A strong sense of self is helpful for setting boundaries, understanding what’s important to you, and even for reducing stress. Nurturing your sense of self allows you to clearly perceive your own unique qualities and strengths – and protect your self love and respect.
Here are eight powerful tips to boost your self-image, self-esteem, and overall sense of self.
1. Learn how to set healthy boundaries
Setting boundaries puts a limit on anything or anyone that requires your time or energy – both of which are precious resources. Think of both entities like a budget: If anything that’s consuming them diminishes their value, it’s too expensive.
“Your personal boundaries contain your feelings, beliefs, values, ideas, and emotions – who you are as an individual. Without boundaries, others can begin to influence and sometimes dictate how you live your life,” says Lillian Rishty, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in Midtown Manhattan.
“Setting and maintaining boundaries, in turn, makes you feel like you are the priority, allowing you to build up confidence and sense of self worth. In order to show others how we want to be respected, we have to respect ourselves and determine our own worth.”
2. Practice saying “no”
Keeping your boundaries in place often entails saying “no,” adds Rishty. This simple word puts healthy limits on relationships and prevents others from taking advantage.
“Saying ‘no’ can be challenging for people-pleasers, often because they don’t want to feel ‘mean’ or ‘rude.’ But assertiveness does not mean aggressiveness, and there are kind ways to say no – that show love to both us and the other person. Sometimes it helps to work with a therapist to learn these skills.”
Build up your confidence by practicing the following ways to say “no”:
If you’re invited to something, but unable to attend:
- “What a shame – I’d love to [help/attend/etc.] but I’m already committed to [something else]. Thank you for thinking of me!”
If you’re overloading at work, and can’t take on a project at the moment:
- “Sounds great. However, I need I would need [x amount of time], rather than [originally proposed amount of time], to do a thorough job. How would you prefer me to prioritize these tasks?”
If you’re asked to help on something you simply can’t do:
- “Thanks for thinking of me, but I have too much on my plate right now.”
“Saying ‘no’ can be challenging for people-pleasers, often because they don’t want to feel ‘mean’ or ‘rude.’ But assertiveness does not mean aggressiveness, and there are kind ways to say ‘no.’"
Another reason it might be hard for us to say “no”?
“Sometimes it is because we don’t realize we are worth more,” Rishty points out. “Often, saying ‘no’ involves an underlying belief that the needs of others are more important than our own.”
3. Practice self-affirmation and positive self-talk
Multiple studies have confirmed that the simple act of self-affirmation rewire your brain, reducing the stress that cuts off creativity and protecting your sense of self-worth when it’s threatened.
Practice speaking kind words to yourself. Pick one or two affirmations that really resonate and feel encouraging for you, and say them out loud several times a day and before you go to bed.
“Practice speaking kind words to yourself. Pick one or two affirmations that really resonate and feel encouraging for you, and say them out loud several times a day and before you go to bed.”
To add more power to the affirmation, write it down as you say it. Simple, easy-to-remember phrases like “I am capable,” “I am confident,” and “I am enough” are simple ways to encourage self-growth.
4. Travel as a means of self-discovery
Travel allows you to stretch outside of your comfort zone to experience new cultures, foods, people, and places. Stepping outside of your comfort zone allows more opportunities for successes – which, in turn, bolsters self-esteem.
Travel allows you to see the world outside of your norm and preconceived notions, and expands your perspective.
5. Do physical exercises that are right for you
So your sister runs marathons, and your roommate’s a yogini – but try as you might, maybe neither of those activities are quite right for you.
You already know a major part of taking care of yourself is taking care of your body, but that’s only true when you actually enjoy the activity. If running isn’t your jam, what about swimming? Would kickboxing help you release pent-up energy? Or maybe you could try taking up tennis with a friend, or scheduling hikes with your partner?
Try a free intro class at a local studio to see if you enjoy the exercise – and more importantly, if it empowers and your body in a positive way.
6. Increase self-awareness and decrease comparison
Every person has their unique set of strengths and weaknesses. Know yourself – both the good and the bad. Remember that neither define your core worth.
Own it all: Self-awareness allows you to have a healthy and holistic perspective of yourself.
Play up your strengths by first recognizing what they are. This requires some self-discovery and taking time to get to know yourself. Take some time throughout the week to take notice of activities that energize you, and prioritize doing those.
As for activities that feel draining? Show grace to yourself, and develop them if helpful. Where possible, allow yourself to actively pursue growth in areas of perceived weaknesses.
“Self-acceptance is the understanding that nobody’s perfect and that – simply put – ‘messing up’ or things going wrong, is a universal experience,” adds Rishty. “Along with greater sense of self, self-compassion gives you a greater ability to cope with negative emotions and increased motivation to keep going.”
7. Practice self-care
Self-care Sunday is a movement for a reason! Those cozy, self-love vibes make for a healthy mentality that you can apply the other six days of the week. What seemingly small acts do you need to perform in order feel your best?
Typical acts of self-care may include:
- Getting eight solid hours of sleep each night
- Spending time with supportive friends, and/or in solitude
- Writing in a journal
- Meditating using meditation apps
- Reading self-care books or listening to self-improvement podcasts
- Unplugging from technology and spending time in nature
- Exercise – whether it’s a 90-minute workout, or a mindful stroll around the block
- Pursuing a hobby you love, like art, dance, music, or a new language
- Curling up with a good novel or film
These actions can be big or small; the overarching purpose is to slow down, check in with yourself, and make sure you’re tending to your needs.
8. Try therapy for self-esteem
If you’re not sure what self-care looks like for you – or you could use a little help figuring out how to prioritize it – give therapy a try.
A therapist provides a safe space for you to confront dysfunctional thinking, and identify patterns or habits standing between you and a healthier self-image.
You’re already wonderful – and the right therapist will help you see that! Check out Zencare.co to find your dream therapist today.