It would be great if it weren't such a tall order, but having a solid sense of self-esteem can be a true-blue challenge. One that can, at times, feel debilitating. It also doesn't help that we live in a world that constantly throws unrealistic and destructive expectations at us, that often encourages comparison with one another. Therefore, learning how to practice liking yourself is something that can take some time and effort.
And it is worth noting that if you are struggling with how you talk and feel about yourself, you're not alone in feeling this way. Perhaps you don't know — and never have known — what it actually looks or feels like to love who you are. It's also OK if you have experienced something difficult that has shifted your self-esteem in a big way for the first time.
"People often let one negative event impact how they feel about themselves overall," relationship and family counselor Stephanie Campbell, MS, LMHC of Blooming Lotus Counseling, tells Bustle. "If you find that you easily fall into a destructive thinking pattern, it is important to develop skills that will help to bring you out of that dark place."
Below, take a look at some pro tips on how to practice liking yourself a little more in the moments where it feels so hard.
1. Create A Toolbox When Things Are Feeling Bad In Your Head
One of the first things you can begin considering is what works for you in the moments that self-loathing feels strongest. Or at least be willing to experiment with a few.
"I encourage clients to create a physical or mental 'toolbox' that they fill with things that can be grounding, uplifting, or act as a reminder of past successes," Campbell says.
Practicing a grounding technique such as deep breathing, tapping, or a brief meditation can also help to bring you to the present moment and make their negative thinking slow down or stop altogether, Campbell says.
Your toolbox can increase your resistance to negative thinking when done on a daily basis. In addition, Campbell says, setting small, attainable goals can help to build confidence.
"Most importantly, be kind to yourself because life can be challenging," Campbell says.
2. Consider Reaching Out For Professional Guidance
Habitual issues with self-esteem can get really dark. That is OK, and even though it might not seem like it, there are ways to lift out of it with help.
"If it’s an ongoing and long-term problem that internally you aren’t feeling good about yourself, it may be time to speak with a therapist to try and unpack what’s going on at a deeper level," family therapist Heidi McBain, who specializes in women's mental wellness, tells Bustle.
If you feel any kind of shame, don't blame yourself or let that stop you. Unfortunately therapeutic practices can still be stigmatized, but know that they are a safe, helpful, and healing approach.
3. Reach Out To A Trusted Loved One To Talk About How You Feel
If you don’t feel good about yourself internally, it can help to get external positive feedback, McBain says.
"This may come from a partner, friend, family member, coworker, etc., who can remind you why you’re so great if you’ve momentarily forgotten," McBain says.
While you don't want to have to rely on external validation all the time, being surrounded by people who love you, can give you perspective, and aid you in connecting to yourself is helpful.
It can also allow you some distance from your own negativity — and remind you how to talk to yourself the way a friend would.
4. Figure Out What Actually Relaxes You
It's not yoga and walks through the woods for everyone. For some people it's wandering around a mall trying on makeup, reading magazines, or masturbating. Whatever it is, it's all good, and you deserve to spend time doing it.
"A big advantage of knowing who you are is knowing how to pamper and comfort yourself when you’re stressed or tired," California-based psychotherapist and author Dr. Tina B. Tessina, PhD, tells Bustle.
"Develop a style for recharging and relaxing. What makes you most comfortable? What soothes you? What helps you recharge?" Tessina says.
Make a list that includes simple things you can do cheaply, like read a book and listen to tunes, as well as things that are very special, like going for that 90 minute massage, Tessina says.
5. Consistently Notice And Acknowledge The Destructive Voice
Even if you can't control your "Inner Saboteur," you have the ability to notice this destructive part of yourself, to turn down the volume of the messages or even detach from them altogether, psychotherapist and national speaker, Joyce Marter, who specializes in behavioral health, tells Bustle.
"Sometimes it is helpful to use humor and name your Inner Saboteur to gain insight and perspective on how they impact you. I call mine Zelda," Marter says. "Even if she rears her ugly head and tells me I don't look right or just said the dumbest thing ever, I can recognize her for what she is: a part of me that is not serving my best interest. I can become aware when she is taking over my thinking and mentally tell her to take a hike."
No, this isn't easy, and your version of Zelda might not always cooperate. But "naming" your self-loathing is a helpful practice because you can begin to separate yourself from the negativity. You are not your thoughts.
Again, remember that you don't have to go at building your self-esteem toolbox on your own. It isn't always easy. But reaching out for guidance, and practicing habits that help you care for yourself in a kind, compassionate way, can make a real difference.