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7 ways to develop good self-esteem

“I don’t want to belong to any club that would accept me as a member.” This infamous quote of Groucho Marx, comedian and self-critic always makes me laugh.  Details of the exact story are a bit unclear, but one interpretation is that he joined the Friars Club and when asked why he wasn’t attending meetings responded with this outrageous comment.  So what was up with Groucho? In addition to eliciting some laughs, was he looking for empathy for his poor self- esteem?  Or, maybe he was projecting his low self image onto others? So where does self-esteem come from?

Before you even realize it, many factors influence your self-esteemDefined as your overall opinion of yourself, self-esteem begins to form in childhood and carries messages with you for years.    Factors that influence self-esteem include:

  • Your own thoughts and perceptions
  • How other people react to you
  • Life experiences
  • Culture and society
  • Media messages

Relationships with those close to you are especially important in developing self-esteem.  If you receive negative comments, criticism, teasing and belittling from those close to you, you may be more likely to struggle with self-esteem.  The role of media, whether it’s advertisements, magazines, movies or TV, plays an incredible role in your perception and ideology of beauty. The perfect people you see on the screen don’t exist in real life, and believing this beauty myth can cause painful self-comparisons and feelings of self defeat.

As a young child you have little control of the world around you, but as you mature you can master many skills to help develop self-esteem.  Whether your journey is losing, maintaining or gaining weight, feeling that you are worth the effort is essential to success. The following aspects are positive lifestyle changes you can implement in your daily life to aide in the continued development of positive self-esteem.  Remember, the best way to develop self-esteem varies from person to person, so if one strategy isn’t working for you, it may be best to try something new.

  1. Change negative thoughts to positive thoughts. Recognize that beauty, health and strength come in all sizes. Ask yourself, is this message really true?  Would I say these comments to someone else, and if not, why do I say them to myself?   What do I get out of thinking this way? If it makes me feel badly about myself, why not stop thinking that way?
  2. Take care of yourself. Eat healthy foods, get enough sleep and exercise. Take time to do things that you enjoy.  You are worth it!!
  3. Dress for success. Dress in ways that make you feel good.  Clean out your closet. Give away or store clothes that don’t fit.
  4. Learn something new to improve your skills.
  5. Work on contentment. A secret to happiness is “not to get what you want” but ”to want what you have.” Have realistic expectations.
  6. Spend time with people who make you feel good about yourself and treat you well.
  7. Start a gratitude journal or list of positive self affirmations and remind yourself of your special qualities every day.

Self-esteem doesn’t change over night.  It took years to develop your identity and you need time, practice and ownership to improve your sense of self.  As Groucho would say; “Who are you going to believe, me or you own eyes?”

ABOUT
Diane Kersten, LCSW dkersten@billingsclinic.org

I am a licensed clinical social worker and have been with the Metabolism Center since its inception and over thirty years at the Billings Clinic. We all know that our busy lives, thoughts and feelings can interfere with our ability to maintain healthy lifestyle changes. I am here to help individuals look at their barriers and strengths in achieving wellness and learn new strategies for success. I meet with patients for individual counseling, coaching and group classes.

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