I happen to think that healthy self-esteem is one of the most important attributes of a happy and productive person.
My reasoning is simple: those who don’t believe in themselves automatically inhibit their potential by not thinking they are capable or deserving of achieving their values and goals in life.
But those who do believe in themselves are willing to do their very best in whatever situation they find themselves in. And even when they fail, they believe they can learn from it and overcome it.
The big difference? One person feels capable, the other doesn’t. One tries their best, the other gives up after the tiniest bit of struggle.
Healthy self-esteem can make all the difference between a person who achieves their dreams and goals, and a person who never even gives themselves a fair chance. Without it, it doesn’t matter how many strengths or talents you have, because in all likelihood you’ll never have the courage to use them.
So how we think about ourselves and treat ourselves is incredibly important, and it’s not something to be taken lightly.
Here are some commonsense tips and suggestions I have for anyone who is working on building their self-esteem:
1. Reflect on your strengths and accomplishments
Deep down, I really believe that everyone offers some kind of value to this world. We all have our own particular strengths and talents, and when we focus on these good aspects of ourselves, we are more likely to build off of them and accomplish some pretty remarkable things in the process.
A lot of people have strengths that they don’t acknowledge for whatever reason. Maybe they are bashful. Maybe they don’t want to show off.
But I say when we make our strengths shine we make the world a better place. We create something valuable, and we inspire others to purse their strengths as well. Believing in yourself doesn’t have to just be about you, it can be about how you can improve society as a whole. Feeling good about yourself doesn’t need to be perceived as a “selfish” or “narcissistic” thing.
2. Exercise and stay healthy
An important thing to remember about mental health is that our mind and bodies are one and the same. If you treat your body like crap, then you’re probably going to psychologically feel like crap too.
Recent research has made it crystal clear that those who take care of their bodies and exercise frequently show less signs of depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem.
In general, people who take care of their bodies have more respect for themselves. No one feels good after munching on a full bag of Doritos or a whole night of heavy drinking. Learn how to minimize your bad habits and start investing more time eating healthier and trying to stay fit.
Start simple by cutting out all soda or going for morning walks every other day. Once you start building healthy habits they will begin to come second-nature. I guarantee you will start feeling better about yourself almost right away.
3. Accept things you can’t change
Everyone has some things about their life that aren’t perfect. Some of those things we have control over, but a lot of those things we don’t have control over (like certain physical attributes, genetic limitations, and other environmental factors).
Despite these shortcomings, we have to learn to accept them – without feeling bitter, assigning blame, or fostering negativity toward ourselves.
Accept the fact that everyone is dealt a different hand in this game of life, and some people have to face more obstacles than others.
It wasn’t Viktor Frankl’s fault that he was a Jew during the Holocaust and thus got locked up in a concentration camp for most of his life. However, he learned to find satisfaction in his life despite these external circumstances – by accepting them and instead focusing on the aspects of life he did have control over.
4. Learn how to reframe
Reframing is learning how to change your perspective about a certain situation or experience.
For example, successful people (in any domain of life) often view “failures” as learning experiences – and by looking at their failures from this perspective they become more motivated to improve themselves.
On the other hand, people who don’t have this perspective often view “failures” as evidence of their incompetence. Instead of being educated and motivated by them, they think of them as proof that they should quit.
5. Have a passion
A passion is any activity that we find intrinsically satisfying. Often when we talk about it, people notice a fire in our souls. And when we actually engage in the activity, we get lost in a state of flow – hours go by, but we don’t notice because we are so indulged in what we are doing.
Everyone needs a passion. Everyone needs that something that resonates deeply and makes them tick.
Maybe your passion is music, or baseball, or computer programming, or photography, or parenting? Maybe it is all of the above.
Most people don’t just have one single passion, but multiple ones. The important thing is that we have something to get excited about. Because without a passion our lives can quickly become very dull.
6. Be social
No matter how introverted or extroverted you may be, I believe everyone needs to have some kind of social life. Even if your social circle is only 2-3 close friends, it’s important that you have people who support you and are on your side.
For many reasons, humans have evolved to be social creatures. By working together, we have constructed many institutions (marriage, technology, science, government) that have enhanced our ability to survive and adapt to our environment.
Individuals that fail to fulfill their duties as a social being often feel depressed and isolated. They go through life with no sense of “belonging” (like the kind Maslow defines in his “Hierarchy of Needs”) and it becomes difficult to build positive and rewarding relationships that improve our lives.
Although we may like to believe that self-esteem is something that is solely about us – the truth is that our self-esteem is highly dependent on our ability to connect with others in a meaningful way.
7. Adopt a confident posture
A lot of research in psychology demonstrates that you become what you pretend to be. In other words, by adopting a confident posture and using body language as if we have high self-esteem, very often those habits begin spilling over into our attitude and self-perception.
A straight back, open posture, and warm smile are some of the key habits that studies have shown increase our well-being and self-esteem. And by mimicking these behaviors (even if at first it seems a bit fake), we can begin to adopt a more positive perception of ourselves.
8. Poke fun at yourself
I’ve noticed that those with the highest self-esteem are also the first people to poke fun at themselves
This is probably because individuals with true self-esteem don’t feel the need to take themselves too seriously. They have a healthy and modest ego, so they see little need to boast, brag, or try to impress everyone.
Instead, they acknowledge their imperfections with a sense of humility and humor.
When they make a mistake, they give a sincere apology. And when something embarrassing happens to them, they see it as an opportunity to share a funny story in exchange for a few laughs.
When you become comfortable in your own skin, you are often much more willing to take wise cracks about yourself around other people. The irony is that when you do this people end up actually liking you more (even though you aren’t deliberately trying to “win” anyone over or make yourself out to be anyone who you aren’t).
9. Respect everyone as equals
Another trend I find is that those who have deep-down insecurities about themselves often disrespect and mistreat others.
It’s possible that they find themselves to be insecure with who they are, so they project that insecurity onto others in order to make themselves feel better.
Part of the problem comes from the “social comparison trap.” Many people unconsciously (and sometimes consciously) compare themselves to other people and judge whose situation is “better” or “worse.” This kind of judgmental thinking can often hurt ourselves, because it gives the appearance that life is a constant conflict between “us” and “them.” It can also lead us to believe that the “grass is always greener on the other side,” and we can never find contentment with our own lot in life.
Instead, I recommend (as corny as it may sound) that we try to take a more egalitarian approach to how we view others. I sincerely believe that there is good in everyone and everyone has their own unique place in this world (hey, I said it wasn’t going to get corny), therefore, I have a strong belief that everyone is deserving of some respect (even those who may have been misguided at some point in their life).
As Plato wisely said, “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”
And I find that when you show compassion toward others, it becomes that much easier to show compassion toward yourself as all. We are all just humans – imperfect, but ultimately just trying to find happiness.
10. Take responsibility
A person who takes responsibility for their actions will always be better off than someone who doesn’t take responsibility.
Responsibility is the acceptance of our personal power.
The idea is that we do have some control over our lives, but only if we become more conscious of the actions we take on a daily, moment-by-moment, basis.
The problem is most people go through life similar to a puppet on strings – they take little responsibility for their life situation – and instead consider themselves to be merely a victim of outside circumstance.
This process of “victimization” is the opposite of taking responsibility. Victimization is when we believe that everything negative in our life is due to some external force that we have no control over.
But taking control of the negativity in our lives requires that we first take SOME responsibility and accept that we play a causal role in how our lives end up.
Of course, this doesn’t mean we have complete 100% power over our reality (that would be taking it to an extreme). Clearly, as I mentioned in point 3 – “Accept the things you can’t change,” there are always some limitations to how much we can improve ourselves.
The really important thing is that we learn to distinguish what aspects of our lives are (and aren’t) in our control, then we assign responsibility to ourselves when it’s appropriate. Only then can we really take conscious control over our lives and build healthy self-esteem.
Katt Williams on “Self-Esteem” (Warning: NSFW language)
Stay updated on new articles and resources in psychology and self improvement: