You Can Improve Your Self Esteem
By Pamela Kuehl, LPC
“Learning to like yourself is a journey, not a destination" is what I often find myself saying to clients time and time again. A social norm for our way of thinking is that we will like ourselves when we lose 50 pounds, buy a new outfit, or purchase a bigger house. The list could go on and on and on, but I think you get the point. When in reality, it is about how we like and see ourselves now that makes the journey more enjoyable.
Regularly clients will ask, “What is the difference between self-esteem, self-worth, or self-love"? This is a good question and I am still searching for the meaning. I never respond with the same answer twice because it’s individual and unique to each person. When researched, you will find many different concepts depending on the theory it derives from. In short, self-esteem, self-worth, or self-love are how you feel and see yourself.
Learning to like yourself is a lifelong process that involves positive and negative roadblocks. For most, the positive ones are easier to manage while the negative roadblocks often leave us feeling stuck. Listed below are 5 simple techniques to increase how you feel about yourself.
1. Thought Restructuring
Identify negative thought patterns and how these impact your behaviors. You have to break the chain of negative thought patterns. For example, often clients will give me a list of reasons to not exercise: “I have to do it”, “I don’t enjoy it”, or “I don’t have time”. Restructure this thought process and focus on the positive aspects of exercise and benefits you obtain from the behavior, such as “I am taking care of me”, “I am modeling good behaviors”, or best of all, "I am making the time".
2. Increasing Positive Self-talk
Identify the negative messages you send yourself and replace these with positive statements. For example, replace “I hate the flabby skin on my arms” with the statement “I am proud of the 100 lbs. I have lost". Focus on the positive.
3. Set Realistic Goals
Identify short-term and long-term goals that are reachable. Short-term goals are goals that are achieved in one to thirty days. For example, losing five pounds over 30 days. Long term goals are typically achieved one month or more. For example, losing 100 pounds in a year. Set goals that you can reach and achieve. This will build self-esteem because you are achieving your goals.
4. View Setbacks as Opportunities to Learn
We all have setbacks at times in our lives. We can choose to learn from them and move forward or let them take control and consume us. Make a list of the things you learned from your last setback and plan for how you will succeed next time. For example, a client reported she was at the mall and got hungry. She looked in her purse, but didn’t have any snacks with her. She was left with eating something from the food court. She reported she ate a pretzel and diet soda. This setback teaches her she needs to have a snack in her purse next time so she doesn’t end up eating impulsively.
5. Find a Quote or Image to Serve as Your Personal Motto
Find a quote or picture that can inspire you when you start to struggle or feel down. Post the quote or image in multiple places so it is visible and serves as a reminder. You are worth every moment of time and energy you spend on yourself.