Low self-esteem can be deeply rooted, with origins in traumatic childhood experiences such as prolonged separation from parent figures, neglect, or emotional, physical, or sexual abuse.
The sense of lack of control may be specially marked in victims of emotional, physical, or sexual abuse, or victims of discrimination on the grounds of religion, culture, race, sex, or sexual orientation.
If you feel that you suffer from poor self-esteem, there are some simple things that you can do to boost yourself and, hopefully, break out of the downward spiral.
Make two lists: one of your strengths and one of your achievements.
Try to get a supportive friend or relative to help you with these lists, as people with low self-esteem are not usually in the most objective frame of mind. Keep the records in a safe place and read through them every morning.
Do some of the things that you have been putting off, such as filing the paperwork, repainting the kitchen, or clearing out the garden.
Eat good food as part of a healthy, balanced diet.
Make meals a particular time, even if you are eating alone. Turn off the TV, set the table, light a candle, and make a moment to feel grateful.
Think positively about yourself.
Remind yourself that, despite your problems, you are a unique, special, and valuable person, and that you deserve to feel good about yourself. You are, after all, a miracle of consciousness, the consciousness of the universe. Identify and challenge any negative thoughts about yourself such as ‘I am a loser’, ‘I never do anything right’, or ‘No one really likes me’.
Pay particular attention to your personal hygiene.
Take a shower, brush your hair, trim your nails, and so on.
Wear clean clothes that make you feel good about yourself. All things being equal, wear an ironed shirt rather than a crumpled T-shirt, you get the idea.
Go for a brisk walk every day, even if it is cold or rainy, and take more vigorous exercise (exercise that makes you sweat) three times a week.
Ensure that you’re getting enough sleep. See my article Better Sleep in 10 Simple Steps.
Reduce your stress levels.
If possible, agree with a friend or relative that you will take turns to massage each other on a regular basis. For additional suggestions, see my article Managing Stress.
Be careful to people, and do nice things for them.
For instance, strike up a conversation with the postman or shopkeeper, invite a neighbour round for tea, visit a friend who is sick, or get involved with a local charity. Putting a smile on someone’s face is bound to put one on yours.
Get others on board.
Tell your friends and relatives what you are going through and ask for their advice and support. Perhaps they too have similar problems, in which case you might be able to band together and form a support group. Don’t be overly shy or reserved: most people do want to help!
Make your living space clean, comfortable, and attractive.
Whenever I clean my windows or just water my plants, I seem to feel much better. Display items that remind you of your achievements and the special times and people in your life.
Do more of the things that you enjoy.
Go ahead and spoil yourself. Do at least one thing that you enjoy every day.
Activities like painting, music, poetry, and dance enable you to express yourself, interact positively with others, and reduce your stress levels. You might even impress yourself! Find a class through your local adult education service or community centre.
Set yourself a challenge that you can realistically complete.
For example, take up yoga, learn to sing, or throw a small dinner party for some friends. Just go for it!
Spend more time with those you hold near and dear.
At the same time, try to enlarge your social circle by making an effort to meet and befriend people.
Avoid people and places that mistreat you or make you feel bad about yourself. This could mean being more assertive. If assertiveness is a problem for you, ask a health professional about assertiveness training.
Finally, remember those wise words of Lao Tzu: Health is the greatest possession. Contentment is the greatest treasure. Confidence is the greatest friend.