Self-esteem is an essential ingredient of a balanced life. It impacts all aspects of our daily lives, from our relationships, to our jobs, to our mental health and wellbeing as a whole. It influences our actions, interactions, and choices. It can motivate and encourage us, or it can keep us from living our fullest lives. Nobody is immune to moments of low self-esteem, but there are ways to keep it in balance, and one of the best is to practise self-care.
What exactly is self-care?
Practising self-care means making choices that support our physical, mental, and emotional health. It can encompass a wide variety of activities and behaviors, from treating yourself to a manicure, to setting aside special time to practise mindfulness. It doesn’t mean being selfish; it means taking an active role in our own wellbeing. It doesn’t mean indulging in things that feel good in the short term but are harmful for our futures; it means making choices that support our long-term health and happiness. Practising self-care creates a foundation for self-love and acceptance.
If you feel like you don’t need to practise self-care, ask yourself why that is. Is it because you don’t feel worthy of extending the same kindness to yourself that you do to others? Or do you think you don’t have the time to practise self-care? Whatever the reason, let us try to convince you that self-care is something we all owe to ourselves.
The benefits of practising self-care
At its core, self-care encourages us to have a good relationship with ourselves, and that’s a relationship that we can never nurture enough. Prioritizing our health by practising self-care is evidence that we value ourselves. And on those days we all have when valuing ourselves feels extra difficult, self-care can serve as a reminder that yes, we are worthy of good things.
Everyone experiences at least one of the following negative feelings sometimes. Read on for helpful self-care tools to get you out of any rut, or even just as an extra boost of self-love. We can never have too much of that!
Self-Esteem Problem #1: You feel like everyone else is doing better than you at life
It can be really hard not to compare ourselves to others. Sometimes it seems like everyone is “winning” but us, whether with professional successes or fulfilling relationships. Social media can magnify this feeling even further, since people tend to only share when things are going great for them. It can feel like everyone has a perfect life.
Self-Care Suggestion: Write a list of things that you’re grateful for
When we’re feeling bad about ourselves, remembering all the good in our lives can do wonders for our self-esteem. It gently reminds us to focus on the positives, even when low self-esteem causes our brains to seek out the negative. There are many ways to practise gratitude. Some people like to begin each day writing down one thing they’re grateful for. Others keep a gratitude journal that they fill in at night. Even if you only write down what you’re grateful for on occasions when you’re feeling bad, it’s still enough to reap the many benefits of gratitude, which also include better sleep, lower stress, healthier eating habits, and better mental health.
Self-Esteem Problem #2: You’re feeling bad about your body
Sometimes it feels as though our image is everything. Once again, social media amplifies this problem with filters, image retouching, and careful curation of the photos people share. With this hyper-focus on appearance, it’s no wonder that we get down on the way we look so often. But negative self-image plagues all of us sometimes, even the people we would least suspect.
Self-Care Suggestion: Do something that makes your body feel good
Your body deserves your respect. Do a skincare routine, or treat yourself to a bubble bath to remind yourself that feeling pleasure is a worthy goal in itself for your body. Have a dance party in your kitchen, or do any physical activity that you love-- not for the sake of exercising or burning calories, but to remind yourself of all the amazing things your body is capable of; all the things it allows you to do and experience. Face yoga can be a great way to treat yourself to some relaxation and exercise at the same time. Remember that the true essence of you is not what you look like. We only get one body, and we owe it to ourselves to love it.
Self-Esteem Problem #3: You feel guilty about putting yourself first
We’re so often told growing up that helping others is the best thing we can do. But putting the needs of others before our own is a major indication of low self-esteem. It means that we’re more afraid of disappointing others than we are of putting ourselves in an uncomfortable or inconvenient situation.
Self-Care Suggestion: Communicate your needs and don’t be afraid to say “no”
Maybe you’ve heard this phrase before-- “You can’t pour from an empty cup.” Or this instruction when you’ve traveled by airplane, “Put on your oxygen mask first before assisting others.” Wanting to help is a noble impulse, but it can’t come at the expense of your own wellbeing. We need to be fulfilled before we can think about others. Remember that self-care is not the same as selfishness. The next time someone asks you for a favor when you’re at capacity, or someone invites you out for a night when you really need some time alone, just say no. It’s okay, we promise!
Self-Esteem Problem #4: Your fear of doing something wrong keeps you from trying
Maybe you feel stuck on a project. Maybe you feel overwhelmed by the enormity of your goals. Whatever your stumbling block is, low self-esteem can exacerbate these feelings of inaction. If you doubt your ability to succeed, you might just give up trying. And that creates a vicious cycle of feeling unable to get anything done or start anything new.
Self-Care Suggestion: Commit to one simple habit you can stick to every day
If you feel like you just can’t do anything, prove yourself wrong. Go for a 15-minute walk every morning. Make sure all the dishes are done before bed. Cook a meal for yourself. Spend just 10 minutes reading or journaling. Whatever you choose to do, make it something you enjoy, and commit to doing it every day. You’ll remind yourself that you are capable by continually achieving, even if what you’re achieving seems small.
Self-Esteem Problem #5: You’re doing a lot of negative self-talk
“You can’t do anything right.” “You’ll never be good enough.” It’s a sad truth that we are often our own worst critics. Negative self-talk doesn’t just indicate that we don’t believe in ourselves, but it can paralyze us even further by reinforcing the feeling we’re not even worthy of kindness towards ourselves.
Self-Care Suggestion: Try a meditation practice
It can be hard to break the cycle of negative self-talk, but meditation can be a powerful tool to help. Among the many researched physical and mental benefits of meditation is its ability to allow us to see patterns in our thoughts. Focusing your attention inwardly helps you view yourself more objectively and without judgment. In meditation, when you feel a negative thought creeping in, you simply notice it and let it go. This establishes good habits for what to do when negative thoughts creep into everyday life. You notice them, but you don’t let them take over. Though getting to this place through meditation takes practice and repetition, the benefits are more than worth it.
If you’re new to meditation and unsure where to begin, don’t feel intimidated! There are so many different ways to do it, from guided, to yoga, to walking meditation, there’s bound to be a method you connect with. A good place to start is with a simple breathing meditation. Find a comfortable seated position. Set a timer for five minutes. Close your eyes and begin to take deep breaths, focusing your attention on the sensations of breathing. If your mind begins to wander, gently guide it back to your breath. You’ll finish the session feeling much more centered, and you can thank yourself for taking time that’s just for you.
Self-care and self-esteem are intrinsically linked. We can’t have one without the other. Moments of low self-esteem happen to all of us, but being armed with these mood-boosting practices is the best way to get back in balance and feel the self-love we deserve.