Self-Care - Building Self Esteem

Bad habits--they're pesky little things, aren't they? I imagine just reading the phrase makes you picture one of yours. Maybe your bad habit is biting your nails, or not responding to texts, or leaving the dishes in the sink. It's the thing you do that deep down, you know you don't like. But sometimes our bad habits aren't just small annoyances. Sometimes they burrow into our identity and affect our ability to build self-esteem. When bad habits affect self-esteem, what do we do?
How's your body image? Are you attractive? Do you like the way you look? Do other people think you're beautiful? It's hard to talk about body image without sinking deep into our most vulnerable places. As standards of beauty become progressively less realistic (hello Instagram filters, goodbye pores), being able to have an honest conversation with ourselves about our looks becomes increasingly difficult. Yet we each live within our own, unique bodies every day–being able to look at them in a realistic (and non-damaging) way is a valuable tool towards understanding who we are, developing a healthy body image, and ultimately towards building self-esteem.
For years you’ve heard that self-care for your mental health is essential, but many people find the concept hard to implement in their lives. Professionals and people who love you likely give you self-care for mental health ideas to try but they don’t understand that adding in something to your life is a challenge, especially when struggling with a mental health condition.
There's a connection between low self-esteem and self-harm as having low self-esteem can sometimes lead to repetitive, destructive habits1 – including self-harming behavior. It’s important to be aware of why having a warped and negative opinion of yourself can lead to self-harm, as well as take note of the positive coping mechanisms you can adopt when times get tough.
The habit of seeking approval from others can destroy your self-esteem. When people around you are concerned that you have low self-esteem or that you always harshly criticise yourself, they will want to point out all of your likable characteristics and virtues. These comments may come from a place of care and support and may be just what you need to snap out of negative self-talk. However, there is also a risk of relying on these self-esteem boosts from others in order to feel good about yourself. If you want to gain and maintain a stronger form of self-esteem, it’s vital to determine your own self-worth and to stop seeking approval from others.
Self-compassion and self-esteem both help us develop ourselves and create wellbeing. But some psychologists argue that we should focus on practicing self-compassion because it is superior to building self-esteem.1 Dr. Kristin Neff is a well-known proponent of this view. She believes that trying to raise your self-esteem can lead to major downsides, including narcissism, anger and resentment. But while it may be true that we could all benefit from self-compassion and should avoid these drawbacks, this doesn’t mean we should ignore self-esteem. It can still play a vital role in our wellbeing.
If you're struggling with confidence and anxiety, then feeling self-confident and safe in the world around you is hard. Your brain is stuck in a stress-response mode, making you feel overwhelmed and uneasy. Anxiety isn't a choice; it's due to your biology, your environment and past experiences in the world that trigger doubt or fear. The more we know about the science of anxiety or anxiety disorders and what contributes to our level of distress, the more confident we become in our ability to overcome it.
Mindful social media habits are important skills to learn to protect our self-esteem. Social media allows us to get a glimpse into the lives of so many people. Unfortunately, constant updates about people’s vacations, weddings, job offers, graduations and newborns don’t always fill us with joy. In fact, being inundated with everyone else’s highlight reel can damage our mental health. Many studies have shown a link between social media use and low self-esteem. For example, a study published this year found that one hour spent on Facebook is associated with a decrease in an individual’s self-esteem score, which authors say is influenced by the social comparisons that people engage in.1 But there are ways to integrate mindful social media use so that you can protect your self-esteem.
There are many self-care activities, yet during this stressful time of the year, we often forget about taking care of ourselves and put others first. But you see, accountability to other human beings depends on your ability to care for yourself. Your mental and physical health, relationships and lifestyle suffer if you don't practice self-care activities, especially during the holiday season when stress is high.
Do you wish you could take control of your inner critic, that voice in your head that constantly puts you down? It is the critical inner voice that says unkind things about you and paints a negative view of who you are. If you don't take control of this inner critic, it can become quite powerful and authoritative, which will make you pay more attention to it. This can end up damaging your self-esteem. But you can take control of the inner critic and find peace of mind.