1. Spend some time getting to know yourself. This doesn't necessarily mean hours of reflection. You can also learn a lot more about who you are by getting out in the world and doing things. Meet people, take up hobbies, volunteer – you'll discover much about the world and reinforce your own sense of self at the same time. Get involved in your life!
2. Act. When you're feeling insecure or doubting your abilities, don't hide away. Take a deep breath, get out there, and do the very things you're unsure about ... even if you have to start small. If, for example, you want to act in a play, but you're not sure you can do it, why not sign up for a very small part? You'll build your confidence.
3. Conquer fear: take risks. Sometimes life requires a small "leap of faith." You'll feel good that you took some risks, even if they don't always work out as well as you hope. At least you can say you tried!
4. Stand up for yourself. Low self-esteem often leads to lack of assertiveness; and when we don't voice what we want and need, we end up feeling worse about who we are. Build your assertiveness skills, and it will get easier in time.
5. Set personal goals. Decide where you'd like to go, and make a reasonable, yet challenging, plan to get there. Set deadlines and a system of rewards to keep you going. (A goal, by the way, doesn't have to be a huge life decision, like "become a doctor". It can be anything you want to have in your life, like "Make one new friend" or "Learn to make jam.")
6. Learn from – but let go of – mistakes. Absolutely everyone, no matter how perfect they may seem, messes up from time to time. This is how we learn – like the process of learning to walk as children. If we don't stumble, we don't learn how to keep our balance. Keep this in mind as you venture out into the world. Be gentle with yourself.
7. Do things on your own – don't rely on others to make you feel good. One potential trap of a shaky self-esteem is dependency on others. The real truth is, if you feel a void inside, no one can fill it but you. While healthy relationships are important for happiness, more important is the relationship we have with ourselves.
8. Don't compare yourself to others. You may look at someone and think they have something you don't, but the fact is they may be looking at you and thinking the very same thing. Someone may be better than you are at tennis, for example, but you can tell a much better joke. Judge yourself by your own standards, for you are unique!
9. Associate with people who affirm who you are. Do you have toxic relationships with people who criticize you or make you feel small? Take a good look at the people you surround yourself with and how they affect your self-esteem.
10. Learn to say "no." You will be surprised how much simpler it is than you think. When you really can't or don't want to do something, say so. (In, of course, a polite and non-aggressive manner.)
11. Practice truthfulness. Avoid white lies. We often fib because we think we are sparing feelings or making things easier, but dishonesty only ends up making us feel bad about ourselves. Don't present a false face.
12. Practice positive affirmations. Write down 5 or 10 things you really like about yourself. And next time a negative thought pops into your mind, replace it with something positive.
13. Find things you enjoy. Whether it's sewing, drawing, swimming or karate, hobbies are a big self-esteem booster. Even if we are not experts, doing something for the pleasure and challenge builds our sense of who we are.
14. Use visualization techniques. If you're anxious or doubtful about your ability to do something (ask your boss for a raise or compete in a marathon, for example), practice visualizing that moment in detail. Imagine yourself pulling it off smoothly. It'll lower your fear and boost your confidence.
15. Enhance your ability to cope with stress. It's not so easy to believe in yourself if you're stressed out. Develop a repertoire of strategies for calming your spirit and incorporate them into your life as much as possible (like reading a good book, talking to friends, riding a horse or taking a bubble bath).
16. Shun perfectionism. Interestingly, there is a high correlation between perfectionism and low self-esteem. The more you strive to be perfect, the more frustrated you become when you realize it's impossible! Be aware of any perfectionist tendencies you have and keep them in check.
17. Make a list of your accomplishments. Include anything that made you feel good about yourself, without thinking about whether it is technically an "accomplishment" or not. (Your ability to relate to children, your chess talent, the amazing cookies you make, the great short story you wrote.) Refer to it whenever you need a boost.
18. Live in the moment. The more time you spend dwelling on the past or worrying about the future, the more of the present you are wasting. Life is NOW, and you should get out there and embrace it.
19. Do things for others. It's easy to get wrapped up in your own little world and forget that there are people out there who are in need. Give to others (your time, company, whatever you have to share) and you'll find yourself feeling better about yourself.
20. Take care of yourself physically. Eat well, get enough sleep, kick nasty habits and get some exercise. Treat your body like it deserves to be treated!
Copyright: Ilona Jerabek, Ph.D.