Building Yourself Up: 3 Ways to Improve Self-Esteem

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Let’s face it: your quality of life is somewhat contingent on how you view yourself. Life seems rosier and more feasible when you believe you can face it head on; by that same token, when you lack confidence in yourself, otherwise simple tasks may seem insurmountable.

However, feeling good about oneself is easier said than done. On any given day, an individual person may be exposed to at least 500 advertisements, many of which propound messages on how to be beautiful, successful, and likable in today’s society. While there’s little that can be done about the messages themselves, we can change how we choose to receive them and, more importantly, how we view ourselves. Try these three ideas to improve your self-esteem:

1. Take note of what you want and what you need — and act accordingly.

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One of the most crippling aspects of low self-esteem is the negative belief system that goes along with it. Thoughts like, “I’m so unattractive,” or “I can’t do anything right,” are global self-defeatist beliefs that end up perpetuating a cyclical effect: You think you will not succeed, then you either don't succeed or write off your success, and then you find your beliefs justified.

When you stop thinking about what you may or may not “deserve” and start thinking of what you want or need, then you start to see without these cognitive blinders. For instance, if you feel you do not deserve a raise at work for whatever reason, you are unlikely to obtain one. However, if you see situations objectively and recognize your hard work to see that you’ve earned it, your view can shift dramatically. When you stop placing value judgments and instead look at situations for what they are, you begin shedding these negative self-appraisals.

2. Create a positive environment.

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When I feel poorly about or lack confidence in myself, I make an extra effort to look particularly nice. Fashion is important to all of us College Fashion readers, so I am sure I am preaching to the choir when I say that dressing well offers an ego boost on the most difficult and trying of days.

There is more that goes into cultivating positive energy than just dressing well. Surrounding yourself with positive people is an important factor in feeling good. But other people aren't the only thing that plays a hand; your thoughts and words also contribute to your environment. By being aware of negative perceptions and choosing to stop thinking them or adjust them accordingly, you help contribute to building a positive environment in which positive self-esteem can flourish.

3. Give yourself rewards, regardless of whether you “deserve” them or not.

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I loved my time in college, but as a now very recent graduate, I recognize that one of the worst “skills” I learned was how to reward myself. A new pair of shoes if I earned an A on a midterm or a muffin if I trudged through an insufferable textbook were both incentives I dangled in front of myself to keep going. This was all well and good when slogging through the tedious academic mire, but this rewards system can encourage unhealthy behavior when applied to other areas of life.

So why is this so bad? It's because over time, using a rewards system suggests that you need to “deserve” nice things in order to have them. Or if you do let yourself have nice things, then you start feeling an inkling of guilt tickling in the back of your mind. What a terrible mindset to live in! The finer things in life should not always be the reward for hard work. Using a rewards system is an effective approach to monotonous tasks — and so long as you don’t overdo it. But if you still feel you need to “deserve” the things you want, then start rewarding yourself for things that really count instead of only accomplishments (i.e. being a good friend, having a good sense of humor, etc.).

What do you think?

What do you do when you are feeling poorly about yourself? What was your favorite tip? What do you think about the images that we get from the media, our peers, etc.? How do you try and combat these images? Leave me a comment and let me know!