Turn Things Around by Changing Your Mindset
Struggling with self-esteem can be hard, especially if you’ve been feeling like it derails your day, distracts you from what you need to do, or keeps you from fully enjoying your life.
Have you had intrusive thoughts like these?
- “I’m not good enough for my job.”
- “I’m not smart enough to get that degree.”
- “People don’t really care about me. They’re just pretending.”
- “I’ll never be able to make my dating life work: I keep messing up the same ways over and over.”
On my radio show, I’ve talked to people that have had some of these same thoughts. Thoughts that they were not good enough. It’s completely normal.
What can make this especially frustrating is that these thoughts never come at a convenient time when we feel ready to face them and work on them. They often seem to come out of left field, when you’re in the middle of doing something fun or important that you’d rather focus on.
So, what can you do in the moment? There are little decisions you can make, and small ways you can shift your mindset to free yourself from some of the burden of low self-esteem. While it only takes a moment sometimes for our spirits to lift, it takes regular, daily practice of these healthy habits to make better self-esteem more natural.
Be patient with yourself as you practice these things. I’ve seen people grow so much over the years by committing to doing simple things every day, and I have no doubt you can turn your mindset toward hope.
Look at Challenges You've Overcome
You’ve been through a lot. And it hasn’t always been easy, but you’ve made it this far! When your self-esteem feels low, think about the challenges you’ve been through not just as things that have happened to you, but as things you’ve overcome with your strength, your resilience, and your determination. That makes you a pretty impressive person.
It gives me hope to remember that being strong does not mean never struggling, and courage doesn’t mean never being afraid. You’ve shown strength by pressing on even when it’s not easy, and courage by pushing through difficult things when you’ve felt afraid.
- What are you proud of yourself for overcoming in your life?
- How has what you’ve been through made you a stronger, more resilient person?
- What would you tell someone you care about who is going through similar challenges to those you’ve faced in the past?
Use Your Talents to Serve Others
Thinking about your talents can help you turn your mindset around in the moment and think more positively. If you’re not sure where to start, think through questions like:
- What are you good at?
- What comes naturally to you?
- If you’re not happy with your current job, what could you see yourself doing?
- What would you do if you had abundant free time to do so?
Does it make you feel better to think of your strengths, and to remember the things you’ve accomplished? Even if you can’t do what you do best or love most for a living, there are still ways you can build it into your life.
One of the most powerful ways to do this is by helping others. Not only will it make you feel better to do what you enjoy, but you’ll be able to see how much of an impact that has on others. You can volunteer at an organization that means a lot to you, or that ties in with your skills and talents:
- If you love animals, you can help out at an animal shelter
- If you are a good cook, you can cook meals for a program that feeds the homeless
- If you are a good writer, you can write blogs or newsletters for a nonprofit you care about
These are just a few ideas, but there are lots of possibilities out there!
Surround Yourself with People Who Make You Feel Good
If you’ve had some ups and downs or have been in some relationships that felt toxic, it can be hard for your self-esteem to recover.
You can bounce back bit by bit by surrounding yourself with people who encourage you and affirm the best things about you. But how do you do that when you can’t be with your favorite people in person?
- Keep cards or notes from friends and family somewhere you can see them so they can boost your mood when you’re having a bad day.
- Text or call someone who loves you when you’re feeling down to ask them for a pep talk.
- Set up regular video calls with friends and family who live far away, so you can have the joy of seeing them face-to-face, even if you can’t be in the same room.
Embrace What Others Love About You
The more you make it a point to surround yourself with kind people and focus on their kind words, the more you’ll realize something important that can help you in moments when you’re facing low self-esteem. The things you believe about yourself, and the way you see yourself at those times, is very different from how people you care about see you.
Of course, we all make mistakes, we all mess up, and we all hurt people through those mistakes from time to time. And it can be painful to come to terms with that. But who you are is so much more than the mistakes you’ve made? People who love you see you as a whole person: your strengths, your struggles, what makes you unique, and what they admire about you.
When you make an effort to embrace what others love about you, you’re seeing yourself more clearly, and it can be easier to think of your mistakes as just that: things you did that you’d like to do differently, not something that makes you a “bad person” or unworthy of love.
- What is something people say they love or admire about you?
- What are 5 words the person closest to you would use to describe you?
Write those words down on sticky notes or an index card. Once a day, look at them to remind yourself of the truth: you are someone with many strengths and gifts, and you are valued by the people you care about.
Represent the Qualities You Care About Most
I know it’s hard not to struggle with self-esteem when things don’t go the way we hoped or planned. But in those moments, it can help me to remind myself of all the ways I did the best I can, even if things didn’t turn out the way I wanted.
Doing what you know is right— and reminding yourself that you’ve done your best to do the right thing— are two things you can do every day to build your self-esteem over time.
- If you believe that being a loyal friend is important, think about how you can be (and have been) a loyal friend to others.
- If flakiness bothers you, remind yourself of a time you kept your word to someone, and make sure you aren’t a flaky friend.
- If you don't like it when people say hurtful things behind your back, don’t spread gossip the next time you overhear it.
When I do what I know is right, my self-esteem is raised, and I feel more confident about my decisions. And it helps me to stay grounded in my faith. If you’re open to thinking about God, it might help to remember that He knows your strengths, and He loves you for who you are, even in the moments no one else is watching.
And no matter where you are in thinking about faith, it is always comforting to know we’ve been true to ourselves.
But I know that sometimes, even when you’ve worked hard to feel better about yourself, it can take extra support to get through the tough times. You don’t have to go through that alone. You can talk to a HopeCoach at TheHopeLine about what’s getting you down and make a plan to take steps to start feeling better. We are here for you, and we are always in your corner.
One of the most freeing things you can do is break off the lies that have taken hold and replace them with the truth about who you are. Read how to change the pattern of negative self-talk.