It’s not just you. Every day, people hastily cancel plans, certain their friends have only invited them out of pity. They analyze every break in the conversation, pick over every turn of phrase for evidence they’ve said the wrong thing. They stay up late of nights wondering why it feels like everyone hates them. They fret over the number of likes their posts get, wondering if they’ll ever be worthy of love.
If you find yourself thinking the people in your life hate you, you’re not the only one. Chances are, you have more to offer in your relationships than you realize. So why is the feeling that everyone hates you so hard to shake?
According to Tzu-Chen Cheng, Psy.D., the source of low self-esteem can be difficult to pinpoint, but these feelings often spring from our early relationships in childhood.
“I believe much of it can be traced to how a person is raised, as low (or healthy) self-esteem is typically formed by how others interact with us,” he explained.
Children rely in large part on the adults in their lives — especially parents and primary caregivers — to make sense of the world and their sense of self. Because of this, it’s no surprise that when the most important people in our lives treat us as if we are unworthy, we can view ourselves the same way.
Low self-esteem isn’t only created in childhood. Mental illnesses like anxiety and depression may cause individuals affected to feel unworthy or unlovable as well. Dr. Cheng explained a skewed sense of self is a vicious cycle, since fixating on perceived “flaws” can negatively affect your mental health and lower self-esteem as a result.
Fortunately, there are several concrete ways you can improve your self-esteem if you’re struggling. In addition to Dr. Cheng’s insight, we turned to members of our Mighty community to share tangible things they do to feel more confident when they were struggling with their self-esteem. Read what they each said below.
Here’s what Dr. Cheng and our community shared with us:
1. Surround Yourself With Positive, Supportive People
According to Cheng, one step people with low self-esteem can take is to surround themselves with people who are positive and supportive. It’s easier to feel secure and happy when the people around you have a sunny worldview. “Positivity does rub off,” Cheng explained.
2. Do What You Love
If social encounters are stressful for you, consider taking the time to enjoy your own company. Do something that makes you happy, whether it’s reading or dancing or belting Disney songs during your drive home. Allow yourself little moments of happiness — they can go a long way towards helping you feel comfortable in your own skin.
“If I am at home, I turn my favorite music on and start singing along and dancing.” — @goodenough
“Do something that you love like art, or [read] books.” — @aryavraj113
“Writing my novel and trying to pick the positive aspects of my writing. Talking to myself and giving myself words of encouragement. Playing the guitar and the piano and singing.” — @milliedarc
3. Learn a New Skill
If you find it hard to believe others value you, focusing on developing a new skill may help distract you. Whether you’re teaching yourself Spanish or plucking out a new chord on the guitar, trying something new and watching yourself grow can really boost your confidence.
“Few things can more objectively prove your worth than developing new skills or reaching a higher level of proficiency in something that matters to you. Regardless of how you feel about yourself, you could never be too skillful.” — @Beatkunedo90
4. Keep a Journal of Your Interactions With Others
Cheng recommends keeping a journal of social interactions. It can be easy to fixate on encounters that are “embarrassing” or negative — in fact, our brains are designed to give more weight to bad encounters than good ones. However, doing focusing on the “negative” can give an inaccurate picture of how people actually respond to you in everyday life. After some time keeping a journal of all your interactions — good and bad — you may be surprised by how many people responded to you in a really positive way.
“It can be powerful for someone to see a more accurate picture of how he/she actually comes across on a day-to-day basis,” Cheng said.
5. Be with the People You Love
If you find yourself feeling you’re unworthy of people’s time and care, seek out loved ones you trust. Spending time talking to someone you feel at ease with can make you feel more confident in future social situations that would normally make you uncomfortable.
“Being around people I love! An evening spent having fun in a relaxed environment with people I feel most comfortable with makes me feel great!” — @its_natalie
6. Pamper Yourself
Odds are, people would enjoy spending time with you with or without the makeup. Still, taking a quick pass with the curling iron or putting on lipstick can help a lot of people to feel more confident in their own skin. Pampering yourself can be a form of self-care, too — a reminder that you’re worth the time it takes to get those eyeliner wings just right.
“I don’t get out much because of chronic pain! When I can get my hair done, put a little makeup on and even splurge on my nails, I feel human again — for even a little while! It helps my self-esteem!” — @dunkinsmom
“Sounds petty and materialistic, but having my makeup and hair done. I feel like I could conquer mountains then. My makeup is my shield and hair is my weapon.” — @nicknskymom09
“A makeover. I feel better when I pamper myself a little.” — @lindsaysteeves
Exercising isn’t just good for your body. Setting challenges for yourself and watching yourself grow stronger can go a long way towards building your confidence. Exercise can make you happier, too, whether it’s the rush of endorphins or the pride of meeting a new goal.
“Working out! It’s not only made me feel stronger and more confident physically, but it’s also helped me feel accomplished when I reach new goals. On tough days, it’s a great reminder that I’m capable of pushing myself and achieving more than what feels possible sometimes. Buying cute workout outfits when I reach new goals is a bonus too.” — @findingaway
“Pushing myself to achieve something. I love climbing peaks and small mountains and when I reach the top, that feeling is the biggest boost.” — @its_natalie
8. Do Something Productive
It’s easier to feel good about yourself when you’re handling your day-today responsibilities. Checking things off your to-do list can help you to feel that you’re capable and in control. It can also help to reduce stress or distract you if you’re feeling down.
“Finding ways to save money and finding new ways to use things I have. It’s a challenge, but it’s a good distracting one.” — @Relentless77
“Just plunging into what needs to be done.” — @catalase
9. Cut Toxic People Out of Your Life
Low self-esteem rarely happens in a vacuum. If someone in your life is making you feel like you’re worthless, it’s probably time to let them go. It can feel next-to-impossible to stay confident if you’re constantly being reminded of your shortcomings, real or imagined. For help on creating boundaries with someone who doesn’t respect your boundaries, head here.
“Staying away from people who bring you down or make you feel awful about yourself… Toxic people are real and the relief you’ll feel when they’re gone is unbelievable.” — @dynamitewalker
10. Remember Your Achievements
As you’re working to build self-esteem, it can be helpful to remember your achievements. Tangible reminders of times you felt successful can go a long way when you’re struggling.
“Remembering my accomplishments. That I succeeded in spite of everything.” — @slava
11. Be Your Own Cheerleader
Building self-esteem is hard. Remember to celebrate every success — no matter how small. Don’t be afraid to take a victory lap or give yourself a pep talk in the morning. Walk over to the mirror, look yourself square in the face, and tell yourself that you’re worth fighting for. But doing this can be difficult when you’re feeling down. For a little help, post on The Mighty with the hashtag #CheerMeOn to get support from our community of cheerleaders who want to see you succeed.
“Knowing I am special, I have a purpose and people love me. I can make a difference.” — @centerport
“I used to/OK, still kinda have, some serious body issues. Looking in the mirror I always used to say things like, ‘No wonder no one loves you — you’re too ugly to be alive!’ Now I have painstakingly learned to replace that with something like, ‘You and your glorious behind! I am so gorgeous! Daaaaaang!” And it helps! Over time it has taught me not to think those bad things about myself.” — @gambits
12. Help Someone Else
The benefits of helping others are well-documented — being kind can make you happier and even improve your health. In Cheng’s opinion, kindness can help you to be more confident as well. Little acts of kindness can go a long way towards helping you feel secure about yourself and your place in the world.
“Find opportunities to help others, big and small,” he advised. “It is empowering to know that you have made someone else’s life better, even for just a moment.”
“When my self-esteem is suffering, I start with remembering who I am. Am I kind? I do something kind. Am I generous? I do something generous. Am I a good listener? I reach out to [a] friend who might need someone to talk to. People tell us to be ourselves, and I think the reason why this oftentimes upsets us is because we’re not really sure who that is. I empower myself to actualize the person I believe I am, or when I’m feeling Mighty — the person I want to be. Doing these things reminds me it’s my choice how I see myself.” — @mentalmarie
How do you boost your confidence? Let us know in the comments below.