How to Boost Your Self-Esteem When You Have Depression
Depression and low self-esteem can be closely connected, and boosting your self-esteem when they both appear can be difficult. When you live with low self-esteem for a long time, you may come to believe that you are inherently worthless, and this deep sense of worthlessness is a common symptom of depression. Conversely, if you’ve lived with depression for a long time, your self-esteem can be impacted. Perhaps when the motivation and energy are drained out of you, you lose confidence in your abilities and value. Boosting your self-esteem then can be particularly challenging.
Of course, the relationship between depression and low self-esteem is complex and highly individual. They can occur together and disappear together; or they can reinforce each other by means of a negative feedback loop, with low self-esteem leading to a feeling of hopelessness, which may result in low motivation, which in turn can foster more feelings of low self-worth.
Ways to Boost Your Self-Esteem
If you suffer from low self-esteem, an effective way to help you recognize your inherent value is to take on more responsibility. When I went through depressive episodes in which my self-esteem plummeted, I found that trying to be more responsible – in whatever way possible – was therapeutic and boosted my self-esteem.
Volunteering Can Boost Your Self-Esteem
When I was going through a rough time in my life, with my self-esteem at rock bottom, I was willing to try anything to get better. I remember reading about how the psychiatrist, Viktor Frankl, recommended volunteer work to his patients suffering from depression.1 This was based on his underlying philosophy that humans find fulfillment in meaningful activities, and without meaning in one’s life, mental health issues arise.
Since I was attracted to his philosophy, I decided to put it into practice. I went to go volunteer at a soup kitchen. Despite lacking the social energy and the confidence to be around new people and put on the happy volunteer persona I thought I had to adopt, I forced myself to go. I didn’t make it every week, but when I did go, my mood improved and it did boost my self-esteem.
There wasn’t much responsibility involved. It was a pretty relaxed environment, without much "work" to do, besides occasionally serving food and doing a bit of cleaning after dinner was finished. But simply having a task to do, and making a small difference in the process, was enough to boost my self-esteem (How Volunteer Activities Boost Self-Esteem).
Looking After a Pet Can Boost Your Self-Esteem
Having a pet to look after is another way to guarantee some more responsibility in your life and thus help boost your self-esteem. Knowing that you are able to take care of another can help you realize that you are not as useless as you’ve convinced yourself that you are.
A study published in Journal of Personality and Social Psychology revealed that people with pets reported higher levels of self-esteem, belonging and meaning than people without pets. The British Psychological Society published a large review of studies, which also showed that pets (dogs especially) boost self-esteem and feelings of autonomy and competence.
However, pets raise one’s self-esteem in ways that go beyond the fact that one's responsible for them. Rebecca A. Johnson, director of the Research Center for Human-Animal Interaction at the University of Missouri College of Veterinary Medicine, says:
Pets are completely non-judgmental, don't have an agenda, take you at face value, and they don't care what you look like or how you behave—they love unconditionally, and that boosts self-esteem.
Boosting Your Self-Esteem
There are so many ways to boost your self-esteem by taking on more responsibility. Think about what you are passionate about or interested in, a new skill you’d like to learn, or somewhere you’d like to travel. Attending classes every week or navigating a new place on your own can be a powerful way to raise your confidence in your abilities.
1 Viktor Frankl: A Life Worth Living (9780618723430): Anna S. Redsand: Books. (n.d.). Retrieved January 03, 2018.
Woolfe, S. (2018, January 3). How to Boost Your Self-Esteem When You Have Depression, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2020, November 26 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/buildingselfesteem/2018/01/take-on-more-responsibility-to-boost-your-self-esteem
Author: Sam Woolfe
I can't get on board with this. I know I have more than just low self esteem and depression but I do have 4 dogs. While they do have a therapeutic effect, sometimes they are greedy and needy creatures. I still love them and yes they love me but sometimes even their needs are too much, I don't even take care of me. Luckily I have a husband that takes a lot on. As for responsibility, I work full time do my utmost to do everything I can and excel at it yet even when I am complimented it's not enough to boost my self esteem. The there is the volunteering, unless I find a place with little interactions and for someone willing to help themselves also I'm not even going there. Too many of the people in the world either don't need handouts, or aren't satisfied with you giving them anything but money, or just don't want to make any effort to make me want to go out there and cause myself stress and anxiety. Sorry for the negativity but it's the way I feel.
When I’m depressed getting out of bed, showering, dressing, getting to work are huge accomplishments. At the end of the day I’m exhausted after having had to “fake” smiles and a “good” positive mood for students and coworkers. Your suggestions to ultimately keep busy and have something to take care of are admirable but when the simplest things like showering daily are seemingly impossible how can the next step like volunteering with large groups be reasonable? Perhaps smaller suggested steps could have been included.
Shawnee, you're absolutely right, smaller steps are sometimes best. I think each person must do the things that can help them get better within the means of their mental state. I know I felt so much guilt when I was depressed and unable to do all the things I thought I should be doing. It was only after that I thought I should have been more realistic about the situation and cut myself some slack. Small steps at that stage definitely helped me in the recovery. In fact, they were probably essential.
I think this is such a key point - "Perhaps when the motivation and energy are drained out of you, you lose confidence in your abilities and value." It's so imperative that we be aware of ourselves as an entire being, our physical states (hunger, lack of sleep) can cause emotional results. I like the idea of taking on some responsibility, especially in the form of volunteering. This combines so many wonderful mood-boosting properties.
Absolutely. Doing good deeds - in whatever way possible - is one way to instil some meaning into one's life, which has very therapeutic benefits, I believe.