Be it a nasty rumor, an unsightly blemish, or a bad case of the Mondays, we all have those moments when our self-confidence plummets. And, while it’s easy to let these moments get away from us and spiral into a self-loathing slump, Sanam Hafeez, Ph.D., an NYC-based clinical psychologist and the founder of Comprehensive Consultation Psychology Services, says there are some things we can do to lessen the emotional effects of these not-so-fortunate events. For starters: building self-esteem.
So just what is self-esteem? According to Hafeez, self-esteem isn’t about finding value in materialistic matters, but rather it’s about how you appreciate yourself despite perceived flaws. Meaning those with low self-esteem tend to have a negative self-perception, while those with inflated self-esteem may have a sense of entitlement. To find the sweet spot, aka self-love, self-worth, self-respect, and regard for others, we asked Hafeez how to improve our self-esteem. For a psychologist’s tips on how to build self-esteem, because, let’s face it, we could all use a confidence boost every now and again, keep on reading.
You’ve probably heard that exercise can improve your mood, and you’re about to hear it again. Not only has exercise been proven to make you feel better, but Hafeez says that exercise with an emphasis on breathing and moving your body in repetitive motions such as tai chi, dancing, running, and cycling help to clear the mind as well as negative thoughts associated with low self-esteem.
2. Be Grateful
You know that inner voice that repeatedly fixates on what you do “wrong?” Well, Hafeez calls that our inner critic. She further adds that those with low self-esteem experience this naysaying voice more frequently than others. To calm your chatty inner critic, Hafeez recommends practicing gratitude. Every time your inner critic starts to talk, Hafeez says to say three things you are grateful for, as gratitude shows you are worthy of goodness and silences the inner naysayer.
To build self-esteem, you have to focus on shifting the negative to the positive, says Hafeez. To do this, she recommends keeping a notebook in which you write down positive and satisfying moments from your day. For example, I found $10 in my jeans, an old friend sent me a text, or I had a delicious lunch. By doing this, Hafeez says you will start to see the good in your life, which can help build self-esteem and further prove your worthiness.
Take your focus off your inner critic, and instead focus on other people through volunteer work. While the simple act of volunteering is a reward in and of itself, it’s common to receive appreciation when volunteering which Hafeez says can add value to your self-worth, and in turn improve self-esteem. If this is of interest to you, get involved with a charity close to your heart or try out a volunteering app, like the one above, that connects people with volunteering opportunities in their area.
Hafeez says that self-esteem, as it relates to social media, can go two ways; people can feel inadequate about themselves when looking at others in their feed or they can go the extreme and show off as a means to seek approval and further feed their lack of self-esteem. To remedy this, Hafeez recommends a social media detox of sorts. However, she is quick to point out that stepping away from social media is easier said than done.