9 Steps for Building Self-esteem

When I was recovering from my last bout of depression, I was left with a fragile inner core that would not heal, a feeling of lingering damage deep inside from which I did not automatically recover as the depression lifted. I was able to function in the world again, and in my job, but I still felt overdrawn in the personal resilience and self-confidence bank account.

With help from my therapist (who used Cognitive Behaviour Therapy), I developed a personal plan to build up my self-esteem and it worked wonders! I was delighted to find that self-confidence arrived of its own accord and without further effort on my part.

If  you could use an extra dose of self-esteem, I encourage you to follow these steps

1. Examine
Begin by identifying those things that you enjoy doing, the rationale being that if you enjoy doing them there’s a good chance that you are good at them, at some of them anyway.

2. Select
Of those things you enjoy doing, determine which ones you are good at (think of any feedback you might have received from friends, colleagues, neighbours, aquaintances or strangers.

3. Activate
Start doing more of those things you are good at and note any positive feedback you receive in a High-5 book (see Step 5). Try to include a photo or drawing of that thing you did. Add as much detail about the feedback as you can recall; also include how you felt when you were doing the thing and once you had accomplished it. You are trying to convince your subconscious of the opposite of what it has believed about you, perhaps for decades (including your own self-talk) so any ammunition you can document in your book will serve you well. Refrain from adding any made-up information; it needs to be factual, not necessarily verbatim but factual. Being useful and of value to others will go a long way to building your self-esteem. It feels great knowing that someone values your input and ideas, your contribution to a project, your hard work and abilities. Start offering to help others (and be ready to carry it out) and see what a difference that makes to your self-esteem. Be careful not to overextend yourself though, because that’s a recipe for burnout or failure.

4. Give Compliments
Complimenting others also contributes to building your self-esteem as well as theirs. It says that you are a giving person and are strong enough in your own self to tell them how you appreciate them and why. Giving them a genuine boost feels good but only when our feelings are authentic. Otherwise, it feels empty and that will have the opposite effect on your self-worth and it won’t do them much good either.

5. Document
Take note of the feedback in a High-5 book and date it. Add any and all compliments and positive feedback you receive about any and all topics concerning you; include anything that contributes to your sense of who you are. Recognize even the smallest successes in your book, especially at first, giving yourself credit where credit is due.

Practice ignoring your critical self. People with a high degree of self-confidence do this all the time (sometimes taking it to extremes). I am not suggesting that you should take it quite that far because no one appreciates arrogance. In fact, keeping your successes between you and your book will have the same, positive effect as making your suyccesses public. Self-esteem is not about what others think about you, rather it’s about your own opinion about yourself. This is where your strength comes from so there is no need to shout it out. People will appreciate your humility.

Keep your High-5 book going long after your self-esteem feels stronger, adding new entries whenever you get a boost from someone. You never know when you might need to reread your entries for a dose of your new reality. Keep your High-5 book close at hand, perhaps with your daily planner and/or journal so that it is always available – ready to add to or take from.

6. Confirm
When you are having a shaky day, re-read your High-5 book out loud to yourself. Make up a ditty about your skills, abilities and value and write it down in your book. Say it or even better sing it out loud. Your subsconcious responds best to rhyme and song.

7. Be Your Own Best Friend
Nurture yourself. treat yourself as well as you would treat a highly-regarded friend or colleague. Be gentle and kind to yourself. This does not mean being self-indulgent, it simply means to not set unreasonable expectations for youself, and not to sabbotage your own success by setting unreacheable goals. Be fair. Treat yourself the way you might treat a younger sibling who is looking for your help and guidance.

8. Re-program Your Thoughts
When your mind starts talking about your lack of ability or worth, take a deep breath, tell it to ‘stop right now’ and show it all the compliments and positive feedback that prove it wrong. If your mind insists on this negative self-talk, wear an rubber band loosely around your wrist and snap it every time your mind goes negative on you. Snap that thought shut and replace it with a more realistic, value-based counter-thought (as demonstrated through your High-5 book.) You are simply reframing an old thought (or belief) with a more realistic, current thought. You are essencially re-training your mind to gravitate to a new default position; this is not a quick fix – it takes time, self-discipline and commitment.

9. Discover Self-discipline
Having self-discipline contributes majorly to building self-esteem. Because exercising self-discipline means you have a level of control over your responses and emotions. This provides a sense of security and it feels very good. Anytime you can exercise self-discipline in your daily life, whether it’s simply by going to bed at a reasonable hour so that you can feel fresh in the morning, just do that. And if it takes discipline on your part, remember to make a note of this achievement in your High-5 book, especially if you can set a target for yourself and reach it.

While you don’t want to go overboard with the self-discipline, rewarding yourself with some free time is also encouraged. You want to experience the power of self-discipline and how this can affect your life positively, and improve your self-esteem and confidence. It demonstrates your ability to take charge of your own life and to give credit where credit is due, to yourself. Enjoy your independence and your ability to stand up for yourself.

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