As we grow, we meet various milestones in our lives, from learning how to walk and talk, learning fundamentals about the world, and going through puberty, all in the ultimate goal of developing into an independent adult. One developmental milestone that many do not immediately identify is the development of emotional intelligence, or the ability to recognize and label our emotions and the emotions of others and manage/adjust them to adapt to different environments. One of the key elements of emotional intelligence is developing self-confidence, but this can be difficult when often so much of our early years involve comparing ourselves to others. When people love themselves, feelings of despair, hopelessness, and guilt can overwhelm them. Mental health professionals work with people to help them build their emotional intelligence and help learn how to love themselves. Here are some strategies of ways to start improving your self-esteem and building love for yourself:
- Practicing Mindfulness and “Disconnecting”
- Because we spend a lot of our time looking at comparing our self worth to what we see around us, it’s hard to get a sense of ourselves. Taking time to stay present moment, not thinking about tomorrow or yesterday or anyone or anything else can help to improve a person’s ability to appreciate themselves. Yoga, meditation, guided imagery, and that ground you and make you feel connected to yourself can help you identify your strengths. Disconnecting from social media is super important for this, too.
- Intentions and Positive Energy
- While this can sound hokey, positive self-talk and positive words of affirmation have been shown in research to have a lasting effect on your mood and sense of self! Having intentions or positive statements about self (“I love myself”, “I am enough”, etc.) can help you begin to develop language that, if said often, you will begin to believe. Once you believe those things, it’s easier to feel self-love and confidence.
- Letting Go and Getting Real
- One of the most important ways to improve your self-esteem is by facing your doubts and insecurities and addressing them. A lot of things that we “hold onto” from our past are either no longer accurate, or were never accurate in the first place! Taking a good, hard look at what we tell ourselves about our weaknesses is important; search for evidence about whether the things you tell yourself are true. If they aren’t, let it go! If they are, accept the limitation and try to discover a way to improve. Self-esteem is a lot like physical fitness; you have to start slow and work to strengthen your ability to change patterns that have been developed over time.
- Assess Your Relationships and Ensure Your Worth
- Once you begin understanding the patterns of improving the way you think and feel about yourself, take a long look at the people you surround yourself with and give your emotional energy to. Too often if we do not value ourselves, we can often get into relationships where others don’t value us either. Every relationship requires a certain amount of energy to be put into it to make it last, and if you don’t notice you’re expelling more energy than you’re receiving from others, you may not notice feeling drained or depleted of your feelings of self-worth! It’s important to understand what you need from others and whether others are able to give it to you. If they take more than they give, this can wear you out, make you resentful, or may make you feel less worthy than you are.
Dr. Shannon McHugh is a Licensed Clinical and Forensic Psychologist in Los Angeles, California. She specializes in assessment and treatment of children, adolescents, and adults who have developmental and social delays, behavioral difficulties, and those who have experienced traumatic events