On the bus to work, during your walk to Starbucks, as you lay awake in bed, unable to fall asleep, he sneaks into your shoulder. The self-esteem demon whispers all things wrong with you — why you’re not good enough, why you’re always a step behind. Well you know what? That self-esteem demon is an ass and you shouldn’t be listening to him! Here are 12 tips for shutting him up.
1. Build Me Up, Buttercup.
It sounds cheesy and dumb as can be, but supporting yourself verbally can do a lot to increase confidence. Next time you’re nervous, look into the mirror and tell yourself (out loud) that you’re as handsome and cool as Han Solo (and you know what, maybe you did shoot first, you old wild card, you). Make this a regular habit and you will find yourself feeling much more secure (even if your roommates or family question your sanity).
“You got this Tony, you’re the best knife salesman this side of the Mason-Dixon line.” Get it Tony. Get. It.
2. Say NO to Negative Thoughts.
Negative rumination is a problem for many. You make one little mistake, and suddenly your thoughts run wild. Your mind says that small mistake means your stupid, worthless, a stain on the glistening white shag carpet of humanity. Say [insert profanity of choice] to that mean little fellow inside your head.
3. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT).
The T word is still taboo in some circles, but it really shouldn’t be. We all have baggage and histories that have shaped who we are today, in both good and bad ways. Life’s too short to be forever yoked by your less-than-perfect-past (and overly critical parents). CBT is a form of therapy that focuses around breaking unhealthy, negative thoughts (like those discussed above). It’s not as Frankenstein-esque as it may sound — just talk therapy with some self-exploration and mindfulness goals.
Many patients report great success with CBT, so it’s certainly an option you should consider
4. Take a Personal Inventory.
Get a sheet of paper and make three lists. Start jotting down 10 of your strengths, 10 of your achievements, and 10 things you admire about yourself. They don’t have to be huge — a strength could be as simple as the ability to cook a mean eggs benedict. Remind yourself of why you rock.
5. Stop Comparing Yourself to Others.
Aka, don’t go on Facebook. While keeping up with the Joneses has always been an issue, Facebook as made it easier than ever for us to stack ourselves up against the best, shiniest, and most artificial avatars that our peers project online. We know that people only share the envy-enducing photos on Facebook. You see the trips to Barbados, the blissful marriage announcements, the award-winning honors children, and the positive quarter startup celebrations. What you don’t see are the messy divorces, the stacks of bills that can’t be paid, the sassy eye-rolling teenagers, and the whole host of other everyday struggles we shield from the public eye.
If you’re already feeling shitty about yourself, don’t go on Facebook. Just leave it be.
6. Be Kind To Yourself.
Often we’re much harder on ourselves than others. If a co-worker made a small slip-up, you wouldn’t endlessly berate them (at least I hope not). You deserve the same treatment — don’t beat yourself up. Instead, treat yourself with compassion.
7. Find a Support System.
Having people who we can trust and rely on has a huge affect on our happiness, and as a result, our self-esteem. Surround yourself with individuals who make you feel good about yourself.
8. Take Care of the Basics.
Don’t neglect the basics when it comes to self-esteem. This means eat better, exercise daily, get enough sleep, dress nicely, and take care of personal hygiene. Looking and feeling good about your outer appearance improves your inner self-worth as well.
Studies have shown that taking the time out of your day to help others can greatly increase your happiness. Helping those who are down on their luck allows you to realize just how good you have it. You’ll also feel great just knowing that you were able to lend a hand to another human being. We are social animals after all, despite what obsessive mobile device usage might imply.
10. Gain a New Skill.
Taking a class in a new subject can be tons of fun and can greatly increase your confidence. Check out local adult education classes and consider trying your hand at cooking, woodworking, or painting. Not only will you feel great about gaining a new skill, you may also find some new friends. I think I spy the next Bob Ross.
11. Kill The Perfectionist.
You may be a unique snowflake, but you’re not perfect. In fact — this may surprise you — no one is perfect. Imagine that? You cannot survive and thrive under the weight of unrealistic expectations. Take joy in the small victories instead. For many years I struggled with what I refer to as cinematic scope. I had created very dreamy expectations of what my life was supposed to look like. College was supposed to be full of parties and 24 hour fun, traveling to Jordan was supposed to be magical and completely stress-free, and my startup was supposed to grow at an unprecedented rate and change the industry forever. When real life proved itself to be far less glamorous, I would be crushed.
I’ve brought my expectations out of the clouds since then, but I still catch myself entering cinematic scope now and then, and feeling bummed when my life falls short of that blockbuster ideal image. Accepting your life for what it is will do wonders for your self-esteem and happiness.
12. Revel In Your Mistakes.
Instead of chewing yourself out for making mistakes, use them as learning opportunities. You hear entrepreneurs time and time again cite failures as valuable learning experiences. The same applies to you, entrepreneur or not. Now you know what doesn’t work, and you’re better for it. When you hear the cackling and ridicule of the self-esteem demon, remember these tips and put that little jerk in his place.