Answer this question: How do you see yourself? Do you accept yourself for who you are, faults and all, or do you constantly criticise, compare yourself to others and struggle to find contentment?
Our emotional health and well-being is just as important as the physical side of things, but low self-esteem is all too often a neglected issue. We cannot see the problem, which makes diagnosis and treatment more difficult than it would be if the matter were a physical ill. Low self-esteem breeds a myriad of mental health problems, which feed off each other in a vicious circle; self-esteem issues make the sufferer more anxious and depressed, which in turn further lowers your opinion of yourself and stops you from engaging in activities that can improve nerves, release tension and lighten your mood.
If you suspect that you may be suffering from self-esteem issues, there are steps you can take which will help you to feel good about yourself and accept praise for abilities and accomplishments. This doesn’t mean that you no longer have any faults, but rather that you accept them, and refuse to let them define you as a person or play an overwhelming role in your life.
Positive thinking may seem like an obvious and straightforward thing to do, but can become increasingly difficult when it seems everything in life is against you. Positive thoughts breed positive actions and can often become a self-fulfilling prophecy I.E. if you have confidence that something will turn out ok, it is more likely this will be the outcome. On the other hand, if you constantly tell yourself that everything will go wrong, that you are a failure and will never achieve success, you will in turn act as such. If you consciously replace every negative thought with a positive one, you will become a much more positive person overall and will attract positive people who will encourage you to reach for and achieve your goals.
If you are new to this, lifestyle expert Jayne Morris http://www.jaynemorris.com suggests a way to make this fun. “Put two empty jars on your desk in the morning and place 10 dried beans in each. Label one jar positive and one jar negative. Each time you notice yourself having a negative thought take one bean out from the positive jar and put it in the negative jar. The idea of the ‘game’ is to have as many beans as possible in the positive jar. To move a bean into the positive jar you need to notice yourself having a positive thought or flipping a negative thought and changing it to a positive one”.
Have realistic expectations
Nothing is more damaging to self -esteem than setting unrealistic expectations and goals in life. When we fail to reach these idealistic goals, we berate ourselves unfairly, which lowers our self-esteem and confidence in our abilities. Make a list of each achievement you make and every goal you realise, no matter how small. You can then refer back to this list whenever you feel under pressure or when life doesn’t seem to be going your way. It is good to have goals, but ensure they are realistic and achievable ones that are suitable for you and your life. If you don’t achieve these goals, don’t put yourself down. Tell yourself that next time you’ll get there, and guess what? You probably will!
Jayne says that very often we are too hard on ourselves and underestimate the successes we have had each day. “Try making a list to help you acknowledge all the great things you have done and the positive way in which you have affected the lives of others. Add things you did that brought joy to other people from your first steps to today. Doing this will make it easier to help find things on a day to day basis to be proud of and will help pick you up when you are feeling down.”
Let go of perfection
Nobody is perfect. Realise that perfection is simply unattainable for all of us, so take a deep breath and let it go. Stop comparing yourself to others around you. The lives of your friends, colleagues and neighbours may seem perfect, but recognise that this is only how it appears on the outside. Each person has their own struggles and worries, but some happen to be better at hiding these than others. Instead of aiming for that idealistic perception of perfection, set realistic goals and seek to achieve these instead.
Jayne suggests that perfection is also something we are taught to strive for as children. “In some schools, strict rules can cause pupils to develop perfectionist tendencies from a very early age. This can then be carried throughout life to other areas where we are responsible for day-to-day things or work projects. For example, needing to keep a perfectly hoovered house. In order to help let go of this we need to lower the bar for ourselves and reassure ourselves that ‘good is good enough’.”
Improve diet and exercise
Taking care of the physical side of things can also help aid mental issues and improve our emotional well-being. A better diet and a more active lifestyle will naturally help us to feel happier and more energetic. Eat fresh produce, fruits and vegetables, rather than processed foods. Lead an active lifestyle – walk, run, jump and play. Spend time outdoors. Not only does exercise provide us with endorphins, which make us happier, but being outdoors in the sunshine helps the body to produce vitamin D, which works towards a healthier, happier you.
Jayne suggests creating a vision board. “A vision board is a collage of images and phrases representing the essence of the things we want to be/do/have or create in our lives. Put them up somewhere prominent so that we look at them more often and remind ourselves to take positive action. Display pictures of healthy foods, images of happy looking people exercising, scenes of nature and inspiring slogans