High Self-Esteem: 15 Habits for a Positive Self-Image

High Self-Esteem: 15 Habits for a Positive Self-Image

One of the most common challenges people email me about is low self-esteem.

And how to improve your self-worth to become a person of high self-esteem.

So this week I’d like to share 15 simple habits that have helped me to improve my self-esteem and create a much more positive self-image (and sustain it even when times are tough).

Now, why is it so important to build and maintain high self-esteem?

Life becomes simpler.

When you love yourself – or at least like yourself a whole lot better – then you’ll stop creating so many problems in your life and you’ll magnify challenges less.

You’ll be a lot less likely to make a mountain out of a molehill.

You’ll not beat yourself up so often when you have a setback, when you make a mistake or when something you made did not turn out absolutely perfect.

You’ll self-sabotage less because as you raise your self-esteem you’ll feel more and more worthy of having good and great things in your life.

And that worthiness also leads to being more motivated to go after what you deep down want and to have fewer self-doubts.

You’ll be more centered and stable.

This is of course extra helpful when things don’t go as planned or you simply run into a rough patch in your life (as we all do from time to time).

But it is also useful in day to day life because as your opinion of yourself goes up you’ll be much less reliant on other people’s validation and attention to feel good about yourself.

And so you become less needy and your inner life becomes less of an emotional roller coaster.

You’ll be more attractive (in any kind of relationship).

As I mentioned above, with an improved self-esteem you’ll be less needy and more stable.

Being with you will also be simpler because you create less drama, arguments and fights based on nothing or very little.

And those are things that make anyone more attractive in any kind of relationship. No matter if it’s at work, as a friend or romantically.

You’ll be happier in your regular, everyday life.

And not just when something exciting happens or you reach a major milestone or achievement.

That’s at least been my experience in my life and a big reason for why I focus on my own self-esteem a lot and on keeping it steady (and it’s also the main reason why I created a whole, 12-week program called The Self-Esteem Course)

So those are some the biggest and most powerful whys.

With that said, here are 15 truly helpful practical tips, habits and strategies that I’ve found over the past 10 years for improving and maintain my own self-esteem.

1. Talk back to your inner critic so it won’t drag you down.

We all have an inner critic. It sometimes whispers and sometimes shouts.

It can push you forward towards achievement and getting things done. But at the same time tear your self-esteem down piece by piece.

It tells you destructive things like for example:

You’re lazy and not doing a good job. Work harder!

You’re just an imposter and not fitting in and soon someone will figure it out and throw you out.

You’re worse, fatter or uglier than your co-worker/friend/the people in your life.

There are things you can do about this though. You don’t have to accept your inner critic reigning free and making you feel lousy about yourself.

One way to start reducing the influence of the inner critic is to talk back to it. Like you may do to a critical person or a bully.

Here’s what you do:

When the inner critic starts talking then – in your mind – shout: STOP!

Or use a phrase like my favorite one: no, no, no, we are not going down that road again!

By using a stop-word or phrase like this as quickly as possible when the inner critic starts piping up you can shut it down before it’s power starts to snowball and drags you down into a negative funk for an hour or a day.

Then refocus on something more constructive you can do with your time and energy. Or on a healthier motivation strategy like the ones in the next tip…

2. Stop relying on your inner critic to achieve.

So your inner critic can help you to push forward and to reach your goals.

And it’s easy to become reliant upon it and think that if you don’t have it in your daily life then you won’t have the motivation and drive to keep moving.

There are other ways to motivate yourself besides relying on an often abusive boss that lives in your head though.

A few powerful motivation habits that I have used to replace the place that my inner critic used to have are:

Refocus on the whys.

When your energy is low or you’ve just been a bit unfocused for a while then it’s easy to lose sight of why you’re doing something and the positive benefits you can get out of it.

So take a couple of minutes to write down your top 3 reasons for getting an education, working out, putting in that hard work, saving up money or something else.

Put that note where you can see it every day – like in your workspace or on your fridge – or keep it as a reminder in your smartphone so you can easily keep your focus in the right place and not get off track.

Get accountability and encouragement from the people in your life.

Tell your friends and/or family what you will do. Do it on social media, via the phone or in real life.

Ask one of them or several of those people in your life to check up on you regularly and on the progress you’re making.

That accountability and the encouragement you can get from close friends, family members or your partner during those checkups will keep you motivated when you hit a slump or have a setback.

And it will make it a lot less likely that you can just weasel out of taking action.

Get motivation from people you don’t know.

Don’t limit yourself to just the support you can get from the people in your life.

Listen to podcasts and music and read books and blogs that motivate you and help you to keep a constructive and optimistic attitude.

For more on healthy motivation habits, check out 27 Smart and Simple Ways to Motivate Yourself.

3. Be kind to yourself when you have a setback.

We all have setbacks and make mistakes. It’s just a natural part of going outside of your comfort zone and often a great way to learn.

So don’t let the inner critic drag you down into feeling helpless. And don’t get stuck in beating yourself up for a week.

Instead, be smart and be kind to yourself.

Two helpful ways to do that are:

Be your own best friend.

When you fail or make a mistake then ask yourself:

How would my best friend/parent support me and help me in this situation?

Then do things and talk to yourself as she or he would to stay constructive about the situation and to be kind to yourself instead of getting lost in a negative spiral.

Find the lesson and opportunity.

To keep the focus on optimism ask yourself:

What is one thing I can learn from this situation?

What is one opportunity I can find in this situation?

There is in my experience almost always something I can learn from one of these situations (and often pretty important things).

There might not always be an opportunity to find but I always ask myself this question anyway.

Because I’ve learned that opportunities can be found more often than one might at first think if you just look for them.

4. Widen your perspective once again by finding one exception.

When you’re lost in a big pile of thoughts about how you’re not for example doing well in school, at work or in your social life then it can be hard to change your perspective on this area of your life.

One question that often helped me at times like these is:

What is the exception to this though?

This question can widen your perspective once again and help you to see that you’re actually doing well in your language classes at school. Or that you presentation at work last week was your best one yet and one you’re proud of.

Or that you were a really good listener when your friend needed it during the past month.

Finding that small exception can be really helpful to start injecting more optimism into your mind.

And to find more positive things that are actually in your life if you just look for them.

5. Make a list of positive memories and spend a few minutes with it.

Pull up an empty memo on your smartphone. Or find a pen and a piece of paper.

And then think back. To the times when you felt good enough. To when you felt good about yourself and proud of what you had done.

Or to the times when you felt lousy at first but took action even though it may have been hard and then you felt better about yourself.

Write a few such memories down. And then just be with them for a little while.

This list can also be helpful the next time you’re having a rough day.

Then pull out that note and soak in those memories for a few minutes to change your mood and outlook.

6. Try a very simple self-esteem exercise for 7 days.

Use another empty memo on your phone or a notepad or a journal if you have one.

Then, each evening before you go to bed ask yourself this:

What are 3 things I can appreciate about myself?

It could be that you’re a good listener. Or that you can make decisions when others may sometimes hesitate a bit too much.

But it doesn’t have to be big things either. It could be that you made someone laugh today. Or that you flossed. Or that you let someone into your lane while driving.

Try it for a few minutes each evening for a week and see how it works out for you.

This journal you’re creating is just like the note in the previous exercise something you can refer back to later for positivity and boost when you need it the most.

7. Remember: what people share on social media is a high-light reel.

It’s pretty easy to get stuck in a comparison trap as soon as you pick up your phone these days.

On Facebook and Instagram your friends, family and the celebrities you follow share a moment in their lives.

And you may become envious or feel like you or your life is not any fun or not good enough in some way.

But what’s important to remind yourself of when using social media is this:

What people are sharing is a high-light reel of their lives.

That’s of course pretty natural as people tend to want to share the positive and happy moments.

But if you think that this is how their lives look all the times then you’re fooling yourself and making yourself feel worse without any real reason.

Because no matter who they are everyone still have bad days, a nasty flu, eat food that will lead to stomach problems and their own worries and stress.

Plus, plenty of simply mediocre or uneventful days.

8. Compare in an uplifting way.

When you compare yourself and your life to someone’s online high-light reel then you might not feel so good about yourself.

And when you compare yourself to other people in general and their lives then that can quickly become a trap. Because there’s always someone in your circle of friends or in the neighborhood that has more than you or is ahead of you.

So replace that with a habit that will both build motivation and move you towards high self-esteem…

Start comparing yourself to yourself instead.

See how far you’ve come. What you’ve overcome. Focus on you and how you can and have improved your results.

9. Reduce the negative or limiting influence other people can have over you.

Other people can of course have a pretty big influence on what we think and feel about ourselves.

And some of that influence tends to be limiting or negative.

So what can you do to reduce those people’s influence over you?

Three things that have helped me are…

Simply put in the work to raise your self-esteem.

With better self-esteem you’ll value your own opinion of yourself and what you do or do not do higher.

And so other people’s negative words or opinions will not have such a powerful influence anymore.

It’s often not about you when people criticize or lash out verbally.

Criticism or verbal attacks you received yesterday or for the past year may not be about you at all.

So don’t make the mistake of thinking that this is the case.

Someone at work or school or closer to you might simply have had a bad day, week or year.

Or he or she may be unhappy about his or her career, in a bad marriage or carrying some old and negative baggage that someone else once upon a time put on him or her.

Remind yourself of this when someone is pushing you down. And that their issues or old baggage belongs to them.

It’s not yours and not something you have to carry.

People don’t care that much about what you do or say.

Because they have their hands full with focusing on their own jobs, kids, pets, partner and worrying about what people think of them.

So don’t let that become an imaginary obstacle and let worries about what people may say or think limit you from doing what you want to and being who you want to be.

10. Make changes to surround yourself with positive and supportive influences.

Don’t just reduce the impact of destructive and self-esteem limiting sources in your life.

Spend more time with people and sources that lift you up. And find new sources of positivity and self-esteem if you need to.

A simple way to spend less time with negative sources and more time with the positive ones is to ask yourself:

What are the top 3 sources of negativity in my life?

It could be a friend, a website or podcast or perhaps a social media account.

Then ask yourself:

What can I do to spend less time with these 3 sources of negativity this week?

Come up with a few action-steps you can take and start taking action on them.

And then spend the time you’ve now freed up this week with the most positive, uplifting and supportive sources in your life.

11. Be kinder to the people in your life.

I’ve found that when I’m kinder towards others then it becomes more natural and easier to be kinder and more understanding towards myself too.

While on the on the hand being more judgmental towards others tends to lead to a more judgmental attitude towards myself too.

So focus on being kind. And not just towards friends, co-workers and family.

But towards people you randomly meet during your day too.

Like for example other drivers out on the road, the waitress at a restaurant or the cashier at the local grocery store.

12. Don’t keep your thoughts bottled up.

Keeping your emotions and thoughts to yourself can make them spiral out of control.

You may, for instance, magnify a relatively minor situation in your life into a disaster.

So let those thoughts and how you feel out into the light instead. This will help you to regain a more balanced and grounded perspective on things once again.

Three good ways to do that are:

Just vent for a few minutes.

As a friend or someone else close to you listens let it all out and vent. This can help you to release that inner pressure and to figure things out for yourself and what you can do about the situation at hand.

Talk it over with someone close to you.

Maybe venting isn’t enough. Then talk the situation over with a person close to you.

Let her add her perspective and ground you in reality.

And as the two of you discuss the matter you may be able to start figuring out plan of action together to help you to improve the situation you find yourself in.

Use a journal.

If you don’t have someone close to you to talk the situation over with – or you don’t want to do that for some reason – then use a journal.

By getting what has happened out of your head and writing it down you can vent.

And when you see it all laid out it is usually easier to see the situation more clearly for what it really is, to think things through more constructively and to find a way forward.

13. Replace that perfectionism habit.

Perfectionism can be really destructive.

If you complete something and you’ve done it well then you may still not be satisfied because it is not done perfectly. And so your self-esteem suffers.

Or you may become so afraid of not doing something perfectly that you get stuck in procrastination instead of moving forward.

A couple of things that helped me are:

Remember: when you buy into myths of perfection you tend to hurt yourself and the people in your life.

A simple reminder that life is not like in the movies, on TV or social media or in books can be a good reality check whenever you start drifting away into dreams of perfection.

Because reality can easily clash with such fantasies and expectations that are out of this world.

And that can cause plenty of harm in your relationships, in your career and in how you view yourself.

Simply go for good enough.

If you aim at polishing and readjusting a project until it’s simply perfect then that usually winds up in the project never being finished.

Or in you spending a lot of time – that could be used for something else – on making something just 3-10% better.

So I’ve learned to simply go for good enough instead. This doesn’t mean to use that as an excuse to slack off or do a poor or mediocre job.

But simply that there’s something called good enough and when I’ve done a task or project that well then I’m finished.

14. Celebrate your wins (no matter how small).

If you just celebrate your big or huge wins like getting a new job or graduating then you’ll wait a long time between celebrations.

And so you increase the risk of only feeling good about yourself when you’ve reached such a peak in life.

I’ve over the years learned that it works better to celebrate all wins. No matter how small.

By doing that and praising yourself at the same time it becomes easier to keep the motivation up and your self-talk kinder and more positive.

The celebration and what you tell yourself don’t have to be anything big. Maybe you just pat yourself on the back with a few supportive words and have a tasty snack.

15. Remind yourself of the benefits of high self-esteem.

Keeping your focus on why you are doing something is a great way to make to stay motivated to keep going and to make consistent progress.

So remind yourself of the whys at the start of this article to keep working on improving your self-esteem and not fall back into old and more destructive habits when things don’t go as planned or when you’re having a bad week.

Keeping those powerful reasons in mind has helped me to stay in a helpful headspace towards myself and to make my self-esteem an essential priority in my life.

Want more inspiring content? Then check out my other new post this week: 101 Short Quotes About Life. A mix of the best, sharpest and most powerful quotes of all time on happiness, success, loving yourself and more.

And if you want to take a deep dive into your own self-esteem through a 12-week, step-by-step program then have a look at my Self-Esteem Course.

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About the Author

Henrik Edberg is the creator of the Positivity Blog and has written weekly articles here since 2006. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Gothenburg and has been featured on Lifehacker, HuffPost and Paulo Coelho’s blog. Click here to learn more…

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  • Minding the voices in our heads and affirming positive thoughts within serve as great boosts. Also, realising that failing at a venture is not enough to tag one as a failure brings a breath of fresh air. Good points all the way.