1. Take a self-esteem inventory to give yourself a baseline.
It can be as simple as writing down 10 of your strengths and 10 of your weaknesses. This will help you to begin developing an honest and realistic conception of yourself.
2. Set realistic expectations.
It’s important to set small, reachable goals that are within your power. For example, setting an extremely high expectation or an expectation that someone else will change their behavior is virtually guaranteed to make you feel like a failure, through no fault of your own.
3. Stop being a perfectionist.
Acknowledge both your accomplishments and mistakes. Nobody is perfect, and trying to be will only lead to disappointment. Acknowledging your accomplishments and recognizing your mistakes is the way to keep a positive outlook while learning and growing from your mistakes.
4. Explore yourself.
The importance of knowing yourself and being at peace with who you are cannot be overstated. This can take some trial and error, and you will constantly learn new things about yourself, but it is a journey that should be undertaken with purpose and zeal.
5. Be willing to adjust your self-image.
We all change as we age and grow, and we must keep up with our ever-changing selves if we want to set and achieve meaningful goals.
6. Stop comparing yourself to others.
Comparing ourselves to others is a trap that is extremely easy to fall into, especially today with social media and the ability to project a polished, perfected appearance. The only person you should compare yourself to is you (Grohol, 2011).
The Positivity Blog also offers some helpful tips on enhancing your self-esteem, including:
- Say “stop” to your inner critic.
- Use healthier motivation habits.
- Take a 2-minute self-appreciation break.
- Write down 3 things in the evening that you can appreciate about yourself.
- Do the right thing.
- Replace the perfectionism.
- Handle mistakes and failures in a more positive way.
- Be kinder towards other people.
- Try something new.
- Stop falling into the comparison trap.
- Spend more time with supportive people (and less time with destructive people).
- Remember the “whys” of high self-esteem (Edberg, 2017).
Another list of specific, practical things you can do to develop and maintain a good sense of self-esteem comes from the Entrepreneur website:
- Use distancing pronouns. When you are experiencing stress or negative self-talk, try putting it in more distant terms (e.g., instead of saying “I am feeling ashamed,” try saying “Courtney is feeling ashamed.”). This can help you to see the situation as a challenge rather than a threat.
- Remind yourself of your achievements. The best way to overcome imposter syndrome—the belief that, despite all of your accomplishments, you are a failure and a fraud—is to list all of your personal successes. You might be able to explain a couple of them away as a chance, but they can’t all be due to luck!
- Move more! This can be as simple as a short walk or as intense as a several-mile run, as quick as striking a “power pose” or as long as a two-hour yoga session; it doesn’t matter exactly what you do, just that you get more in touch with your body and improve both your health and your confidence.
- Use the “five-second” rule. No, not the one about food that is dropped on the ground! This five-second rule is about following up good thoughts and inspiring ideas with action. Do something to make that great idea happen within five seconds.
- Practice visualizing your success. Close your eyes and take a few minutes to imagine the scenario in which you have reached your goals, using all five senses and paying attention to the details.
- Be prepared—for whatever situation you are about to encounter. If you are going into a job interview, make sure you have practiced, know about the company, and have some good questions ready to ask. If you are going on a date, take some time to boost your confidence, dress well, and have a plan A and a plan B (and maybe even a plan C!) to make sure it goes well.
- Limit your usage of social media. Spend less time looking at a screen and more time experiencing the world around you.
- Meditate. Establish a regular meditation practice to inspect your thoughts, observe them, and separate yourself from them. Cultivating a sense of inner peace will go a long way towards developing healthy self-esteem.
- Keep your goals a secret. You don’t need to keep all of your hopes and dreams to yourself, but make sure you save some of your goal striving and success for just you—it can make you more likely to meet them and also more satisfied when you do.
- Practice affirmations. Make time to regularly say positive things about yourself and situations in which you often feel uncertain.
- Build your confidence through failure. Use failure as an opportunity to learn and grow, and seek out failure by trying new things and taking calculated risks (Laurinavicius, 2017).
Now that we have a good idea of how to improve self-esteem, there is an important caveat to the topic: many of the characteristics and factors that we believe result from self-esteem may also influence one’s sense of self-esteem, and vice versa. For example, although we recommend improving self-esteem to positively impact grades or work performance, success in these areas is at least somewhat dependent on self-esteem as well. Similarly, those who have a healthy level of self-esteem are more likely to have positive relationships, but those with positive relationships are also more likely to have healthy self-esteem, likely because the relationship works in both directions.
While there is nothing wrong with boosting your self-esteem, keep in mind that in some cases you may be putting the cart before the horse, and commit to developing yourself in several areas rather than just working on enhancing your self-esteem.