Low self-esteem is a pain, like, dementor sucking at your face kind of pain. The first thing we do when we’re in pain nowadays is Google the remedies. As a fellow low-self-esteem-dabbler and confidence-boost-article-searcher I’ve done my bit of ground research. Searching how to help low self-esteem can bring up some amazing resources and I’ve linked a few below. But it’s a mixed bag.
I can say with shuddering vexation that a lot of the articles out there aren’t ideal. They advise you to ‘believe in yourself’, ‘heal your past’, ‘just let go’… like… what? It’s a bit wishy-washy. And while wishy-washy and abstract is good when your third eye is wide open and looking for self-improvement; when your other two eyes are either glazed over or glassy with tears, you want something a bit more grounded. When you’re not feeling your best, the last thing you want is to feel frustrated or annoyed at yourself for not understanding or being able to ‘heal your past’. Don’t worry, I can’t seem to do that either and I doubt it’s something anyone can overnight.
To help you out, and to help myself, I’m creating a list of practical things that you can do right now to start improving your self-esteem. Applying these methods as often as you need to is going to help you on your way to bicep-kissing, rear-mirror-winking, finger-to-hip-hissing self-love.
1. Read This
Shameless plug for my blog? Perhaps. But seriously, the fact that you are right now reading something directly linked to improving your self-esteem is going to… improve your self-esteem. Reading a cooking book never made anyone a worse cook right? Unless the instructions were to ‘believe in the carrots’, ‘heal your marinade’ or ‘just let go of the lasagne sheets’.
Make sure to consume carefully and be ready to dismiss any vague or unhelpful advice- the sooner the better. Over time you’ll know which sites and sources to look out for.
2. Play Music
When your self-esteem or mood is so low that even the thought of moving is too much- don’t worry about it, I’ve been there. Your priority in this case is to stabilise your mood.
What you’re going to do is spider crawl your hand over to your phone (if it’s not already in your hand, warmed by over an hour of scrolling). From here, three taps is going to get you onto Spotify or YouTube and from here, you’ll be able to find yourself a song you like or, better yet, a playlist.
Just typing ‘motivation playlist’ or ‘happy’ is going to pull up some good results. Five of my current favourite pick-me-up songs are:
Good as Hell- Lizzo
Put Your Records On- Corinne Bailey Rae
Fidelity- Regina Spektor
Bitch- Meredith Brooks
And my COVID-19 special: Safe and Sound- Capital Cities
The important thing here is to cut out the decision fatigue. Making decisions and thinking of a song to ‘fix everything’ might just add to the overwhelm. So search one of those songs I just suggested, an already-decided favourite or a playlist- \the benefit of a playlist is that someone has done all the work for you and all you have to do is click.
To push the boat out with this one, try to play a song that reminds you of a time you were killing it. What song were you playing on your last workout, when you mastered the slut drop or when you got the final kill in CoD? Maybe it’s some oldy-worldly fantasy music that reminds you of the time your DnD character absolutely owned it or your Khajiit actually managed to steal something without being noticed?
Take yourself back to a time when you felt proud to be you, I can guarantee you there are many. If you can’t think of any, ask around, your friends are likely to have a little soundtrack of memories to your successes.
3. Do Not Disturb
After you’ve got the tunes sorted get that phone on Do Not Disturb! This tip seems to cancel out a later piece of advice, to phone a friend, but it doesn’t. The focus of this tip is to remove yourself from self-harming distractions, not to cut yourself off from support.
If you’re already feeling overwhelmed, pings and buzzes from group chats, emails and notifications won’t help that. Neither will the ads and filtered af photos streaming down your newsfeed. Use this time of struggle to get in touch with yourself. It’s an opportunity to learn a bit more about how you work, without that distracting hum of comparison.
Down the line I’d also recommend questioning the accounts you follow. Do the accounts and people you follow make you feel better about yourself? Do they inspire you? Or do you sit there all blue because your bum isn’t big enough to airlock a rabbit hole? Accounts, like people, can be toxic and so when you feel up to it I’d recommend getting rid of the bad eggs.
4. Change your Space
Jess? Speaking about the importance of space? Who’d’ve guessed it!? Well I’m sorry, Foucault left an impression on my young studious mind. You don’t have to love exploring the politics of physical space to know that where you are affects your mindset.
Mental slumps usually lead to or even start in physical slumps. You’re feeling crap about yourself so you drag yourself to bed to fester for hours on end. To change that feeling what you need to do right this second is move your body elsewhere. We’ve got to break that stagnation!
For you visual thinkers, imagine that you can see your negative thinking. It’s a grey watery liquid that oozes out of your pores. It drips down from your head, runs down your shoulders and eventually starts to leak all over your bed. Those hours on end have been spent slowly pooling in this grey liquid, making you feel worse.
Hoisting yourself out of the puddle of negativity into somewhere neutral, where you haven’t dripped sadness juice everywhere, makes it a lot easier to manage. This is going to make you feel immediately different.
Anywhere is fine. As long as your whole body is in a different space than it was i.e. don’t just shuffle slightly to the left in bed like a baby seal. This means you too Jess!
You can combine this move with something else that makes you feel better; like going to the kitchen and getting some water, to the bathroom to run yourself a bath, to the garden for some fresh air or even outside for a walk.
5. Get Something to Write on
A journal, scrap of paper or the layer of dust on your set of drawers- it really doesn’t matter what you write on (but for reason #3 try to avoid your phone’s notepad). Now you’ve got your surface, I want you to think of something that you do well.
It’s not a CV and you don’t have to write ‘I ran eighteen marathons this year and learned to levitate’. It can be anything. The important thing here is to write it, make your good point a physical entity.
If you’re stuck, what good point would your friend or family member write about you if they were asked to do this? Are you good at cooking, listening, sketching? Are you witty? Are you polite to your waiter? Do you let old people go ahead of you in the shopping queue? Do you send people hilarious and relatable memes? (Yes I do.) After this, you might find yourself full of ideas. Brilliant, keep it going. Cover your drawers with a dust graffiti mural of your awesomeness.
6. Laugh it Off
Low self-esteem usually involves you thinking of the things you do or have done, feeling bad and then creating an unrealistically negative image to define yourself.
For example- you remember that time you cut someone off to a\ parking space, or took the last toilet roll when you already had plenty at home. While I would probably do both of these without much thought, you might think badly of yourself. You think someone who does that is bad and so create a ‘bad person’ image of yourself, believing that everyone else sees it too.
Another example, you see a bad photo of yourself or catch yourself looking un-fleek in the mirror. You now think you’re ugly and then push this one image of yourself to define your whole existence. Now, according to you, this is the only way anyone sees you and everyone thinks you’re ugly.
What I want you to do this very moment is think about something you regret.
For me, it’s probably the ugly thing or eating unhealthy food when I’m trying to lose weight. I’m feeling fragile on the appearance front at the minute so I’m really annoyed at myself for eating unhealthily. After eating unhealthy stuff (or copious amounts of healthy stuff) I feel bloated, like I’ve undone all my hard work. At this point I think I’m a fat cow and forget all those good decisions I’ve made.
If you’re still following me, you might also be letting your regret run away with you. And that is the perfect time to laugh it off. Laugh at the thing you regret and, if you can, laugh off the thoughts that came with it. The negative talk I have with myself is so extra at times, it’s easy to laugh about it.
If you can’t laugh it off straight away, talk to yourself like you’d talk to a mate. If they came over for a socially-distanced catch up and said:
‘You know I’ve been trying to be healthy lately? Well, last night I ate a load of chocolate.’
What are the chances that you are going to start crying and bellowing across the 2 metre void that your friend is a fat, ugly piece of sh*t. I’m sure the chances are a lot lower than the chances of you thinking that to yourself.
7. Complete Something
The magical buzz we get from ticking something off is a famous mystery among humans. We have some innate desire to cross things off our to-do lists and get gold stars. Use this desire.
If you haven’t written a list of things you want to do today then get to it! You can do it after writing your positive traits down. Grab your list and set yourself the task of doing whatever seems most appealing to you at the time.
Now, this to-do list I’m talking about is not:
– Clean entire house
-Finish reading Les Misérables
-Cook three course meal
-Donate £500 to charity
The aim of this particular list game is to make you feel better about yourself, so maybe instead:
-Get a bubble bath
-Try dance cardio workout/ De-stress run
-Read 10 pages of Les Misérables
-Walk somewhere new
-Declutter desk drawer/ Spend 20 minutes sorting the wardrobe
-5 minutes guided meditation
The difference between the two lists is that the second list has manageable, specific goals which means that you’re going to feel less overwhelmed by them and they’re more achievable. We’re more motivated to start and finish an attainable goal and that sense of accomplishment is going to do you wonders.
The second list also contains things you WANT to do, rather than being full of grafty tasks. Facemasks, bubble baths or even an afternoon nap deserve to be on the list if you want them there. They help to remind you of the importance of you. You’re telling yourself that what you want is just as important as the things you need to get done.
Keep an eye out for my future post about tips for writing a to-do list when you’re feeling overwhelmed!
8. Check Yourself
After you’ve given these a try and you’re still feeling bad, I’m going to recommend something a little controversial. I want you to check yourself.
‘I just saw a bad picture of me and in it I had a double chin and so I’m fat and fat means ugly and guys don’t like ugly and so no-one will talk to me or go out with me and so I’ll die ugly and alone’… and be eaten by Alsatians…
We’ve all gotten carried away at some point.
Checking yourself before your thoughts stream into an emotional mess is essential. I want you to look at what you’re feeling and how you’ve been acting because of those feelings and ask yourself ‘are my actions justified?’
Are you justified to shout at your mum because you feel like a bad writer? Are you justified to lie in bed for five hours because you feel ugly? Are you justified to hate all men because one guy didn’t respect you? I don’t know. You might be, but you need to ask yourself that question to find out. It gives you less to kick yourself for when you calm down. Introducing some rationality and logic into a very emotional situation is going to help you find balance.
You’ve got yourself to this point. You have all of the tools you need to get to where you want to be. You’re an absolute legend, if you believe it. So stop being daft and believe it.
9. Phone a Friend
My last piece of advice for immediately relieving low self-esteem problems involves speaking to someone. The intensity of feeling bad about yourself can be as strong as the final of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire. Give yourself the same options as the old but gold game show- phone a friend.
You don’t have to go into details about your feelings if you don’t want to. Just call up a mate and see how they’re doing. Good mood travels via osmosis and it’s going to perk you up. After you warm up the conversation you might feel more up to chatting about how you feel and asking for advice- do it!
The alternative direction that this call could go is that you catch your friend at a bad time. Believe it or not, this can still aid you. Helping your friend to feel better or teaching them how to fix their computer, giving them a good podcast to listen to or a great park to visit is going to boost your self-esteem. You become Super Friend, supporter of the sad and bored!
So give it a go, maybe not all at once. But if you do manage to read this, phone a friend and write your good points all while completing a dance cardio workout- the accomplishment of that alone should boost your self-esteem!
Feeling bad about yourself happens. Even to the most amazing, talented and beautiful of us all, even to me! But you need to remember that there’s so much strength in plodding on, even if it doesn’t seem like it. You’re reading this which means you care. You’re arsed enough about yourself to want a change, which means you’re arsed enough to make a change.
If you find this feeling happens a lot even after trying a lot of different remedies, maybe have a look into speaking to a professional. My dad was a psychotherapist and I know the wonders that a good one can do.
“10 tips for improving your self-esteem“, Reach Out
“Raising low self-esteem“, NHS
“8 Steps to Improving Your Self-Esteem“, Psychology Today
“Of Other Spaces: Utopias and Heterotopias”, Michel Foucault