.  90 seconds – that’s it!  During these 90 seconds we can make a choice to emotionally spiral out of control or mindfully stay in control of our emotions.

When negative thoughts arise, try to repeat a phrase or mantra in your mind to combat those thoughts.  Some examples are “I am enough,”  “These negative thoughts arise out of negative past experiences and are not true,” “I am strong, kind and confident.” 

Words or phrases are often powerful in moments of self-doubt or negative talk, and can be even more powerful when coupled with gentle touch. While saying your mantra, try placing one hand on your heart and one hand on your abdomen while taking deep breaths as a way to reassure your body and mind that you are ok, you are loved and that these are just thoughts, not reality.

 Gratitude:  Cultivate an attitude of gratitude!  Every moment is a lovely gift; relish in it!  When we suffer from low self-esteem we often forget about all the things we enjoy in life and tend to focus on the negatives of ourselves and our situations.  Paying attention to the experiences that give us pleasure and acknowledging the positive parts of ourselves gives us a larger capacity to experience joy.

On a daily basis, acknowledge someone or something that you are grateful for and write it down.  It may be a person that gave their seat up to you during your morning commute, a flower poking up from the sidewalk, or even a simple hug from a loved one.  Focus on these moments of joy and commit 5 minutes of your day to writing them down in a gratitude journal.  When you are caught in moments of self-doubt or feelings of inadequacy, re-read your gratitude list and notice your attitude change.

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