5 Ways to Build Lasting Self-Esteem


There are many benefits to having higher self-esteem, including bouncing back from rejection and failure quickly, having less anxiety, and generally feeling better about yourself.  Improving your self-esteem, and making it last, can be a bit difficult though.  It’s hard to keep up with something that can fluctuate depending on the situation, and who we’re around.  You also don’t want to boost your self-esteem so much that you overdo it; while you might feel great about yourself most of the time, it can make you more vulnerable to criticism and negative feedback, and your responses to it will probably be extreme.

Psychologist Guy Winch has provided five ways to build your self-esteem:

  1. Use positive affirmations correctly:

While most people are familiar with saying things to themselves such as, “I am going to be a great success!” they don’t do much for people who don’t already have high self-esteem.  For people with low self-esteem, these types of statements seem so far out of reach that they make them feel even worse about themselves.  If you do have low self-esteem, try changing it to something along the lines of, “I’m going to persevere until I succeed!”  This gives you something a bit more grounded, while still having the same end goal.

  1. Identify your competencies and develop them:

Sit down with yourself and figure out what you’re good at.  If you’re not sure, ask your relatives and friends.  Whatever you’re good at, start doing it more often.  If you’re a good cook, invite people over so you can cook for them; if you’re a good runner, sign up for marathons and train for them.  Getting better at things you’re good at can give you a boost, and in some cases can even lead to careers.

  1. Learn to accept compliments:

It can be hard to believe people if they compliment us when we’re feeling bad about ourselves.  Even though it’s when we most need them they can make us uncomfortable, as if we don’t deserve them, and we often reject compliments when they’re given.  Try to start tolerating compliments, and reply with “Thank you” or something along the lines of “How nice of you to say.”  While it will be awkward at first, you’ll get used to receiving them, and the impulse to reject compliments will fade.

  1. Eliminate self-criticism and introduce self-compassion:

We are often our own harshest critics, and when our self-esteem is low we tend to criticize ourselves more.  This can become a habit very quickly, and is almost always a useless one.  If you notice you’re criticizing yourself too much, pretend you’re talking to a friend in the same situation.  We are generally more compassionate toward our friends than we are to ourselves; take what you would say to your friend and apply it to yourself.  Being compassionate with yourself will keep overly critical thoughts from damaging your self-esteem further.

  1. Affirm your real worth:

This is for when your self-esteem has suffered a serious blow.  The best suggested exercise to help your self-esteem in a case like this is to make a list of meaningful qualities you possess in that specific context.  Some examples include listing qualities that make you a good relationship prospect when you’ve had a bad date, or listing qualities that make you a valuable employee if you failed to get a promotion.  After you make your list, take one of the qualities and write a paragraph or two on why that quality is valuable, and how it might be appreciated by others in the future.  Do this with a different quality every day, or whenever your self-esteem needs a boost.

Improving your self-esteem can be difficult, but if you’re willing to work hard to establish better emotional habits, it is possible.  To learn more about healthier emotional habits visit http://ideas.ted.com/5-ways-to-build-lasting-self-esteem/.