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Practical ways to build self-esteem

For most people looking to build their self-esteem, the first step is to raise their awareness and understanding of what might be affecting their sense of self-worth. Clients often ask me ‘so now what?’ once they have gained this self-awareness and I can understand their frustration; they’ve done the hard (and often painful) work to understand where their lack of self-esteem stems from but then feel at a loss for how to begin to build their esteem and self-compassion.

Here are some activities you can do to build your self-esteem. The best thing about it is that you can start TODAY.

Accept compliments. How many times has someone complimented what you’re wearing and you’ve said ‘oh this old thing, it’s just from Primark’ or congratulated you for passing an exam and you think ‘I could have done better, I could have got an A’. Don’t sabotage the compliment by talking yourself down, accept it for what it is even if your mind is telling you otherwise. Oh and by the way, when someone compliments what you’re wearing, what they’re really saying is that what you’re wearing looks great on you!

Set yourself a challenge or project. Find something you like doing whether it be something physical like playing a sport, something arts and crafty, cooking or learning a language. Get out there and do something you enjoy. You can even set yourself achievable goals and challenges such as running a 5k or learning to cook a certain recipe. Achieving these things can make you feel more positively about yourself.

Stop comparing yourself to others. Easier said than done, right? This takes time and practice but when you notice that you’re comparing yourself to someone else, gently remind yourself that everybody’s circumstances are different and that sometimes what people project about themselves (particularly on social media) isn’t a full, accurate picture.

Write a list of what you like about yourself. You could include things about your appearance, personality, what you’re good at, your role in relationships, what you like doing etc. If you find it too difficult, you could ask some friends and family to help.

Avoid talking negatively about yourself. How many times in the past week have you criticised yourself in a way that you wouldn’t dream do to others? Next time you catch yourself doing this, take a step back and consider whether you would talk to a friend in this way? If the answer is no, think about how you could reframe your thinking to be more constructive than critical.

Look after yourself. Eat a balanced diet, exercise, drink enough water, get enough sleep, don’t drink too much alcohol or smoke. Sounds obvious but if we feel physically well, we’re more likely to feel better about ourselves.

Celebrate the small stuff. I’m telling you that it’s ok and acceptable to feel proud of yourself. If you’ve done something well today even if it’s something small, give yourself a pat on the back and bask in the wonderfulness that is you.

Do something nice for someone else. People say ‘it’s better to give than receive’ and they’re right, it does feel good to give. Even if it’s just smiling at strangers you pass walking down the street or complimenting a colleague at work, it feels good when we bring a bit of joy to someone else’s day.

Say ‘no’ once in a while. When we say yes to something we don’t really want to do, or don’t have time to do, we’re saying no to something else. Be assertive and say no sometimes if it’s affecting the time that you have to yourself.

Building self-esteem takes time, patience and dedication but I believe that everyone can do it!

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