Low self-esteem has been linked to both depression and anxiety. For some, the low self-esteem contributes to the anxiety and for others a low self opinion comes from years of living with anxiety. Either way, there are steps you can take to help increase your feelings of self-worth.
Set yourself up for success. Too often, we set goals for ourselves that are unreachable - and then feel bad when we don’t reach our goals. Instead, set smaller goals or break large goals into small steps. For example, if you have social anxiety your goal may be to meet 10 new people; break your goal down to meeting one new person each week and then focus on this week and meeting one new person. Once you reach that goal, congratulate yourself and move on to your next goal.
Improve your posture. Sitting up straight and holding your head high makes you feel better about yourself. When you are feeling down or anxious, consciously straighten your back, hold your head up and look straight ahead instead of down. After a few minutes you may notice a change in how you feel about yourself.
Explore different hobbies. Having something you like to do helps you feel better. You don’t have to be great at it, you just have to enjoy it. For example, you might like gardening or knitting. Make sure to take time each day to work on something you enjoy - it will make you feel better.
Challenge the negative voice. Those with low self-esteem often have an inner voice continuously saying "You aren’t good enough," "No one will like you," "You are going to fail," or other negative remarks. Take some time to listen to what you tell yourself and write down positive, upbeat messages to tell yourself. Every time your inner voice starts to take over, read your positive statements and begin to replace the negative thoughts.
Stop comparing yourself to others. Each person in this world has strengths and weaknesses. Your cooking may never live up to your sister-in-laws but you have other skills that surpass her’s and others. Remind yourself what you are good at instead of focusing on what you can’t do.
Find fun activities. Much like hobbies, participating in activities you enjoy and look forward to make you feel better. No matter what it is - dancing, golfing, swimming, eating out, going to a play - schedule time each week to "have fun."
Exercise. Exercise has been linked to reduced depression and anxiety and improved self-esteem. Add exercise to your daily routine, even if it is 10 minutes a day to start. If you have any health conditions, remember to talk with your doctor before beginning an exercise program.
Practice self-compassion. Imagine a friend made a mistake. You would probably tell him or her, it’s ok, everyone makes mistakes - you would be compassionate. But often we are much less forgiving when we make a mistake. Practice accepting that you are imperfect and that’s okayIf low self-esteem is holding you back from enjoying life and participating in activities with friends and family, it might be time to talk with a therapist and work to improve your perception of yourself. Many people with anxiety are "perfectionists" and have a hard time accepting less than excellence and perfection; therefore, they always feel as if they haven’t lived up to other’s expectations and feel defeated. Remember, you don’t need to live up to anyone’s expectations but your own, and you have the power to change and adjust your expectations if you are setting them too high. No matter what you try, you shouldn’t expect results overnight. It probably took years for you to create such a negative view of yourself and it will take time to change that view. Work little by little to improve your self-esteem - it is an ongoing process.
Eileen Bailey is a freelance health writer. She is the author of What Went Right: Reframe Your Thinking for a Happier Now, Idiot’s Guide to Adult ADHD, Idiot’s Guide to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Essential Guide to Overcoming Obsessive Love, and Essential Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome. She can be found on Twitter @eileenmbailey and on Facebook at eileenmbailey.