How to Think More Highly of Yourself
I was scrolling through Instagram when I came across a Shine post that stopped me cold. It was a screenshot of a tweet by William Ketchum III that rehashed a conversation.
“Recently told a friend how it confuses me when people think more highly of me than I do of myself,” Ketchum wrote. “She said, ‘They see who you really are instead of what you’ve lied to yourself about.’ It’s stuck with me ever since. Fellow imposter syndrome sufferers, keep that in mind.”
It hit me right in the feels—and, judging from the comments on the post, it resonated with the Shine community, too.
While we’re quick to praise others, it’s rare that we turn that same happy gaze inward. Instead, we nitpick the failures that seem glaring to us—but microscopic to others.
Personally, I grew up thinking that too much self regard was a less-than-great trait. But you can be humble and think highly of yourself. And it turns out, thinking highly of yourself isn’t just OK to do—it has tangible, real-life benefits.
“When our self-esteem is higher, we not only feel better about ourselves, we are more resilient as well,” psychologist and author Guy Winch, Ph.D., writes on TED Ideas. “Brain scan studies demonstrate that when our self-esteem is higher, we are likely to experience common emotional wounds such as rejection and failure as less painful, and bounce back from them more quickly. When our self-esteem is higher, we are also less vulnerable to anxiety.”
The trouble is, actually thinking more highly of yourself is easier said than done. Your brain rarely just does as you tell it, and a habit of knocking yourself down a peg can be hard to break.
Boosting your self-esteem takes effort and practice. Here’s how to begin.
Embrace your strengths
I’m a quick learner, great baker, and terrible runner. If I judged myself on my ability to finish a marathon, I’d be setting myself up for a lifetime of disappointment. Instead, suggests Winch, I should home in on my top skills and find ways to let them shine.
“Self-esteem is built by demonstrating real ability and achievement in areas of our lives that matter to us,” he writes. “If you pride yourself on being a good cook, throw more dinner parties. If you’re a good runner, sign up for races and train for them. In short, figure out your core competencies and find opportunities and careers that accentuate them.”
By focusing on my strengths—in the form of a mean peach galette—I can have a better sense of my true value. Plus, I’m more likely to use those recognized skills moving forward, setting myself up for a cycle of rising self confidence.
Welcome a new voice to your mind
When you start to pick apart your recent performance, pause. Take a moment to think your reaction through:
●︎ What’s it based on?
●︎ Is it accurate?
●︎ Would a friend, family member, or colleague describe it the same way?
●︎ If not, how might they react to what you’ve done?
Chances are, that voice in your head is operating with a pretty heavy bias. Rather than blocking it out, simply introduce a new, gentler, friend-like perspective into the mix.
Hype up your friends
Keep calling out your friends’ successes and strong suits.
When you notice positive qualities in your pals, note them as a sign of your own strength, too. You’ve sought out and nurtured relationships with sweet, exciting people—go you!
Over time, the emotional generosity with which you compliment your friends might spread to yourself: You might cheer yourself on after negotiating a raise, or sticking to a meditation practice for a week. Plus, having open, loving relationships with your friends means they’re more likely to gas you up, too. When they do, be sure to listen.
Take a compliment
Deflecting a compliment can easily become second nature. It’s almost uncontrollable—we laugh, even wave our hands, physically fending off the praise.
“When we feel bad about ourselves we tend to be more resistant to compliments—even though that is when we most need them,” Winch writes. “So, set yourself the goal (of tolerating) compliments when you receive them, even if they make you uncomfortable.”
The next time someone praises your work, outfit, attitude, etc., greet it with a hearty “thank you,” bask in its glow, then pass it along. Need a compliment-accepting bootcamp? Find our guide here.
Reflect on what you’ve done
We love the thrill of the chase. We’ll work towards something for days, weeks, climbing higher and higher until we finally reach the peak we’ve been waiting for.
And then… we move on to the next task.
We rarely celebrate our wins or even remember them after the fact. Start keeping a running list of what you’ve accomplished in all areas of your life, or try journaling about successes after they’re over.
Don’t forget to cheer on those “near wins” too, which can help motivate you toward finishing—and then celebrating—a goal.
Read next: How to Stop Crowdsourcing Your Confidence
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