Write a “have-done” list instead of a “to-do” list
Admit it: Staring at a mile-long to-do list is a panic attack waiting to happen. Put your list-making skills to good use by flipping it around and writing a have-done list, naming all the things you’ve accomplished recently, suggests Lisa Hutchison, a licensed mental health counselor. And they don’t have to be big things! Even seeing “paid electric bill” or “remembered to feed dog” as done will give you a little boost, reminding you of what a superstar you really are. Sometimes it just takes seeing it in black and white to make you realize everything you really accomplish, she says. (Plus, these tips will help you better manage your time.)
Rethink your Netflix queue
For anyone who’s ever watched HGTV and felt bad about their home, listened to a fitness podcast and pinched their fat, or seen the latest documentary and felt bad about every life choice they’ve ever made: Turn. It. Off. (Even if it’s supposed to be “inspiring”!) What you choose to watch or listen to in movies, music, TV and the Internet can have a powerful effect on how you feel about yourself so don’t be afraid to skip it to something that will make you feel better about yourself, suggests Natasha Oates, a licensed therapist, relationship coach, and international speaker. And if you want to make your lifestyle changes stick, check out these 5 tips.
Take your face off of Facebook
Scrolling endlessly through your social media feeds is one of the fastest ways to tank your self-worth, especially if you’re prone to comparing your worst to other people’s best. You may worry that if you skip social media you’ll miss out on important things, so you can try simply culling your “friends” lists to your actual friends — the people who build you up. “As you change the people in your life will have to adjust,” Oates says. “Some may feel threatened by your new-found esteem. Pay attention to that.” (These celebs took a social media break, too.)
Shut down the shame spiral
To understand how worthy of love, life, and happiness you really are, first you have to understand the difference between shame and guilt, says Jameela Jackson, LAMFT, a counselor and marriage and family therapist. Guilt is “I did something bad” and shame is “I am bad,” and while both are totally normal feelings, only one is productive. Guilt can inspire you to make a positive change while shame just makes you feel like a failure. So if you’ve made a mistake, do what you need to do to fix it and move on. Stewing over past mistakes only makes you feel bad about yourself. Forgive yourself.
Ditch toxic friends and family members
Have a friend who vents constantly to you but never answers your text when you need support? A cousin who demands money? A parent who repeatedly belittles and shames you? Ain’t nobody got time for that. Sometimes the biggest impediment to feeling worthy is hearing other people repeatedly tell you that you aren’t, especially if those toxic folks are very close to you. You don’t have to totally cut off communication but you can learn to love on your terms, Jackson says. “Create healthy boundaries by identifying those who are safe to share your feelings with and those who are not, and stick to them,” she says.
Meditate on your happy place
Quick, what was your favorite place when you were a child? Whether it was a cozy book nook with all your favorite stuffed animals, a field of wildflowers near your home, or some other special spot, you can use that memory to help you regain your sense of worthiness, suggests Helen Kramer, an author and therapist. “Picture a place that you love and know well, taking time to notice every detail from the sun to the feel of the grass,” she says. “Allow yourself to gently breathe in the wonderful, peaceful energy and you’ll find yourself filled with a sense of well-being.” Repeat this five-minute meditation every time you need a reminder.
Take note of compliments
It’s all too easy to remember when someone criticizes you, yet similarly easy to brush aside a compliment. Reverse this negative trend by noticing when you’re paid a compliment or when someone does something kind for you, and you’ll feel instantly better, Kramer says. “Don’t look for grand expressions; rather, focus on any comments that are pleasant or affirming,” she says. “Also, many people are not verbal but show you they’re caring with gestures and behavior that is supportive.” You’ll soon realize that you’re more loved than you know.
Say gracias, danke, merci or plain old thanks
Acknowledging the worthiness of others is a great way to increase your own feelings of self-worth, Kramer says. An easy way to do this: Recognize when someone goes out of their way to help you and tell them thank you. “Everybody wants to feel that what they do matters, so your acknowledgment sends back a positive message, which is likely to inspire the same feeling in you,” she says.
Create an upbeat mantra and set it on repeat in your brain
Instead of getting stuck in a cycle of reacting to negative situations, choose your own happiness by creating a mantra just for you, to remind you of how awesome you are, says Erika Labuzan-Lopez, LMFT, a licensed professional counselor. It can be silly, funny, serious, or powerful, as long as it’s meaningful to you. Choose a short, concise statement that reinforces strength and resiliency, and repeat it when you’re faced with challenges or feeling unloveable.
Do a little mental find-and-replace with downer thoughts
I’m so fat. I’m so stupid. I hate myself. Everyone has some negative thoughts that kick in automatically when they make a mistake or feel embarrassed, but these only make you feel worse and can lead to catastrophic thinking, Labuzan-Lopez says. Instead, erase negative beliefs about yourself by writing them down and replacing them with something positive and realistic. For example, “I can’t do anything right at work” becomes “I did not meet this goal but it does not make me a bad employee or person.”
Be your own BFF (best friend forever)
If your best friend started talking about how awful she was or how he can’t do anything right, you wouldn’t stand for it, right? So take the same approach with your own negative self-talk, speaking to yourself as if you were advising your friend, Bennett says. Instead of being your own worst enemy, become your own best friend.
Yes, you’re busy! But here’s how you can achieve more balance.
Volunteer at the local food bank
If you want to feel worthy and happy fast, serve someone else. Not only will you feel pleased at being able to help others but you’ll be distracted from negative thoughts, says Donna Volpitta, EdD., founder of The Center for Resilient Leadership. Think of service as an anti-depressant minus the pill: Serving at a soup kitchen, visiting a nursing home, raking a neighbor’s leaves all give you a boost of dopamine, serotonin, and oxytocin, the neurotransmitters responsible for feeling positive and happy, she explains.
Start a garage band
You’re never too old to do something fun or live out a childhood dream. Taking the opportunity to learn a new skill or revive an old one gives you a chance to experience pride, gratitude, and compassion — all essential for building true self-worth, Volpitta says. So take piano lessons, sign up for that cooking class, buy a model car kit, or do whatever it is you’re interested in.
Sign up for a marathon
If you want to feel like you’ve accomplished something, start by accomplishing something. It’s so simple yet so many people feel like they’re not worthy of the time, money, and effort it takes to achieve something major, like losing weight, climbing a mountain, writing a book, or getting a better job. You are worth it, and one way to prove that to yourself is by setting a goal and doing whatever it takes to achieve it, Volpitta says.
Make a big, beautiful, delicious salad
Taking care of your physical health is an important part of self-worth because the brain and body are inextricably connected, says Marsha Ferrick, PhD, a life coach and counselor. “Eat a balanced diet, get enough sleep every night, drink plenty of water, move every day — all these things will help you to have a better perspective on life, including yourself,” she says. (Try this yummy chicken caesar salad to help with weight loss, too!)
Snuggle a baby
Seeing a brand-new little one is a powerful reminder that we are all born worthy. “Each infant that comes into this world is born innocent, pure, and worthy of receiving love, care, health, and abundance,” says Rev. Connie L. Habash, a licensed marriage and family therapist in Menlo Park, California. “It isn’t your fault if you were born into a difficult family or situation or that you’ve been through painful times that made you feel less than. You are still that innocent and pure being within, and still just as worthy, right in this moment, regardless of circumstance.”
Adopt a pet
Are you a cat person? A dog lover? A guinea pig and chinchilla enthusiast? Whatever your fur baby, pets provide a special kind of unconditional love. After all, what could possibly make you feel more worthy of love than someone who literally pees with excitement every time you walk in the door — even if they just saw you 10 minutes ago? Be open to, and appreciate, the affection that your pet gives you, Habash says.
Dogs also benefit kids health. Here’s why you should raise your child with a pet.
Take a scented bubble bath and watch your favorite movie
An easy way to show yourself some self-love is to take some “me time” for something you really enjoy. The trick is to make it something that engages multiple senses, says Karen Whitehead, a licensed social worker and counselor in Georgia. Think a bath with fragrant candles and your favorite music, or a walk outside smelling the rain and listening to your feet sloshing through puddles. Focusing on all your senses will bring you into the moment and give your brain a rest from the daily grind.
Lift some heavy stuff up and put it back down
Exercise, in general, is a powerful self-esteem booster, helping you not only look better but feel better, inside and out. But don’t stop with taking a jog around the block; lifting weights can be particularly powerful in building worth, says Debbie Mandel, author of Addicted to Stress and a stress management specialist. Strength training is easy to quantify, so you can clearly see your progress, plus it alleviates stress and generates feel-good chemistry. Try out these strength training exercises for women.
Ask a friend to write a list of what they like about you
Disclaimer: This is going to feel really weird. Do it anyway. The next time you’re questioning your worth, ask your mom, best friend or loved one who knows you well to jot down a few of the things they love about you and think you’re good at, says Rob Cole, LMHC, clinical director of mental health services at Banyan Treatment Center in Boca Raton, Florida. Not only will it be a powerful lesson in that moment but you can refer back to their note any time you’re feeling down.
Harness the power of the Post-It
It’s one thing to tell yourself things like “I’m beautiful,” “I’m smart,” and “I am loved” — it’s entirely another thing to see them in front of you, says LaKeisha Gantt, PhD, a licensed psychologist. Write down several affirmations on sticky notes and then place them around your house. Pick spots where you can benefit from the little boost, like on your bathroom mirror, in your closet, on your steering wheel, in your gym bag or on your briefcase.
Play psychologist with yourself
Just because your brain says you’re unworthy doesn’t mean it’s true, and yet we often take negative self-assessments as fact. Challenge these damaging thoughts and assumptions by questioning them, says Emma Bennett, LCSW, of Therapy For New Moms. “Ask ‘what happened to trigger this?’ ‘What is coming up for me right now?’ What am I really feeling inside?’ And then give yourself permission to let those unhelpful thoughts go,” she says. “They are merely thoughts — they are not self.”