Loving ourselves and being in control of our thoughts isn’t something we’re taught in school or even at home. So you shouldn’t be surprised if you suffer from low self-esteem. According to Psychology Today, 85% of people are struggling with it worldwide. The tips in this article are practices from Dialectical Behavioral Therapy and have helped countless people, and will now be the first step in your journey to unlocking compassion for your true self.
1: Build mastery
Picking up a new skill and working on honing your craft can make room for self-love. By creating a space to learn something new, you are showing up for yourself, and self-development is the best self-care.
Choosing a physical skill like dance or soccer not only creates feelings of well-being through an influx of endorphins, but can also help create feelings of confidence through mastery.
Fighting sports like muay Thai or jiujitsu can especially accelerate feelings of independence, self-support, and individualism.
Most fighting gyms offer a trial period, so you can search up a studio near you and book a class right now for free!
Every time you find yourself having feelings of hopelessness, helplessness, or inadequacy, do not judge yourself. Given your unique history and personal context, it makes sense that those thoughts are running through you.
Remember that validating these thoughts doesn’t mean you agree with them. Acknowledging them is simply the first step towards change. Until we actively try to own our thoughts, they are controlled by our environment and external factors. Our unhealthy relationships will thus be reflected in our thinking behaviors if we don’t actively work to break their cycle.
3: Opposite action
Although it may not seem like it at first, validation goes hand in hand with acting opposite to how we have been programmed to act previously. Allowing yourself to go out with friends even when your low self-esteem tries to make it impossible, letting yourself speak and take up space when you feel unworthy, and replacing thoughts of self-detriment with those of self-empowerment are all actions at the core of this third skill.
Acting opposite to the bad habits we have lived by will be uncomfortable for most of us at first, but will soon come naturally. After all, we are not our thoughts, but we are the thoughts we allow ourselves to believe.
4: Reduce emotional vulnerability
Our overall health is multifaceted, so it makes sense to use the interaction between our mental and physical states to our advantage. One effective way you can start is by following the tips outlined by the PLEASE skill.
The P and the L make up the phrase treat Physical iLlness. The E is for Eat nutritous foods. Followed by the A for Avoid mood-altering substances. S for Sleep. And E for exercise. Following the PLEASE skill will give you the strong foundation necessary for increasing your self-esteem.
5: Gratitude Journaling
You’ve probably heard of gratitude journaling before, and maybe you’ve even tried it. But have you ever journaled about yourself?
There’s so much about ourselves to be thankful for– most of which we take for granted. If you’re feeling stuck, think about how you would express gratitude for someone else. You can start by journaling about a friend and try to emulate that process on a page about yourself. If you choose to write about a loved one, consider sharing it with them. What do you think that could do for their self-esteem? Remember that when we elevate others, we elevate ourselves too.
Try to set time aside for journaling when you wake up or right before bed. Gratitude journaling is an exceptional way to change our negative thought patterns that are linked to self-esteem. Society has set us up to feel like we need to change vital parts of ourselves. Social media spreads feelings of insecurity we wouldn’t have otherwise, and social norms make us constantly belittle ourselves. We’ve been programmed to only hyper-fixate on the bad, and gratitude journaling will help break this cycle.
Sometimes we are simply not in the right headspace to make decisions that are good for us. Sometimes we just can not use a skill to be effective in our actions, even in a situation we typically can.
During times of emotional distress when we wish we could hit a reset button on our emotional state, you can! By following the TIPP skill, you will trigger the Dive response which is like taking a cold shower.
The T stands for temperature. Changing your body temperature will help lower your distress. Try holding your face in a bowl of ice water for 30 seconds while holding your breath. You can also try holding your breath while holding a Ziploc bag of ice by your forehead. Or if you really want to brave it, you can hop in a cold shower! You can skip this skill if you have cardiac problems. The I stands for intense exercise. 20 minutes or more of a heart-thumping workout will make you feel good and deescalate emotions. The first P stands for paced breathing. Try to see how long and deep you can make each breath. The last P is for paired muscle relaxation. Try to squeeze different muscle groups as you breathe in, and relax them when you exhale. Notice how it feels when your muscles are tensed versus relaxed. Maybe you’ll notice you were unintentionally tense in some areas. You can start with this skill as it has the least barriers to entry. Do you have 5 minutes to try it after reading this article?
If you try to add all of these skills to your daily routine at once it will probably be overwhelming. Try to use a different skill a day until you have tried them all. Then use the most effective ones on a daily basis.
No matter what skills end up working the best for you, remember that if you don’t use them one day, or if you fall back onto a negative thinking style, you are still closer to higher self-esteem than you were before. Noticing when we “mess up” shows that we’re learning and changing, it shows that our mindset has changed. Being able to identify times you could have used a skill when you didn’t is a huge step forward. After all, we can only change what we are aware of.
Thank you for reading! You can continue your journey to a healthier, happier you by checking out some videos from the Psych2Go YouTube channel:
Written by: Mariah Kirkpatrick
The information in this article is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. All content, including text, graphics, images, and information, contained in this article is for general information purposes only and does not replace a consultation with your own doctor/health professional
Guttman, Jennifer. “The Relationship with Yourself.” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, 27 June 2019, https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/sustainable-life-satisfaction/201906/the-relationship-yourself#:~:text=In%20my%20over%2020%20years,)%20have%20low%20self%2Desteem.
Linehan, Marsha. “ABC Please Skill.” Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) Tools, https://dbt.tools/emotional_regulation/abc-please.php.
Greene, Dr. Paul. “The ABC Please Skills: How to Be Happy.” Manhattan Center for Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, 9 Nov. 2020, https://www.manhattancbt.com/archives/1514/abc-please/.
Linehan, M. M. (2015). DBT Skills Training Manual, 2nd edition. Guilford Press. New York.
Alyssa, et al. “Tipp – Skills, Worksheets, Videos, & Activities.” DBT, Psychology Today, 18 Nov. 2021, https://dialecticalbehaviortherapy.com/distress-tolerance/tipp/.