Self-esteem and self-compassion are not often talked about in mainstream media. Often, it’s mainstream media that plays an active part in feeding negative ideas about ourselves: from body image, to family and career success.
I regularly hear small comments from clients that are typically stated as jokes. But the more these things are thought and said, the easier they become ingrained in our beliefs.
Thoughts like, “maybe I can pull off this shirt if I lose this arm flab”, or, “I ate way too much of that dessert, no wonder I’m so fat”, and “I’ll never be able to do that many push-ups, I’m such a wuss”, may seem small and harmless. But each one chips away at your self-esteem and confidence.
But could there be a way to increase your self esteem after all the negativity?
Here are seven mini-challenges that will increase your self-esteem over the next month. Spend 2 or 3 days focusing on each challenge, while learning more about yourself. Have fun!
30-day challenge to increase your self esteem
1.) First Challenge – Stop Negative Thoughts
This first challenge revolves around negative self-talk. This happens more than you realize. Pay attention to what you say to yourself over the next few days. Each time you think something negative about yourself, write it down or text yourself. At the end of the day, use this worksheet to write these thoughts in the “Negative Thought” column.
Now challenge these thoughts. Write down a positive argument for each. For example, “I’m such a wuss” thought could be challenged with, “I’m stronger than when I started.” The “I’m so fat” thought could be challenged with “I make more healthy choices than unhealthy ones.”
Practice positive arguments throughout the week. If you keep at it, they will start to occur naturally.
2.) Second Challenge – Treat Yourself as a Friend
Reflect back on your negative thoughts from the past few days and think of the untrue things you told yourself. Now, visualize a close friend or family member (a younger cousin, a parent, a best friend, etc.) telling you these mean things about themselves.
Imagine they told you they don’t deserve dessert because they didn’t work out that morning. Imagine they tell you they won’t get a raise because they don’t work hard enough. That they won’t pass a test because they’re stupid.
Write them a letter about what they don’t see in themselves. Tell them all the wonderful qualities that you see in them. You won’t need to send this letter, but you can keep it tucked away to look at when you’re full of doubt.
Showing love to others is often easier than showing the same affection for ourselves. Stepping outside of yourself and putting your thoughts as someone else’s will help you see the bigger picture – and get out of the self-imposed limitations you may have created.
3.) Third Challenge – Give Yourself Permission
First, think (or write down) about a few fears, faults, or feelings of guilt, that are regularly on your mind. Take a few days to notice which ones pop into your head most often. Maybe you feel guilty for spending time away from your family to attend a work conference. Maybe you feel you get emotional too easily.
Now, chose ONE and write yourself a permission slip, such as:
- I have permission to focus on my career.
- I have permission to display my feelings.
- I have permission to make mistakes.
You can be as creative as you want to. But write or type this permission slip and place it where you can see it regularly. Hang it by your desk, set it by your bedside, or keep it in your purse or briefcase. If you’d like to get crafty, the sky’s the limit. Create letters from construction paper, cut out images from magazines, use color, glitter, ribbon, texture – whatever you want!
When feelings of guilt and fear stop you from taking that next step, look at your permission slip and go for it.
4.) Fourth Challenge – Thank Your Flaws
No matter our shape, weight, height, etc., we ALL have body hang-ups. Some, you’ve held on to since childhood; others are newly formed and just popped up later in life. Over the next few days, you’ll confront them head on.
Write down your biggest body hang-ups. Be honest and open with yourself. Next, write a simple thank you to each trait. Some examples include:
- My tummy – “Thank you for bearing my child”.
- My big thighs – “Thank you for enabling me to walk, run, and dance”.
- My loud laugh – “Thank you for spreading my happiness“.
- My height – “Thank you for making me stand out”.
There will always be parts of you that, at times, aren’t your favorite. But these parts make up who YOU are.
How you view and treat them is in your control. Teaching yourself to embrace these aspects of yourself is a much better use of your time and energy than worrying about what you aren’t. It’s also a great exercise to increase your self esteem.
5.) Fifth Challenge – Map Out Your Personal Timeline
It’s easy to get caught up in the struggles you’re going through now. It may feel impossible to overcome them, and it’s easy to forget all the positive things you’ve experienced up to now. With a constant stream of awesome things going on in other people’s lives, it’s easy to think your life doesn’t compare.
In this challenge, you will create a personal timeline. This can be written on paper or compiled digitally. Start with your birthday, listing all the things that happened as you aged. Be careful not to filter out what you think others wouldn’t find impressive or important. This timeline is to reflect what stands out to YOU. You may have things like, “started my first job”, or “hung a shelf by myself”!
Include accomplishments as well as things you struggled with. Maybe you went away to college, only to transfer home after a semester. That must have been a tough time and a big decision – but don’t ignore it.
The purpose of this exercise is to have a reference to look back on when you feel you have nothing exciting happening in your life. It’s also helpful when you’re struggling with an issue you just can’t see the end of. Look behind you and see all the amazing things you’ve done, all the big decisions you’ve made, and the obstacles you’ve overcome. Hopefully, this will increase your self esteem with time.
6.) Sixth Challenge – Recognize the Roots of Who You Are
You can be super creative with this challenge! You can get your craft supplies out, or go the basic pen-and-paper route.
First, make a list of your fundamental beliefs, values, and traits. Next, list new strengths and skills you’ve acquired growing up. Then, write your goals, dreams, and aspirations.
Your project for the next couple of days is to create a tree out of these words and concepts. Your fundamental beliefs, values, and traits make up the deep roots and trunk. Your gained strengths and skills are the branches that hold onto the goals, aspirations, and dreams that make up the leaves.
This tree represents you from what you were born with, to what you are now, and what you want to be. Dream big: your tree can have as many leaves as it needs!
7.) Seventh Challenge – Set an Intention for the Day
Your last exercise begins first thing this morning. But don’t worry, you can start whenever you want to. When you wake up, set an intention for the day. This isn’t worded like goals of your to-do list. Rather, a personal action that will lead you towards your big goals and ideal self. For example:
I intend to…
These will serve as your mantra for the day. Think of how you can use various tasks as an opportunity to move towards your intention. Use these challenges to increase your self esteem a little, everyday.