Wellness Toolbox

Self-esteem

Why is Self-Esteem Important?

Your self-esteem, or how you value yourself as a person, affects your mind, body and relationships. Although you might not be aware of it, your self-esteem influences your life every day—the choices you make, the way you feel in new situations, and how you appear to other people. Positive self-esteem is both a cause and a result of healthy living. Just as you can learn to change unhealthy habits, you can take steps to improve your self-esteem.

If you generally feel good about yourself, your moods will be balanced, your energy will tend to be positive, you will be open to communicating with others and empowered to take on challenges. If you have healthy self-esteem, you will be less likely to blame other people for your mistakes or misfortunes. You will be able to accept criticism—and therefore more likely to learn new skills. Generally speaking, if your self-esteem is healthy, you will be most comfortable and secure forming honest relationships. You will be able to deal competently with stressful situations. You will tend to make healthy choices, and to appreciate the things that are good about your life.

Building Self-esteem

Just as you can learn good eating habits, you can learn to replace negative thoughts or beliefs with more positive, realistic ones. Many health professionals recommend Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) techniques to help you unlearn the habits of negative thinking thought that contribute to low self-esteem.

Notice How You Talk to Yourself

Notice when your thoughts turn negative. Negative thoughts can trigger physical, emotional and behavioral responses, such as, stomach problems, changes in sleeping patterns, difficulty concentrating, or eating when not hungry.

  • “I can’t do this. I’m stupid at math.”
  • “Nobody ever likes me.”
  • “I know I’m going to mess up the presentation.”

Do these putdowns sound familiar? Who else has talked to you this way in the past? Why are you still listening to them?

Try Changing the Way You Talk to Yourself

Give yourself a break.

  • “I can handle this. I may make a mistake, and if I do, I will learn from it.”
  • “What can I do to help the situation?”

Sometimes it’s hard to see what is wrong with negative thinking. Be patient with yourself. If you catch yourself having a negative thought, ask yourself if it is true. For example, “If I fail my driver’s test, that means I’ll never be able to pass it.” Does it really? Or does it mean only that you have something more to learn before your next attempt?

Set Realistic Goals

Start with small steps and give yourself credit for each little step you achieve. Instead of worrying about being perfect, praise yourself for making an effort. By taking small steps, you can grow beyond what you thought you were capable of being.

Develop a positive attitude, one step at a time

The more you do things that matter to you, the better you will feel.

Dance, travel, volunteer and read. Find a creative outlet. Draw, sing or knit. The more you let your creativity flow, the more you will be engaged in your life.

Jot down positive thoughts and post them where you will see them. Here are a few:

  • "Every day is a fresh start."
  • "Every mistake I make is a chance to learn."
  • "I deserve support and will ask for help when I need it."

Achieving Healthy Self-esteem

Remember—change takes time and is an ongoing process. With practice, recognizing negative thought habits may come more easily to you. Because self-esteem can go up and down over time, you may want to keep a daily journal to help you track your progress.

Achieving a balanced, clear view of yourself and accepting your value as a unique person can help you feel happier and more confident. And that may rub off on others too, including your children, family and friends.