Six ways to build self-esteem, according to experts – Forbes Health
If you’re dealing with self-esteem issues, there are real, concrete ways to work on building it back. A good option is therapy, such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).
“CBT can be helpful in challenging and changing one’s self-concept and the thoughts, feelings, and behaviors associated with one’s self-esteem,” explains Dr. deible
But therapy isn’t the only way to work on your self-esteem. Below are six expert-backed ways to feel better about yourself and your place in the world.
One important note: A pervasive sense of low self-esteem can be linked to other mental illnesses, such as depression, eating disorders, and substance abuse. If you think you’re dealing with a major mental health problem, it’s important to speak to a mental health professional who can assist you with treatment and healing.
Method 1: Practice self-compassion
“Learning kindness and self-understanding is important for self-understanding,” explains Dr. deible Practicing self-compassion can look different for different people, but often involves realizing that you are not alone in your struggles and that many people may feel the same way, speaking to yourself as you would to a loved one, and just generally being gentler in your thoughts and actions towards yourself.
Method 2: Accept, recognize and identify negative thoughts
Almost everyone has to deal with an “inner critic” at some point in their life. If you’ve been dealing with this inner critic lately, research suggests accepting the thoughts, rather than trying to ignore them (since that can only cause the thoughts to persist), dismiss the thoughts as that recognize what they are and then identify them as messages from that inner critic. This can take practice, but ultimately can help you create space between those critical thoughts and what is actually true.
Method 3: Reformulate self-judgments
Once you become more aware of your critical thoughts, you can practice positive reframing. Positive reframing is when you take a negative thought and make it positive or neutral. It can range from “Wow, I sounded like an idiot asking all those questions in this meeting” to “I asked a lot of questions and now I know more than I did before” or “My legs are huge ‘ becomes ‘My legs are strong’.
Method 4: Practice enforcing boundaries
Boundaries are guidelines or rules someone creates outlining how people around them should behave and how they might react if someone ignores those guidelines. For example, a person may explain to their partner, “I need to go out with my friends once in a while,” and expect their partner to comply—emergencies aside.
Enforcing boundaries can make you feel guilty or even fearful at first, but the more you practice saying what you need clearly, kindly, and calmly, the more confident you should feel — and the stronger your self-esteem will be .
Method 5: Prioritize physical activity
“Exercise has been shown to have a positive impact on self-esteem and life satisfaction,” says Dr. Julia Samton, board-certified neurologist and psychiatrist and co-founder of the Midtown Practice, a private mental health practice in New York City. “Incorporating a regular exercise routine into your day can help you feel physically and mentally strong and give you a sense of accomplishment and self-esteem.”
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According to a small 2016 study, physical activity and perceived physical fitness appear to play an important role in self-esteem.
According to the World Health Organization, adults ages 18 to 65 should aim for 150 minutes of moderate or 75 minutes of vigorous physical activity per week. For people who do not have access to a gym, this recommendation can be achieved by walking 30 minutes Monday through Friday.
Method 6: Working on body neutrality
Another great way to build confidence is to learn to accept your body. This can mean working on body positivity, but it can also mean focusing on body neutrality. Body neutrality aims to keep the focus away from an overly negative or overly positive attitude and instead focus on acceptance and respect for your body. Some ways to practice body neutrality include:
- Unfollow social media accounts that make you feel strongly about your body in one way or another
- Learn and practice intuitive eating
- Find types of exercises that you can do just for fun without focusing on changing your body
- Practice identifying your bodily functions in neutral ways (e.g. “My arms can carry the groceries”, “My brain can read this article”)