“You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.” — Buddha
You can defeat your negative self-talk using techniques that some of the best therapists use.
If you don’t have high self-esteem by default, you can build it by design.
You can treat self-esteem as a skill and develop it by using specific techniques.
In Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy, David Burns writes about three techniques for improving self esteem.
What is Self-Esteem?
Self-esteem refers to your overall subjective sense of self-worth and value.
Your self-esteem involves the thoughts, beliefs, and feelings you hold about yourself, influencing your self-perception and self-confidence.
Healthy self-esteem typically involves having a positive view of yourself, feeling capable, deserving of happiness, and confident in your abilities and worthiness.
On the other hand, low self-esteem often manifests as self-doubt, self-criticism, and a negative self-image, which can impact various aspects of your life, including your relationships, achievements, and overall well-being.
Self-esteem can be influenced by a variety of factors, including early life experiences, social interactions, and personal achievements, and it plays a significant role in shaping your thoughts, behaviors, and emotional responses.
The good news is you can change and improve your self-esteem.
Why Improve Your Self Esteem?
There are a lot of reasons to improve your self-esteem, but mostly it comes down to this:
Improve your self-esteem instantly improves the quality of your life in all aspects.
With that in mind, here are the key benefits to improving your self-esteem:
- Self-Esteem as the Foundation: Recognize that self-esteem forms the foundation of your mental and emotional well-being, impacting how you navigate life’s challenges and your overall happiness.
- Resilience and Achievement: Understand that healthy self-esteem is the key to resilience, enabling you to bounce back from setbacks, pursue your goals with determination, and achieve higher levels of success in various aspects of life.
- Improved Relationships: Embrace the idea that nurturing your self-esteem leads to healthier relationships, better communication, and the ability to set and maintain boundaries, enhancing your overall quality of life.
So improving your self-esteem is an investment that will pay you back for the rest of your life, for the best of your life.
3 Proven Practices for Boosting Self-Esteem
To elevate your self-esteem, embrace self-compassion by treating yourself with kindness and understanding in times of struggle, understanding that imperfection is a part of being human.
Practice vulnerability by courageously revealing your authentic self to others, fostering deeper connections and self-acceptance.
Challenge negative self-talk through the “Two-Minute Rule,” redirecting your focus to positive aspects and achievements while interrupting habitual self-criticism.
These practices, supported by research, offer a comprehensive approach to not only boost self-esteem but also cultivate genuine self-worth, meaningful relationships, and a more fulfilling life.
1. Embrace Self-Compassion
While self-esteem often focuses on how we perceive ourselves in relation to others, self-compassion involves how we treat ourselves with kindness and understanding, especially in moments of failure or suffering.
Recognize that everyone has flaws and makes mistakes; it’s a part of being human. Instead of harsh self-criticism, practice self-compassion by treating yourself as you would a close friend in times of struggle.
Research shows that self-compassion is strongly linked to higher self-esteem and overall well-being.
Insight: Self-compassion isn’t about excusing poor behavior or avoiding responsibility; it’s about acknowledging imperfections while nurturing a sense of worthiness and the motivation to grow.
2. Practice Vulnerability
Vulnerability, as popularized by Dr. Brené Brown, involves embracing the courage to be imperfect and authentically yourself.
It’s about opening up to others about your fears, insecurities, and struggles. Sharing your vulnerabilities not only builds deeper connections with others but also enhances self-esteem.
Many people believe that appearing strong and perfect is the path to self-worth, but true self-esteem comes from being genuinely seen and accepted for who you are.
Insight: Vulnerability requires strength and resilience. It’s not a sign of weakness but rather a powerful tool for building self-esteem and forming meaningful relationships.
3. The “Two-Minute Rule” for Positive Self-Talk
Research indicates that altering self-talk patterns can significantly boost self-esteem.
When you catch yourself engaging in negative self-talk or self-criticism, apply the “Two-Minute Rule.” Challenge the negative thought by asking yourself, “Is this criticism accurate, or am I being too hard on myself?”
Spend no more than two minutes reflecting on the criticism.
Afterward, focus on one positive aspect or achievement, however small it may seem.
Consistently practicing this technique helps rewire your brain to emphasize self-encouragement over self-criticism.
Insight: The “Two-Minute Rule” is a practical way to interrupt habitual negative thinking and gradually shift your internal dialogue toward greater self-compassion and positivity.
These practices, grounded in psychological research, offer a holistic approach to enhancing self-esteem.
They go beyond the surface level of self-esteem and address the underlying beliefs and behaviors that contribute to a healthy self-image and a more fulfilling life.
3 Techniques to Boost Self-Esteem from Dr. Burns, Author of Feeling Good
Unlocking your self-esteem and building a healthier self-image can be achieved through three effective techniques outlined by Dr. Burns in his book, “Feeling Good”:
1. Talk Back to That Internal Critic
According to Dr. Burns, technique #1 is talking back and countering your inner critic.
Start by recognizing and recording your negative, self-critical thoughts when they arise.
Analyze these thoughts to understand where they become distorted, often through generalization or minimizing your successes.
Practice talking back to these thoughts, gradually training your mind to become a supportive coach rather than a harsh critic.
Dr. Burns suggests three ways:
- Train yourself to recognize and write down your negative, self-critical dialogue when it happens.
- Identify and understand why these thoughts are distorted. This means checking your thinking by looking to where you generalize your thoughts or downplay your successes.
- Practice talking back to your thoughts so that you develop a more realistic self-evaluation system.
With this technique, you retrain your brain to act as a coach versus a critic.
For an effective technique for talking back to your internal critic, see How to Defeat Negative Self Talk with the 3 Column Technique.
2. Use Mental Biofeedback
According to Dr. Burns, technique #2 is using mental feedback.
Dr. Burns suggests monitoring your negative thoughts using a wrist counter.
Each time a self-critical thought crosses your mind, click the counter’s button.
Over time, you’ll notice a reduction in negative thoughts as you become more adept at identifying and countering them.
This technique typically takes about three weeks to yield noticeable improvements.
This technique is about tracking your negative thoughts.
By tracking your negative thoughts, you reduce the negative thoughts over time.
Dr. Burns writes:
“A second method which can be very useful involves monitoring your negative thoughts with a wrist counter.
You can buy one at a sporting-goods store or a golf shop; it looks like a wristwatch, is inexpensive, and every time you push the button, the number changes on the dial.
Click the button each time a negative thought about yourself crosses your mind; be on the constant alert for such thoughts.
At the end of each day, not your daily total score and write it down in a logbook.
At first you will notice the number increase; this will continue for several days as you get better and better at identifying your critical thoughts.
Soon you will begin to notice that the daily total reaches a plateau for a week to ten days, and then it will begin to go down.
This indicates that your harmful thoughts are diminishing and that you are getting better.
This approach usually requires three weeks.”
3. Cope Don’t Mope
According to Dr. Burns, technique #3 is cope don’t mope.
Take a proactive approach rather than dwelling on self-criticism.
Instead of moping or adopting self-destructive labels, tackle the problem head-on.
Define the issue, break it down into manageable parts, and apply appropriate solutions.
Continuously evaluate your progress objectively and adjust your approach if needed.
This technique emphasizes action, results, and adaptability in improving self-esteem.
Rather than mope or use self-destructive labels, attack the problem.
To attack the problem:
- Define the problem.
- Break it down into specific parts.
- Apply appropriate solutions.
The key with this technique is taking action, producing results, evaluating your results objectively.
You continue to change your approach if you’re not getting the results you need.