Cheat Sheet

Boosting Self-Esteem For Dummies (UK Edition)

From Boosting Self-Esteem For Dummies, UK Edition by Rhena Branch, Rob Willson

Unfortunately, self-doubt and poor self-appreciation seem to go hand-in-hand with being human. Even if you have generally healthy and good self-esteem, you probably have times in your life when you feel down and have denigrating ideas and thoughts about yourself. To help, keep this Cheat Sheet so that you have a few tips and pointers at hand when low self-esteem strikes.

Taking Low Self-Esteem by the Scruff of the Neck

The first step in improving your self-esteem is to pay attention to how you treat yourself. Use these tips to get to grips with your self-image:

  • Be aware of assigning yourself a negative or damning label.

  • Refuse to agree to such labels.

  • Pinpoint exactly what you’re displeased about. Identify which precise focus of yourself, your behaviour or experience is the target of your dissatisfaction.

  • Fairly and accurately assess that particular behaviour, thought or other aspect of your being. Try to be objective.

  • View the identified area of displeasure as just one of the many parts of your whole self.

  • Accept yourself as a complex individual who on this occasion and in this specific respect has fallen short of your ideals.

  • Consider possible avenues for improvement.

  • Make a plan of action.

Feel Better about Yourself by Celebrating Your Good Points

When you’re feeling down about yourself, or any old time, do something nice to reward yourself by making a list of qualities to appreciate in yourself.

  1. Make a list of as many positive things as you can think of about yourself.

    Include complimentary things that friends may have said about you and things that you really know to be true of yourself.

  2. Circle five items on your list that you most firmly believe are true of you. We mean the positive attributes that you’re still able to acknowledge even when your mood is very low.

    Remind yourself of these attributes regularly and strive to make the most of them.

  3. Review your list whenever you catch low self-esteem raising its hideous head above the parapet.

Improve Your Self-Esteem by Making Your Own Decisions

Try taking this exercise, which isn’t necessarily about making a good decision but about making one independently. The chances are that you can deal with the outcome of your own decisions just as effectively as when you allow others to make them for you.

If you undervalue your own judgement on a regular basis, try following these steps:

  1. Identify a decision-making opportunity (no matter how small).

  2. Set a time limit for making a decision. (Don’t give yourself too much time or you just hum and haw.)

  3. Resist seeking reassurance that you’ve made the right choice.

  4. Assess the outcome.

Exerting Enough Effort to Build Self-Esteem

Building healthy self-esteem makes you sweat. Goals worth achieving take lots of dedication and hard work, and giving up is all too easy when the going gets tough. Keep exerting effort by reminding yourself to hold these kinds of motivational attitudes:

  • I can stand the pain and discomfort that comes with hard work. It may not be fun all the time but you can tolerate it if you choose to.

  • It’s worth it! You stand to gain a lot by remaining steadfast in your efforts to boost your self-esteem and achieve your goals. Focus on where you want to get to and the good stuff waiting for you when you arrive.

  • Boredom is bearable. Improving self-esteem often requires repeating the same helpful behaviours over and over again. Yes, it can be dull, but boredom is easier to bear when you imagine yourself reaching your goal as a result of persistence and repetition.

  • If there were an easier way I’d probably have found it by now. Don’t fool yourself into thinking that you can find a painless shortcut to your goals. Things worth doing almost always involve effort (and usually plenty of it).

  • I want results now but I can wait. As the saying goes, ‘Rome was not built in a day’. Quell your hurry-up instinct by remembering that most goals are reached through cumulative action. If you allow yourself to get impatient for results you may throw in the towel before you get a chance to see some.

Fighting Fear of What Other People Think about You

Human beings are social animals, so it’s normal to want to be accepted and approved of by other people. If you have low self-esteem, however, you probably put too much importance on other people’s opinions of you. You may believe that you’re only worthwhile if you can please all the people all of the time. That’s just never going to happen.

Happily, you can develop robust healthy self-esteem and care about what others may think without deciding that you must have constant approval in order to feel good about yourself. Try remembering these three key points to fight your fear of being judged negatively by others:

  • You’re an individual and so is everyone else. It’s not possible to be a firm favourite of everyone you encounter. You probably like some people more than others for a host of different reasons. Allow others to decide how they feel about you too.

  • Being thought of badly by someone isn’t fatal. There’s no denying that other people’s negative opinions of you can be hurtful: It’s unpleasant to find out that someone doesn’t think you’re his or her cup of tea. It can be painful to get a lukewarm reception from people you want to impress, and it stings to be rejected by someone you really like.

  • Fortunately, negative opinions won’t kill you or fatally wound your self-esteem. It’s your opinion of yourself that matters most.

  • If you try to please others all of the time your own unique personality never gets a chance to shine. Isn’t it preferable for others to like you for who you really are instead of because you always agree with them and bend over backwards to impress them? Take the risk of allowing others to get to know the real you, warts and all.

Recognising Healthy Self-Esteem Behaviours

Recognising when you’re on the right path sets your feet more firmly on the journey you want to take towards healthy self-esteem. Use these tips to acknowledge and appreciate your progress:

  • Spend time in the company of other people who you like and who treat you well. Make time in your schedule to meet up regularly with friends. Even if you’re not feeling great, being around other people can distract you from negative thoughts and help lift your mood.

  • Have a good belly chuckle. Don’t let low self-esteem make you into a serious wet blanket. Look for the funny side of things and laugh at yourself from time to time as well.

  • Get involved in activities that you find vitally absorbing.

  • Find out how to like your looks. Give poor body image the boot by accepting yourself just as you are and putting physical attractiveness into context.

  • Take good care of yourself. Eat well, take regular exercise and get plenty of sleep. Make time for your hobbies and interests. Make your home a pleasant place to be in by decorating it with objects you like and keeping on top of chores.

  • Practise appreciation and gratitude for the small things in life. Pay close attention to the everyday little things that are easily ignored or taken for granted.

  • Set yourself realistic goals and go for them with gusto.

  • Be accepting of others. Allow other people to be human and make mistakes. Be prepared to accept apologies and forgive others for their indiscretions.

  • Stimulate your appetite for knowledge and experience. Stretch yourself by reading, studying and taking on new skills.

  • Live in the moment. Pause to sniff those roses. Take a break from speculating about the future and sifting over the past. Instead put the full weight of your attention into the here and now.

Living in Line with Your Personal Values

Low self-esteem can cloud your vision about what’s really important to you. Getting back in touch with your personal values and demonstrating them through action can pull your self-opinion out of the mire. Here are a few quick steps to get the ball rolling:

  1. Write down a short list of three to five issues, causes and personal standards close to your heart that you would spend your time and energy doing if you weren’t consumed by low self-esteem.

    These don’t have to be grand missions: even small things will do. Examples may include recycling, child protection issues and spending time with your family.

  2. Identify activities that reflect your listed values.

    Choose things that you can imagine yourself doing, like joining an environmental group, donating to a charity and getting home in time for dinner.

  3. Build value-led activities into your daily life.

    Turn good intentions into action by scheduling times for activities that reflect your values and sticking with them.

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