11/01/2024 by Therapy For You

4 helpful tips to improve self-esteem and build your confidence

4 helpful tips to improve self-esteem and build your confidence

We all face difficult situations in our lives that make us question our abilities. Whether it’s triggered by a challenging day at work, an argument with a friend, or something else, these feelings generally fade over time.


But when poor self-esteem is a constant struggle, it can make you feel low for long stretches of time, drastically affecting your mental health and overall quality of life.


In this blog we delve into self-esteem – what it is, how it can dip, and ways you can take steps toward a stronger, more confident mindset.


What is self-esteem?


Self-esteem is a term used to describe how you feel about yourself, your capabilities and your outlook on certain experiences. It exists on a spectrum, and can change subtly over years, or drastically day by day.


When you have high self-esteem, you tend to feel confident in yourself and what you’re doing, helping you handle the ups and downs of everyday life with ease. 


But if you’re one of the millions in the UK living with low self-confidence, you might have a lower opinion of yourself, feel inadequate, or experience frequent negative thoughts.


What can cause low self-esteem?


Much like other mental health problems, everyone’s experience of low self-esteem is unique. There are many different circumstances that can influence how we perceive ourselves and our self-worth.


Significant life events

A life-changing event, such as losing a job, breaking up with a partner, or the death of a close friend or family member may cause you to question your abilities or feel as though you've let yourself or someone you know down.


Negative childhood experiences

Early experiences of bullying, unrealistic goals from parents, or struggles at school can also be another common way you can develop negative beliefs about yourself, your abilities, or your body image that stick with you into later life.


Comparisons with others

In today’s super-connected world, it can be easy to compare yourself and your achievements to others on social media. Over time, this can lower your self-esteem and cause you to form a warped sense of self that harms your confidence.


How can low self-esteem affect me?


A lack of confidence and self-belief can have a significant impact on your mental health, causing you to become depressed due to your negative self-talk, or feel overly anxious or stressed for prolonged periods.


Beyond mental health, a lack of self-belief can also become a significant barrier in your work life, family life and social life, affecting your standard of living in a big way:

  • Making it harder to cope with criticism at work
  • Causing your relationships to break down
  • Pushing you to become a perfectionist
  • Reducing your resilience to life’s challenges
  • Filling you with feelings of shame, guilt and anger

4 tips to improve your self-esteem


Low self-confidence can feel impossible to overcome when you believe you are the source of your problems. But you don’t have to feel this way forever. 


Although it can take time to improve your confidence, particularly if you have felt low for a while, there are a number of simple steps you can take right now to help boost your self-esteem long term.


1. Create a Positive Data Log

Low self-esteem is maintained by unhelpful thinking – a subconscious practice where you focus solely on your negatives, leaving you with an unbalanced, critical view of yourself.


To readdress the balance and view yourself in a more honest and helpful way, filling out a Positive Data Log is a simple exercise you can do every day to recognise your best qualities.


To begin, set aside 15 minutes to write down any positive achievements you’ve had in your life. This could include major accolades, like graduating university, running a marathon or getting promoted at work, or other accomplishments you’re proud of, like:

  • Learning an instrument
  • Maintaining a relationship
  • Becoming a parent
  • Looking after a family member
  • Being creative

If you’ve held a lower opinion of yourself for a while, this might seem difficult at first. To help, try thinking about what a friend or family member would say, or ask them yourself. 


Once you have your list, the next step is to create your Positive Data Log. On a landscape sheet of paper, create three columns titled ‘Date’, ‘What I Did’ and ‘Positive Quality’.


Now, as you progress through your day, add to the log whenever you demonstrate a positive quality. You might have let someone merge into your lane, or arrived on time to a dentist's appointment.


Whatever you add to your log, it’s important to remember that improving your self-esteem isn’t something that will happen overnight. By collecting three or more pieces of evidence and taking time to reflect every day, you’ll gradually develop a more confident, positive mindset.


2. Practise self-care

When your self-esteem is low, you might place your needs at the bottom of your to-do list, prioritising other tasks because you believe you aren’t deserving of care or happiness. This can make you feel worse, creating an unhelpful cycle that fosters low self-confidence.


By taking the time and energy to properly look after yourself, even in small ways, you can improve your mood and start your path to positive personal development. This means:

  • Getting enough rest every night – Avoiding screens an hour before bed and establishing a stable sleep routine can improve your mood and energy levels.
  • Exercising regularly – Incorporating physical activity into your day, even if it’s just a short walk, can strengthen your opinion of yourself. 
  • Spending more time outside – Whether during a walk, with a friend, or for a picnic, getting out more can be a great way to better your self-esteem.
  • Improving what you eat – Eating a balanced diet over the course of a week can give you the energy and focus to help reshape your negative thoughts.

Taking on these tasks all at once can be challenging, so it’s important to set realistic goals about what you can achieve, and prioritise steady progress over time.


3. Repeat positive affirmations

If you’re struggling with your self-belief, repeating positive affirmations out loud, in your head, or on paper can be another simple, effective way of boosting your self-esteem and challenging unhelpful thoughts. Here are some examples for you to try:

  1. “I feel good because of me” – When something goes well, don’t just put it down to a fluke; take the credit you deserve
  2. “I’m only human, nobody is perfect” – You’re not expected to be perfect, real people make mistakes
  3. “I accept who I am: both good and bad” – Your unique qualities make you the person your friends and family cherish
  4. “I can’t control everything” – When something goes wrong in your day, it isn’t always possible to prevent it

When you start to change your thinking, it might feel unusual and unfamiliar at first. Stick with it and notice how positive self-talk can help you form a more positive image of yourself over time.


4. Start cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)

Moving past the thoughts that cause you to doubt yourself, your worth or your abilities can be tough, especially if they’ve been part of your daily life for a long time.


By working with a mental health professional and getting started with cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), you can identify negative emotions together and face your challenges in a safe, structured and confidential environment.


Learn coping skills for life, achieve your goals, and take affirmative steps toward a more positive, more confident you.


Start your path to better self-esteem today


Poor self-belief can have an enormous impact on your ability to live, work and form relationships, as well as your overall emotional wellbeing.


If you’re one of many in the UK coping with low self-esteem, Therapy For You, your local NHS mental health support service for North East and South East Essex, are able to help.


Through our free, first-of-its-kind online CBT course for building confidence, as well as our numerous pathways to therapy, we can help you develop lifelong skills to boost your self-belief, and support your path to feeling better around your preferences.

For more about Therapy For You and the support we can provide, get in touch with one of our qualified therapists today.

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