Self-esteem is your opinion of yourself and your abilities. It can be high, low or somewhere in-between. While everyone occasionally has doubts about themselves, others experience self doubt more frequently and for longer periods of time. Low self-esteem can leave you feeling insecure, unmotivated and in search of a purpose or passion. It can feel as though something is lacking in your life.
As a Therapist and Life Coach one of the most common concerns I see amongst my clients is simply to feel more confident in a variety of different environments.
While your confident friends may say: “Well, just be confident!”, to a person experiencing a lack of confidence this piece of advice is not useful at all and can leave you feeling even more frustrated, wondering if there is something truly wrong with you. Rest assured that it is common that as we transition through the different phases of our life that we can find ourselves lacking in confidence and experiencing low self esteem. To combat those feelings, let’s look at some ways to get us back on track and restore your confidence and improving your self esteem.
You might be able to identify a few things that are affecting your opinion of yourself (maybe you’re being bullied, or you might be feeling lonely), or like many experience they just can’t pin point the reason “why”.
Confidence is built on different things and over time, so it is worthy to know that our choices and accomplishments feed our passion, thus making us feel happier and more confident in who we are. Discovering these things is one of the most worthwhile pursuits of your life. In my 8 week group therapy program, Labyrinth, you can learn how to develop your inner strength, build confidence, renew your passions and create healthy boundaries with others that are supportive of your values and purpose in life.
If you are wondering how to improve your self-esteem, I hope you will find something useful in this article to help you improve and maintain your own levels of confidence.
It starts with the easy to remember acronym, I'M HAPPY. This stands for Image, Mistakes, Happy, Action, Positivity, Principles, You!
- Image - Change you image (Smile, Groom yourself, Dress nicely, Stand tall)
- Mistakes - Everyone makes mistakes, nobody’s perfect / Realize that failure or being wrong will not kill you
- Happy - Do What Makes You Happy
- Action - Take action, Get it done / Get movin’, get active
- Positivity - Think positive / Act positive / Kill negative thoughts / Be nice to yourself
- Principles - Do The Right Thing / Know your principles and live them
- You do you - Get to know who you are and what you want out of life
Image - Change you image (Smile, Groom yourself, Dress nicely, Stand tall)
Smile. It's simple but it works. I feel instantly better when I smile, and it helps me to be kinder to others as well. People react positively to a person who is smiling, and will often smile back. It's a little tiny thing that can have a chain reaction.
Groom yourself. This seems like such an obvious one, but it’s amazing how much of a difference a shower and a shave can make in your feelings of self-confidence and for your self-image. There have been days when I turned my mood around completely with this one little thing.
Dress nicely. A corollary of the item above… if you dress nicely, you’ll feel good about yourself. You’ll feel successful and presentable and ready to tackle the world. Now, dressing nicely means something different for everyone. It doesn’t necessarily mean wearing an expensive outfit, but could mean casual clothes that are nice looking and presentable.
Stand tall. I have horrible posture, so it will sound hypocritical for me to give this advice, but I know it works because I try it often. When I remind myself to stand tall and straight, I feel better about myself. I imagine that a rope is pulling the top of my head toward the sky, and the rest of my body straightens accordingly. As an aside, people who stand tall and confident are more attractive. That’s a good thing any day, in my book.
Mistakes - Nobody’s perfect / Remember that everyone makes mistakes
Always strive to be the best version of yourself, but it’s also important to accept that perfection is an unrealistic goal.
You’ve got to make mistakes in order to learn and grow, so try not to beat yourself up if you forget to hit CTRL+S on a super-important assignment. Everyone’s been there.
It is only when you accept that, that you discover the thing that billions of people throughout history have discovered before you. Failure won't kill you. Nor will being wrong. The sky will not fall down. That's just what people that haven't faced their fear yet think. Those with a lot of confidence have learned that failure, far from being something that makes your legs shake, is something useful and important for your growth as a human being.
Happy - Do More Of What Makes You Happy
If you spend time doing the things you enjoy, you’re more likely to think positively. Try to schedule in a little you-time every day.
What do you love to do in your spare time? If it is to get outside, then go swim, hike a trail, go cycling, or just a walk around the block while enjoying the outdoors. Or do you live for lying on your couch while reading a good book or watching all the excellent television that's available? Whatever it is you love, create time for it, because life is short. If it makes you happy, make time for it. You need time to enrich your life and to recharge to be your best self.
Action - Get Things Done / Take action, Get it done / Get movin’ / Get active
The most important step in building self confidence is simply to take action. Work on something and get it done. Sitting at home and thinking about it will just make you feel worse (and lazy). Simple. But not always easy to do.
Get off your butt and get active — physically, or active by taking steps to accomplish something.
Confidence is built on accomplishment. If you achieve small goals, you're going to feel much better about yourself. This will lead to setting larger goals, and if you take action towards them, you will reach those as well. It begins with your day-to-day goals, what do you need to accomplish today. What do you need to accomplish every day this week or three days this week to help meet your goal? If you accomplish the goals you set for every day, chances are you will begin meeting weekly and monthly goals, which brings you in range of your bi-annual and annual goals.
Keep in mind that progress is incremental, and big changes do not happen overnight. You're going to feel like you can take a big project, and set an ambitious goal because you believe you can meet it. Set a goal for yourself, and go for it.
Positivity - Be nice to yourself / Think positive / Act positive / Kill negative thoughts
Negative Automatic Thoughts, you know what they are. It’s the tape that plays over and over in your head. It’s the commentary that continually tells you how terrible you are. In the therapy/coaching world, we call Negative Automatic Thoughts. N.A.T’s. You know, like the bug. Because those thoughts are just like a pesky bug. You are probably sitting there going well that’s great, I have a bug in my brain, now how do I get rid of it. The answer sits in this tiny little skill. It may sound too good to be true, but with practice, anyone can learn to get rid of the N.A.T.
Try it. Start thinking of that self negative talk as a N.A.T, a bug, in fact be vigilant in looking for them and when you find them, stomp it out (I mean mentally of course), squash it. Then replace it with a positive one followed by an action.
The key to success is more than just thinking positive, you have to put it into action. Action is the key to developing self-confidence. It’s one thing to learn to think positive, but when you start acting on it, you change yourself, one action at a time. You are what you do, and so if you change what you do, you change what you are. Acting in a positive way, taking action instead of telling yourself you can’t, be positive. Talk to people in a positive way, put energy into your actions. You’ll soon start to notice a difference and so will your family and friends. Before you know it, you will have a Healthy Self esteem.
Principles - Do The Right Thing / Know your principles and live them
What are the principles upon which your life is built? If you don’t know, you will have trouble, because your life will feel directionless. And if you have principles, but don't live by them, then you will always feel like a failure.
For myself, I try to live the Golden Rule (and fail often). This is my key principle, and I try to live my life in accordance with it. I have others, but they are mostly in some way related to this rule (the major exception being to “Live my Passion”). Think about your principles… you might have them but perhaps you haven’t given them much thought. Now think about whether you actually live these principles, or if you just believe in them but don’t act on them.
Most confident people live by a value system and make their decisions based on that value system, even when it's hard and not necessarily in their best interest, but in the interest of the greater good. Your actions and your decisions define your character. Ask yourself what the best version of yourself that you aspire to be would do, and do it. Even when it's really hard and it's the last thing you want to do and it means a short-term sacrifice on your part, in the long run you're going to like yourself more and be prouder of who you are.
You do you / Get to know who you are and what you want out of life
When going into battle, the wisest general learns to know his enemy very, very well. You can’t defeat the enemy without knowing him. And when you’re trying to overcome a negative self-image and replace it with self-confidence, your enemy is yourself. To conquer these self-doubts, get to know yourself well.
Figure out what really excites you by simply trying a whole bunch of stuff out. Go exploring. Face some of your fears. Fail over and over and understand that it isn't really that big of a deal.
When you know more about who you are and what you want out of life – not what other people say you want – you will have more confidence in yourself and what you can do.
When that happens, what other people say or think will have less of an impact than it used to because you know who you are better than they do. And since you have had all these experiences, since you have taken time to really get to know yourself and stretch yourself you will trust your own opinion and ability more than anything outside of you.
This will of course take time. It may be something that never really ends.