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5 Tips to Build Your Self-Esteem and Boost Your Confidence
by Dr. Daniel J. Heller
There are plenty of reasons why you might suffer from low self-esteem or low self-confidence. A difficult childhood, traumatic experiences, social pressures, cultural expectations, and the media’s unrealistic portrayal of women and women’s bodies may all have contributed to your self-image. Perhaps you’ve always struggled with self-confidence and have just assumed it is part of your personality. Or your self-esteem may have suffered from losing a job, gaining weight, or losing an important relationship. PMS and PMDD symptoms might be compounding the problem, making you feel like your body and mind betray you at the worst possible times.
No matter what your situation, you can build your self-esteem and boost your confidence, and begin to feel much better about yourself—even on those difficult days. Self-esteem is dynamic and flexible: with some attention and time, you can strengthen and build it. You can overcome those negative thoughts and feelings about yourself, and get relief from self-doubt. Here are some powerful ways to build your self-esteem and boost your confidence.
"Positive thinking" is such a well-worn cliché that, at this point, can sound completely meaningless. But often, struggles with self-esteem and self-confidence manifest as negative thoughts, and if you’ve ever tried to overcome these with willpower, you know that that can seem like an impossible task. Don’t beat yourself up over a seeming inability to think positively! It’s a very difficult thing for many women to do.
You can make an effort to actively focus on positive thoughts, and with patience and persistence this can pay real dividends. When you actively engage your mind, it can help you to feel less like a passive observer of your negative or painful thoughts and emotions. It’s hard to give exact instructions on what techniques of positive focusing will help you—it will require some trial and error to find the style that works for you and your mental/emotional type.
A proven way to dispel negativity and to feel better about yourself and your life is to "count your blessings" by practicing gratitude. You can start and end your day by listing or even writing down the good things in your life in which you are grateful. This surprisingly simple exercise seems to actually "change your mind" so that you gradually begin to see your good fortune and focus less on the negative. If you find it hard to think about more than a few things to be grateful for, keep trying. There’s a good chance that there are plenty of things going your way that you may not have noticed before.
While you focus on the positive, remember to acknowledge the feelings behind your negative thoughts. It’s important to accept that those feelings exist, and to try to understand why you have them. Doing this will also help you to avoid blaming yourself for negative thoughts and feelings. Remember, you’re starting on the road of self-discovery that will ultimately lead to a more complete, forgiving, and healthier self-image.
Exercise is often portrayed as a cure-all. When it comes to self-esteem and self-confidence, that suggestion isn’t far off. While exercise has obvious physical effects, its effects on your mood and brain are sometimes overlooked. Exercise releases endorphins, powerful brain chemicals that are responsible for making you feel good. Triggering endorphins is a completely natural, drug-free way to feel good, and to help yourself let go of negative feelings. Exercise is one of those unique, do-it-yourself prescriptions that benefits body and mind, and can help boost your self-esteem and build your self-confidence. The healthier your body, the better you feel, and the better you feel, the better you feel about yourself.
Of course, exercise burns excess fat, tones muscles, helps keep your skin healthier, and generally hones your body into a more efficient and well-tuned machine. We’ve all heard the stories and seen the commercials about how exercise can help you lose weight and look better. From a self-esteem perspective, feeling good about how you look is important for feeling confident—just be careful that you aren’t placing undue importance on your looks. Your appearance is just one part of who you are.
Exercise can also help you feel engaged with the world and more like you’re part of a larger community. If you have a tendency to spend a lot of time mulling over negative thoughts, getting out of your head can be a wonderful thing—and nothing is so good for doing this as some simple exercise.
Food does much more than help you lose or gain weight, or cause or prevent heart disease and diabetes. What you eat directly effects how your brain and hormones work, so how you feel has everything to do with your diet.
It’s easy to find recommendations to eat well, but harder to find down to earth, practical suggestions on healthy diet that are science-based; not just trying to sell you some weight loss product; and that are more than just the latest fad. Here on PMS Comfort, we have a whole section of diet articles to help you navigate the confusing landscape of dietary advice and to begin to feel healthy so you can build your self-confidence and self-esteem.
While it’s easy to get into the habit of eating unhealthy foods, especially if you’re busy or stressed, you really can help yourself feel better about yourself by taking our advice, and our diet section, to heart—and putting it into practice.
Talking through your feelings is a great way to understand yourself, and has been proven to help give relief from PMDD symptoms and depression. Giving your feelings a voice; getting feedback in a safe, confidential environment from either a trained professional counselor or a group of concerned people who are also struggling with similar concerns to yours; and hearing others’ stories can help you to feel validated, and like you’re not alone. It can also give you a sense of relief, and over time a feeling of mastery over your emotions and your life.
In therapy or support groups, you won’t be judged: the whole situation is created to allow you the space to explore what you feel. If you feel judged, you should say so and try to work that out. If you still feel judged, it may not be the right situation for you. This is quite different from talking about self-confidence and self-esteem with friends and family: this situation is complicated by emotional attachment, yours and theirs. Plus, as you probably already know, most people aren’t trained to listen and withhold judgment!
For instance, if you expect a friend to respond in a particular way and she doesn’t, you could feel embarrassed, angry, or upset, none of which will build your self-esteem or boost your self-confidence. Friends and family can be wonderful support, but when you share intimate feelings with someone you know so well, you risk feeling exposed, vulnerable, and unsafe. An impartial therapist provides anonymity and distance: a safe place for exploring your self-doubt and learning healthy ways of viewing yourself and your life.
Many women who struggle with low self-confidence and self-esteem often feel isolated by their negative thoughts. When you realize that other people share your feelings, that they are struggling with the same self-doubts, you realize how normal and common your feelings are. Support groups can help with this by reminding you that other women face similar pressures, and they, like you, feel burdened trying to live up to unrealistic expectations.
You may find it easier to be accepting and forgiving of others than of yourself, but once you contact that source of compassion, it’s not too much of a stretch, give it to yourself. Thus, a support group can help you learn to cut yourself some slack, and realize you’ve been fighting a battle you didn’t choose, and don’t even need to fight!
This site is full of tips on natural DIY approaches to addressing premenstrual symptoms. In fact, we’ve already covered several in this article: dietary changes, practicing gratitude, exercise. Many women who find these measures aren’t up to the task, or who want a natural alternative to a stubborn problem turn to supplements such as the PMS Comfort Herbal.
PMS or PMDD have a tendency to undermine your self-confidence. This isn’t all that surprising: if you can’t rely on your body and your emotions, and you feel like they sabotage your plans, your energy, and your productivity, that can make you feel bad about yourself—even though it’s not your fault! But there is a real silver lining here: addressing your PMS and PMDD can dramatically improve your self-confidence and self-image, and is one of the easiest things you can do to feel better about yourself. You may not realize how deeply your symptoms are affecting you, and finding relief could be all you need to turn that negative thought pattern around.
Building your self-esteem and self-confidence is possible. When you start to be loving, forgiving, and gentle with yourself, you will begin to live without so many negative thoughts. You can feel more confident going about your day, and better appreciate the amazing privilege of being you. A positive self-image often leads to more positive relationships, healthier choices, and an overall happier and more productive life. Like with any change, building your self-image takes time, so try to be patient. Every choice that leads you down a healthier road is worth celebrating, no matter how small.