Small Things You Can Do To Stop A Self-Esteem Spiral

Victoria Stokes finds out what to do when those self-critical thoughts start escalating

Self-esteem: Confidence in one’s own worth or abilities. See also self-worth, self-respect, and personal value. If you’ve got it, it’s all good, if you haven’t, you’ll feel it. Sometimes you can have it, but it can feel threatened. Someone’s outperformed you at work. Or you’ve caught sight of yourself in a mirror and you don’t like what you see. And all of a sudden it feels like the world is closing in. You’re filled with self-doubt, and pesky thoughts screaming ‘you’re not good enough’ come rushing at you from left, right and centre. Nobody feels good when they’re bashing themselves, so here we look at how to stop a self-esteem spiral in its tracks.

Name your inner critic

If your inner critic was a character in a movie, she’d be Regina George. No doubt you know her well: she’s the voice telling you you’re going to fuck up, everyone’s laughing at you and no matter how hard you try you’re just not enough. While it may feel good to tell her to STFU, an even better tactic is to name her and befriend her. This gives you the power to separate your inner mean girl voice, observe what she’s saying and work to understand her better. Smart, see? Don’t let yourself feel personally victimised by your own Regina George.

Drop the perfectionist attitude

You’ve got high standards for yourself and that can be a good thing, but not when your self-imposed standards are set so high that they’re unattainable. The next time you start giving yourself a hard time because you didn’t get things just so, focus on progress, not perfection. How have you improved? What have you done better than before? What progress have you made? Note to self: you don’t have to be the best at everything to have value.

Talk to yourself like a best friend

Would your best friend tell you you’re a piece of shit for missing a target at work? Would she criticise you for not fitting into a certain size of jeans? Unless your friend is the aforementioned Regina George, we doubt it. And we also doubt that some of the terrible things you say to yourself are phrases you’d ever utter to a friend. Here’s your new rule of thumb: If you wouldn’t say it to a friend, you don’t say it to yourself. Imagine how you’d soothe a pal in crisis and practice speaking to yourself like that instead.

See yourself as your closest friends do

What three words would people use to describe you? Not just a tricky interview question, but a good question to ask yourself when your self worth is suddenly in doubt. If your nearest and dearest could cherry-pick just three words to sum up what an A+ human you are, what would they be? Generous? Kind? Vivacious? Caring? Fun? Store up those compliments and try to remember them when your self-esteem goes into a tailspin. Hell, you don’t even have to limit yourself to just three.

Make compassion your passion

So you effed up. What do you do now? Berate yourself for the innately human quality of occasionally getting things wrong or accept that mistakes are a part of life and we all make them from time to time? If you chose the former option, it’s time to cop on and have a little compassion. Don’t know her? Self-compassion simply means treating yourself with kindness, instead of mercilessly trolling yourself for your shortcomings, so the next time you get it wrong, try saying ‘Meh! I’m human’ and move on.

Log out

Social media isn’t going to help you right now, chances are it’s going to make you feel worse. So if your self-esteem has taken a wallop and you know seeing everyone living their hashtag best life is going to make you feel all the worse, don’t just exit the app, log out of it. You can click back on when you’re feeling back to your best. We all know social media is a highlight reel, but you’re not going to feel better if you’re still checking the credits.

Have a comfort crew

Let me tell you something, whenever I have an off day I have a WhatsApp group I text without fail. It’s a group featuring two of my closest pals; two people whom I know will always have my back, who’ll soothe me when I’m sad and remind me of the reasons they love me when my confidence is low. Who’s your support network? Who’s going to put your self-esteem spiral in perspective and remind you of all the reasons you’re great? Reach out to them. Sometimes we need the people who love us most to bolster us up a little, and that’s okay.

Love yourself like you do others 

Think of your best pals and your closest family and ask yourself what it is you love most about them. We’ll bet it’s got nothing to do with the size of their thighs or their career achievements and everything to do with the way they make you feel. We’d wager that you love them because they’re funny and kind, or smart and caring, regardless of their personal failings. Start seeing your value in this way too.

Don’t dare compare

Ah, the old comparison complex. You’re not as successful/fit/pretty/happy as insert random person on the internet and suddenly that means you’re trash. We’re all guilty of this one, whether we’re feeling awful about ourselves after a quick scroll on Instagram or doubting our abilities because we were no match for a colleague. Here’s the thing: There’s always going to be someone smarter/prettier/more talented out there. The trick is to remember what you uniquely bring to the table. And we’ll bet it’s more than just tea and biccies. A quick mental rundown of all your strengths and achievements could be what helps you mid confidence crisis. If you’re a type-A kinda gal, do one better and write a list.


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