6 Good Tips (and Habits) To Boost Your Self-esteem

Cultivating a positive assessment of our identities is essential to achieve well-being.

Self-esteem is one of the psychological constructs that has been most addressed since Abraham Maslow included it as a fundamental component in his Hierarchy of Human Needs (1943). 

Very numerous have been the authors who have confirmed the relationship between self-esteem and emotional well-being, among which it is worth highlighting Carl Rogers (psychologist who proposed the theory of personality from the humanist current) Albert Ellis (creator of Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy ) or M. Rosenberg (author of one of the reference self-reports on self-esteem, the Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale) among others. 

Boost self-esteem through psychological habits

Let’s see how much of the theoretical knowledge acquired on this area can be applied in a practical and simple way on a daily basis to make our self-esteem grow.

1. Make decisions without delay 

Concerns arising from life problems and events tend to be more frequent during the time between the occurrence of the particular situation and its resolution. Therefore, it is highly recommended to avoid postponing the coping of this event in such a way as to avoid excessively feeding the processes of  repeated rumination. 

A good tool can be found in the Problem Solving Model proposed by D’Zurilla and Goldfried (1971) which consists of a five-phase process where it is reflected on: the elaboration of an adequate general orientation to the problem, the realization of a definition and formulation of the problem, the proposal for the generation of alternatives, the decision-making itself and a last stage of verification of the chosen solution.

2. Decreases cognitive dissonance

The  cognitive dissonance is a proposed social psychologist L. Festinger (1959) to explain the state of tension that an experienced individual when their belief system conflicts with their actual behavior, negatively influencing the changing attitudes of the subject concept . 

Given this fact, the person tries to generate a new set of cognitions consistent with their behavior in order to reduce the discomfort produced by the initial discrepancy through: an attitudinal change, the addition of consonant information between beliefs and behaviors or the trivialization of attitudes or expressed behaviors. 

In short, this rigorous theory highlights the importance of coherence between thoughts (one’s own values) and actions applied in practice; the higher the level of discrepancy, the higher the level of personal psychological distress.

3. Identify and transform your limiting beliefs

Hemmi (2013) in his work develops the concepts limiting beliefs (CL) vs. powerful beliefs (PC) defining them as two types of cognitions that the person has about himself and that are determinant in the level of low and high self-esteem, respectively. Specifically, limiting beliefs refer to the set of negative ideas that an individual presents about himself and that reflect a low degree of confidence in the achievement of vital objectives.  

On the contrary, powerful beliefs are characterized by endowing the person with a global positive and optimistic belief system about their own qualities, which is why they are facilitators in the undertaking of projects and initiatives that the subject proposes throughout his life . 

A good reflection exercise to carry out the transformation of limiting ideas into powerful ideas can be, as Hemmi exposes, the realization of a list of all the LC in the different areas of life (family of origin, family generated, friends, professional environment and society) the questioning about its logic or veracity and the substitution by a new group of PC, also applied to the five indicated areas. From all this, the person must internalize them and give them a greater emotional weight.

4. Start a gratitude journal

Evolutionarily, the human being has shown an important tendency to retain in the memory more clearly information related to intense emotions such as fear or anger, to the detriment of other more neutral data, not so useful in achieving their own survival. 

At present, although the context has changed, the presence of a cognitive-attentional bias that leads them to remember in a much more significant way seems to be a common practice in people who present a functioning of low self-esteem, depresogenic or characterized by multiple concerns pessimistic, unpleasant or negative aspects of everyday life. 

A scientifically proven conclusion in recent research conducted at the American University of Kentucky (2012) and in other publications in specific journals such as Emotion (2014) Personality and Individual Differences (2012) or Journal of Applied Sport Psychology (2014) confirm the link between the daily gratitude practice and an increase in self-esteem level.  

Thus, according to these findings, a strategy to apply on a day-to-day basis may consist of starting a personal gratitude diary where the expressions of gratitude expressed towards oneself and / or directed to others are noted.

5. Eliminate the “always”, “never”, “everything”, “nothing”

Aaron Beck proposed his own model in the seventies where, among other fundamentals, the cognitive biases that occur in depressive disorders, the so-called cognitive distortions , were exposed . These are collected in a list of distorted ideas, among which “dichotomous thinking” and “should” stand out. 

In the first case, the events that happen are valued in an extreme way, without nuances, such as: “My friend did not call me, nobody loves me.” In the second, the subject has rigid and excessively demanding rules about how what happens should happen, for example: “I have obtained an excellent in the exam and should have reached excellent, I am useless.” 

Usually, these types of thoughts are not objectively founded and do not conform to reality, so it is recommended to question this type of beliefs and emotional work, enhancing self-acceptance and decreasing self-demand (which tends to decrease the quality of self-image). 

Thus, the ultimate goal resides in modifying and replacing these types of ideas with more rational, logical and less catastrophic ones.

6. Do enjoyable activities regularly 

At the biochemical level, the substances that are secreted in greater proportion when the individual performs activities that are interesting,  motivating and have a rewarding effect are adrenaline,  endorphins (both hormones that modulate mood) and  serotonin (neurotransmitter involved in sexual processes, sleep and emotional response). 

Therefore, it may be highly recommended to draw up a small list of pleasant activities of a different nature which can be practiced daily: individual activities (a bubble bath), in company (a dinner with friends), enrichment activities depending on the concerns personal (starting a language course), self-care activities (wearing a garment of the preferred color) etc. 

In most cases, it is not a question of thinking about complex occupations, but about small actions that act as “a pleasant whim” and therefore enhance one’s own well-being.

Bibliographic references:

  • Baron R. and Byrne, D. (1998): Social Psychology. Madrid: Ed. Pearson.
  • Hemmi, M (2013) Do you dare to dream? Barcelona: Ed. Paidós.
  • Labrador, FJ, Cruzado, JA and Muñoz, M. (1998): Manual of behavior modification and therapy techniques. Madrid: Editorial Pirámide.
  • Méndez Carrillo, F., Olivares R., J. and Moreno G., P. (1999): Behavior Modification Techniques. 2nd Edition. Madrid: Editorial Biblioteca Nueva.
  • Quiceno, Japcy Margarita, & Vinaccia, Stefano. (2014). Quality of life in adolescents: analysis from personal strengths and negative emotions. Psychological Therapy, 32 (3), 185-200.
  • Toepfer, SM, Cichy, K., & Peters, P. (2012). Letters of gratitude: Further evidence for author benefits. Journal of Happiness Studies, 13 (1), 187-201.

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