Improve your low self-esteem

How to have healthy self-esteem

Following my recent post What you really must know about self-esteem here, I took a short break before publishing this post on how to improve low self-esteem. I’d had a major issue with WordPress that took 2 full days and nights to remedy, so sleep didn’t happen and my mood plummeted! I’d been changing my URL and WordPress made a huge error so, anyone clicking on my old website mental health from the other side won’t find me.

That site is now a dead-end and I’d really appreciate if anyone with my old links would now change it to mentalhealth360, and thank you to those who already have. Even more infuriating is, in their wisdom, WordPress decided they’d add only the last twenty of my 139 posts to the reader of my new site. I could cry. Anyway, swiftly moving on:

How can we improve our low self esteem?

This is what we covered in my last post (here), ending with what

Vicious circle of low self-esteem
Low self-esteem circle
  • is self-esteem
  • is low self-esteem
  • causes low self-esteem
  • effect does self-esteem have on us, and
  • is low self-esteem a mental illness

So, I guess this is the bit you’ve been waiting for. For this part, I’m not going to reinvent the wheel, so I’ve chosen to use the following exercise number 1 from our wonderful NHS:

1. How to have healthy self-esteem.

You’ll note my comments in green.

Expert help can improve low self-esteem
Healthy self-esteem — Image by pngfuel.com

This activity takes time and cannot be rushed. The purpose of this activity is to help you get into the habit of finding the positive in all things. It also helps you get in touch with the negative things you tell yourself. Remember, by constantly changing your thoughts, you will change the way you feel.

To boost your self-esteem, you need to identify the negative beliefs you have about yourself, then challenge them. You can do this by marking out two columns on a sheet of paper, at the top write Automatic Negative Thoughts (ANTs) and Positive thought replacement.

Now, in the first column, write down a few of your ANTs.

An example might be, you messed up your presentation at work and your first ANT might be “everyone thinks I’m an idiot”, so in the next column, you challenge that by asking is that true? Probably not, now look for a positive thought i.e. “The rest of my presentation went well so, no, they didn’t all think I’m an idiot”

You may write you’re “too stupid” to apply for a new job in the first column, for example, or that “nobody cares” about you. Next, write some evidence that challenges these negative beliefs, such as, “I’m really good at cryptic crosswords” or “My sister calls for a chat every week”.

Write down other positive things about yourself, such as “I’m thoughtful” or “I’m a great cook” or “I’m someone that others trust”.

Also, write some good things that other people say about you i.e. “you’re kind and really funny – you’re my best friend.” Great, she wouldn’t have you as a best friend if you had no positive attributes, would she?

It will take time to change your long-held views and negative thoughts. Just think tho’ — you wouldn’t be able to pass your driving test after just one lesson, would you? You have to practice. Be patient with yourself and do your best. Repeat as often as you can to help develop a more positive outlook on life.

Aim to have at least 5 positive things on your list and add to it regularly. Then put your list somewhere you can see it. That way, you can keep reminding yourself that you’re Okay. I used to use little colour post-it notes and stick them on my bedroom wall, so they were always visible.

2. Low Self-Esteem and Self-acceptance

Book: Six Pillars of self-esteem -improve low self-esteem.
I have no affiliation with this book

“The greatest crime we commit against ourselves is not that we may deny or disown our shortcomings, but that we deny and disown our greatness — because it frightens us.”

Nathaniel Branden, The Six Pillars of Self-Esteem

This next exercise “Big I, Little i” is about working on self-acceptance, another way to help boost your self-esteem.

Self-acceptance is not the same as self-esteem. Though it’s related, self-esteem refers to how worthwhile and valuable we are. Self-acceptance, on the other hand, is accepting ourselves holistically. For example, we recognize our limitations and weaknesses together with our strengths and capabilities, but in a positive way. We don’t let them interfere with how we accept ourselves.

A Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) technique, the Big ‘I’ and Little ‘i’ worksheet, acts as a tool to help you accomplish self-acceptance.

“Big I, Little i” technique (Arnold Lazarus), Journal of Human Development and Communication, Volume 7, 2018 [61-70] 63

Imagine your boss asked you to complete a task by the end of the week and you miss the deadline. So, you’ve made a mistake. What normally happens to us when we make a mistake, is that we make an over-generalised self-appraisal of ourselves like “I’m useless!” That “I’m useless!” is a negative self-statement that implies zero value in all areas of our lives. We’ve crossed out the whole of the Big I.

However, we only made a single mistake so that’s one little ‘i’ but what we do instead of crossing off that one little ‘i’, is cross our whole selves out. Essentially we’ve crossed out the whole Big I. We’ve made an over-generalised self-appraisal that’s self-blaming and self-damning. Eventually, this type of over-generalising will result in anxiety, depression, and guilt.

Your turn

Coloured image - five pairs of hands, making a heart shape with a small tree growing inside
Kind and caring nature — Image by Pinterest

Now, click on the Big I, little i picture above and scroll down ’til you see the diagram. You’ll note that it’s a Big I filled with hundreds of little i’s and this is your worksheet.

The Big I is you, in total. The hundreds of little i’s are all the various parts of you; your thoughts, actions or characteristics like your empathy, compassion, kindness, honesty, and caring nature.

So whenever you make a negative self-appraisal, cross out only one little ‘i’. You can continue in this way all day and for every ‘error’, cross out another little ‘i’. I doubt you’d even be able to cross out a whole line of little ‘i’s let alone the whole Big I, which is you. So the Big I (you) remains intact because you’ve only crossed out one line of little i’s.

Just think, lying to a friend once doesn’t make you a liar forever. This is you evaluating yourself based on your characteristics, thoughts or actions rather than overgeneralising. Whenever you refer the ‘I’ as yourself, you should remember that the ‘I’ is not totally you but it’s just a part of you.

3. Build Positive Relationships

There are certain people, certain friendships and relationships—that make you feel better than others. If you have people in your life who make you feel bad about yourself, try to avoid them.

Build new/other friendships with people who’ll cheer you on, encourage you, and make you feel good about yourself. Get rid of those friendships that pull you down.

4. Learn to Say No

This man was asked to do extra work. Learning to say no can improve low self- esteem.
self-assertiveness to self-esteem — Image by pngfuel.com

People with low self-esteem sometimes find it difficult to stand up for themselves or say no to others.

Have you ever felt over-burdened at home or at work, because you don’t like to refuse anyone or anything? Yes? Did you know that developing self-assertiveness will help to improve your self-esteem?

Trust me, I know this one’s never easy. I used to look after my niece two nights a week to give her single dad a break. She’d stay overnight and I’d take her to school with my sons in the morning. However, he’d taken to asking me to pick her up from school on other days, calling later to ask if she could stay.

Self-Assertiveness

I’d been reading about self-assertiveness and how when you say ‘no’, mean it and don’t feel you have to give any excuses for why you said it. I’d been building up the courage to tell my brother-in-law that I couldn’t keep his daughter overnight, again!

He called to ask one Friday evening and with my heart thudding and my mouth going dry, I said ‘No, not tonight Ron.” Silence….. Then he stuttered, “Oh.” The silence was palpable and painful, but he went on “Oh, okay. What time do you want me to pick her up then?” I gave him a time and we hung up.

Oh my word, I felt awful. I wanted to call him back and say, it’s okay and that I’d do it. But as I sat down I realised that he’d just accepted it. There was no harm done, the sky wasn’t about to fall down on me.

If I’d stuttered like “Um, er…” or given excuses like “I erm, I was going to……..”, he’d have been in there, recognising my usual people-pleasing and interrupt me with “Oh, go on, just this last time?” I didn’t, I said ‘No’, and he accepted it.

See, even small improvements help develop our self-esteem and help us live better lives.

Low self-esteem… Me?

Grey scale picture of two hands making the heart shape with the sun shining through
I accept myself as a human being who makes mistakes

I like myself.

No like I really like myself.

But it never used to be this way. In fact, I used to be my least favourite person. Like many of you, I’ve hated myself for long periods of time and I’d crossed myself out totally. I’ve felt worthless, useless, hopeless, ugly, bad and any other term I could degrade myself with.

Now, with techniques like “Big I, little i”, I’m able to maintain healthy self-acceptance and self-esteem. I accept myself as a human being who makes mistakes, who has bad days or bad moods and gets p’d off with people.

I spend lots of time practising techniques, blogging, clearing my mind, reading and self-reflecting in order to become the best me possible.

Over to you

What do you think about improving low self-esteem?
Clipart.com

Self-esteem is a huge area and I’ve only given you a few techniques that might help, so I hope you’ve been able to take something positive from this post. I look forward to your thoughts on the techniques for improving self-esteem and any questions.

Author: mentalhealth360.uk

Mum to two amazing sons. Following recovery from a lengthy psychotic episode, depression, anxiety and anorexia, I decided to train as a Mental Health Nurse and worked successfully in various settings before becoming a Ward Manager. I am a Mental Health First Aid Instructor and a Mental Health Awareness Trainer, Mental Health First Aid Youth and Mental Health Armed Forces Instructor. Just started my mental health from the other side blog.

49 thoughts on “Improve your low self-esteem”

      1. I’d already upgraded my account a few months ago. At that point I had mapped my new site. Then last week, I closed my old site and someone said they’d noticed that in the reader, my site posts were all scrambled. So I contacted WordPress and they said they’d make a mistake with my URL? That’s why they offered to put up my last twenty posts?

      2. Thanks for your reply, what a bummer. I’ve migrated quiet a few blogs from WordPress.com to WordPress.org and this is the first time I hear of a story like yours. The posts in the reader are visible because of the Jetpack plugin, and while I have seen blogs that did not show old posts in the reader until WordPress was contacted and the issue had been resolved, I’m unsure what could have triggered a mistake with the URL? Never to old to learn I guess.. Thanks for sharing your experience if you have more details please let me know.

      3. There appears to have been an issue on our end, your site was registered in the Reader with the incorrect URL. I’ve resolved that issue for you, so going forward the only new posts added to your feed in the Reader will be from your site.
        However, at the moment the links pointing to the Discover feed are still present. If you’d like, I could discard your feed’s history within the Reader so that those will be removed, however, only the 20 most recent posts on your site will be re-added. All posts prior to that will be removed from Reader. 🙁

      4. I’m sorry to hear all this, it seems there’s nothing that can be done to fix this. The last migration I performed there was an issue with the Jetpack plugin not being able to activate, so it took a while before stats and subscribers had been transferred.

      5. The interesting thing is that I am currently dealing with a site that is experiencing similar problems. The subscribers have been migrated successfully but the posts do not show up in the reader, and the “following” link that usually shows in notifications is also missing. I will let you know IF this gets fixed. Thanks for sharing all this information and don’t let them get the best of you! 🙂

      6. When you were experiencing this issue, do you remember if other people were able to see your “following” link under the blog name under notifications?

      7. I hope you are reading this Caz at Health360.
        Is WordPress having another blip, or mucking about? because this is what I see when reading a particular blog in the reader. Visiting the blog directly is fine. It’s just the reader.
        As you can see in photo below, another blog feed is mixed with Caz’s posts. I don’t follow Discover. (Discover belings to WordPress doesn’t it?) You can’t see Caz’s posts in photo took, but they do appear after in where I couldn’t get screenshot and in between her posts.
        I wanted to email you Caz, but couldn’t see one, so showing here so you can see.

        This is what a fellow blogger had sent me.

      8. Why did you loose the domain? Or did you park it yourself? I see a reply of mine from two days ago showing under your recent comment from 4 hours ago.

      9. Ouch… but no worries Debby’s here to help, I’ll get you back your traffic in no time 😉

  1. It’s a fine line, I think. I tend to self-deprecate but…. well, you don’t want to take yourself too seriously, do you? But of course that might be a warning sign in people. I wonder how low self-asteen varies with age? It’s just that, as I got older, there was more a sense of “I am who I am, like it or lump it” took over. And that was definitely a “getting older” thing.

    1. Hi Pete, Nice to hear from you. I think quite a few of us tend to self-deprecate – I can’t bear to show off lol. Yes, I think it’s probably an age thing too as many of us managed all these issues years ago. I think I was in my thirties when I came into my own and cared less about what people thought.

  2. I’ve always had pretty good self-esteem. I think that biggest contributors have been self-acceptance, a willingness to laugh at myself and my mistakes, and a tendency to attribute negative events more to external factors than internal. I also tend to compartmentalize rather than over-generalize when it comes to myself, so I can recognize that I’m totally useless at one thing but not have that spill over in to other areas.

    1. Wow, that’s great Ashley. I agree with self-acceptance being a great contributor to healthy self-esteem. I think self-esteem was pretty much on a continuum for me and I didn’t get into mental health nursing until I was in my late thirties and the concept self-acceptance until I was in my forties. I was a bit of a late starter lol.

  3. I am very much like you Caz, and appreciate you as a someone to share things with. I really like myself too, but it wasn’t always that way. As you laid out, it takes time and focus. What a beautiful post! 🙂

    1. Hey, sorry Mio, just found this in my spam folder? I wasn’t ignoring your comment. Thank you for your lovely kind and supportive words. We’ve got a great thing going on Mio, and I know I can share with you too, always.

  4. This was super helpful! I have struggled and continue to struggle with low self-esteem and your tips are all something I have been using over the last few years. I have particularly found saying no and accepting myself to be extremely helpful and I think I’m finally at a pretty good place right now although I still feel insecure sometimes.

    1. Hi Pooja, just found your comment in my spam folder?

      I’m so happy that you found it useful. I think issues like self-esteem are on a continuum, going up and down depending on our current mood, situation or even who we’re with at time 🙂 You’re not on your own.

  5. I love the concept of Big I and little i! Also, the acronym ANTs is great. Literal ants and I have an often hostile relationship, so now when those other ANTs creep in, I’ll just visualize trapping and, er, replacing them. 😁

  6. Hi there! so nice to meet you and really appreciate you stopping in and following me on my site. You have an amazing blog and love your great insight into mental health. It is a subject near and dear to my heart with my brother and family suffering with schizophrenia, psychosis etc and my own personal journey living in a crazy making world. This is soooo vital and we need to continue to erase stigma and increase acceptence and programs! Thanks for your voice. I support many great causes and look forward to more of your posts.

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