Exercises to Boost Your Self-Esteem

See also: Self-Confidence

Self-esteem and self-confidence touch every aspect of our lives, from the way we hold ourselves (body language) to our likelihood of developing mental health problems such as depression and anxiety, and even our chances of getting a promotion or raise.

But while people with high self-esteem tend to feel more confident, happier, and more successful, so many of us struggle with our self-esteem and feelings of unworthiness.

While it’s normal to experience some periods of low self-esteem, if you’re regularly experiencing feelings of worthlessness or as though you’re a constant failure, you might be suffering from a more serious mental health issue. PsychologyToday offers a free self-esteem test to help you establish whether you have a low or healthy self-esteem.

Whether you’ve always had low self-esteem or it’s a new phenomenon in your life, these exercises will help train your mind to see the good in your everyday and help you remember that you are valuable.

1. Prioritize yourself

As a child, your parents probably told you it’s a virtue to put other people’s needs above your own, and putting yourself first is selfish. But while it is important to be generous and caring, doing so at the expense of your own needs always leads to low-self esteem and can be incredibly detrimental to your self-esteem.

It is essential to carve out me-time in your daily life. Remember that you can’t help anyone if you’re feeling run down or unwell yourself, so taking some time out allows you to be your best.

It’s okay to say “no” sometimes!

2. Be kinder to yourself

Let’s be honest, many of us don’t adopt the nicest ways of talking to ourselves. Whether you’re unhappy with your body when you look in the mirror or regularly beat yourself up over your perceived “failures,” the way we talk to ourselves has a dramatic impact on our self-esteem and mental health.

A good practice to help you break the habit of negative self-talk is to actively say “STOP” whenever you notice critical thoughts, then consciously play devils’ advocate with yourself.

It may help to write down five things you like about yourself whenever you notice negative thoughts creeping in. For example, if you hate your butt, focus on parts of your body that you do like: maybe you have great hair, striking eyes, a pleasant smile… If you focus on these aspects, you may surprise yourself by how many positives you can list!

3. Forgive mistakes

Everyone can be hard on themselves when they make mistakes, and we’re often far harder on ourselves than we would be on others. Remember that a mistake doesn’t mean you’re a failure as a person. We all err occasionally.

A good technique to help you forgive yourself is to change your mindset on mistakes: rather than looking upon them as failures, consider them chances to grow by scrutinizing where you went wrong and where you can improve next time. This transforms the mistake into an opportunity for self-improvement, which should immediately help improve your self-esteem.

4. Acknowledge success

Just as it’s important to deal with mistakes, it’s also vital to recognize your successes. Being humble might be seen as a virtue, but there’s absolutely no shame in celebrating a job well done (even if your boss or children aren’t as appreciative as they should be – we’ve all been there!).

Avoid phrases (even when talking to yourself) along the lines of “it wasn’t a big deal” or “anyone could do it,” as these downplay your accomplishments. It’s okay to be proud of yourself.

Listing past accomplishments can also help you see how much you’ve grown and improved over time and how many successes you’ve achieved along the way, reminding you that you can do it and will do it again.

5. Practice gratitude

Gratitude and mindfulness can be trigger words these days, and it seems like every other thing we read on the internet is going on and on about the benefits… But there’s a reason for this: it works!

Not only will practicing gratitude help you combat low self-esteem, but it can also provide a valuable boost to every aspect of your mental health, helping you feel happier and more fulfilled.
While many people will cite the benefits of keeping a gratitude journal, one social media challenge from 2014 offers an alternative way to change your mindset and focus on the positives of your daily life: the #100HappyDays challenge.

This challenge combines accountability with a requirement to focus on the positive, and every participant recorded feeling happier and more fulfilled after completing the challenge.

6. Move your body

So many studies establish a link between good mental health and physical exercise that it’s impossible to ignore!

Whether you’re heading out for a run, practicing yoga, or simply undertaking some yard work, getting your body moving and your heart pumping has been well proven to improve mood, boost self-esteem, and help you live a happier life.

Not only is the physical process of exercise vital for a healthy mindset, but the visible aspects of toning up can also provide a boost to your self-esteem if you struggle with body image. Even if you haven’t lost/gained weight yet, just knowing that you’re doing something about it can dramatically help.

7. Be generous

While it’s vital to say no to people occasionally and put your needs first, being generous can also boost your self-esteem as it proves you have something to give.

In fact, helping others has been shown to give people a sense of meaning and purpose in life, whether you’re building homes for the homeless, giving blood, or just being generally helpful.

For extra bonus self-esteem-boosting points, you could combine generosity with movement and volunteer with a charity that requires you to workout while you help. Dog walking for a local shelter, building homes, collecting donations… There are many ways to get involved with causes you care about and get fitter while you're at it!

8. Team sports

Team sports are brilliant for boosting your self-esteem and mental health as they encourage teamwork, cooperation, the chance to succeed, and plenty of fun!

Most neighborhoods have a selection of team sports you can get involved in, or you could always start your own club! Pick up a set of lacrosse balls and a net to get started in your backyard, then look for bigger spaces to play your chosen sport as the word gets out: chances are there will be plenty of people who’d love to play with you!

9. Commit

Whatever exercises you choose to boost your self-esteem and mental health, you must commit to them if you want to see any improvement. Start small with achievable goals, and work your way up. The accomplishment of hitting and exceeding your targets will offer its own self-esteem boost in addition to the benefits from the exercises themselves!

Further Reading from Skills You Need

The Skills You Need Guide to Life

The Skills You Need Guide to Life

This two-part guide is an easy-to-read summary of the essential skills you need for a healthy mind and body.

The first eBook, Looking After Yourself, covers some of our most popular content and will help you to live a happier, healthier and more productive life.

The second eBook, Living Well, Living Ethically, considers how you can live your best life all the time. It helps you to answer the question: how can I avoid having too many regrets about my life?

About the Author

Colby Baker - Colby is an entrepreneur and a freelance lecturer. Her main topics are healthy routine and mental health awareness. She believes that a healthy diet and exercise routine can prevent various mental health issues.