There are no quick fixes for low self-esteem:
- There’s no profound insight your therapist can give you that will suddenly improve your self-esteem
- There’s no secret mantra that will unlock your inner worthiness
- There’s no perfect person who will “complete” you and make you feel whole
Because while all sorts of things can help you feel better about yourself for a moment, they won’t make much of a dent in how you feel about yourself long term.
And the reason…
Self-esteem isn’t a feeling—it’s a belief.
While feelings are quick to come and quick to go, beliefs are built up over time. If you spend your entire childhood learning that you’re not good enough or not lovable, that’s not something that’s going to change overnight.
But you can change even your most fundamental beliefs about yourself—including your self-esteem—with the right approach…
If you want new beliefs you need new habits.
Specifically, if you want to feel better about yourself in the long run and believe it, you have to consistently do things that reinforce that belief—things you can be proud of.
But to do those things consistently, it helps if you start very small so that they are doable and not one more thing you end up procrastinating on. Hence the title of this article:
How to Improve Your Self-Esteem in 5 Minutes or Less
If you can do something for five minutes, you can do it daily. And if you can do it daily, it can become a habit which will change your beliefs—including your beliefs about yourself—over time.
Here are three small things you can do in 5 minutes or less that will, with consistency, improve your self-esteem.
1. Keep a Self-Gratitude Diary
People with low self-esteem tend to have a negativity bias when it comes to themselves: They’re really good at noticing their flaws and shortcomings but dismissive of their successes and strengths.
A simple way to begin to correct this negativity bias is to keep a daily self-gratitude diary. All this means is taking a few minutes every day to reflect on one or two things about yourself that you admire, appreciate, or are otherwise grateful for and write them down.
The key is to be as specific as possible…
- I took time out of my lunch break to call my friend back and chat with him about his struggles with his divorce. Even though I was feeling impatient because I had so much to do, I stayed empathetic and supportive. I was a good friend.
- I’m pretty good about being friendly even when I don’t feel great myself. For example, this morning I felt terrible because I didn’t sleep well. But I still smiled at my server at the coffee shop and asked him how his morning was going in a friendly and genuine way.
In addition to being specific about what you’re grateful for about yourself, be specific about when, where, and how you’re going to do your self-gratitude exercise each day:
- I’ll do my self-gratitude exercise each morning at my desk right before I start work.
- I’ll do my self-gratitude every evening after I put the kids to sleep but before
Finally, I can’t emphasize this enough: Keep it simple!
You can literally write one sentence about something you admire in yourself. That’s it. Much better to spend one minute every day doing some self-gratitude than spending half an hour one day, then putting it off repeatedly because it feels too burdensome.
By getting in the habit of reminding yourself of positive things you’ve done, you can reduce your negativity bias and become more in touch with the many positive and esteem-worthy things you already do but rarely give yourself credit for.
2. Schedule an Early-Morning Win
One of the best ways to boost your self-esteem is to get in the habit of starting your day off with a success, which then sets the tone for a more confident and optimistic outlook the rest of the day.
As with the previous technique, the key is to start small. Like, really, really small.
Here are some examples of early-morning wins you might schedule:
- Do five push-ups as soon as you get out of bed
- Start the coffee maker for you spouse or partner before you leave for work
- Journal for 3 minutes about topics for your new YouTube channel as you drink your morning coffee
- Get to work a few minutes early and meditate for 5 minutes before you start your day
The win can be anything as long as it leads to a small sense of accomplishment and pride in yourself.
Once you’ve gotten into the habit of your small win, you can modify it to be slightly bigger if you want…
- 5 pushups every morning could become 10 after a month
- You could start the coffee maker and scrape the snow off your spouse’s car
You get the idea.
A final note: The idea is that you schedule an early-morning win. This isn’t something you hope to remember to do each morning. It’s scheduled, in your calendar, with an alarm set. It’s also the first thing on your to-do list for the day and you cross it off religiously. In short, you treat it just like an important meeting or appointment—because it is important!
If you’re serious about improving your self-esteem, then get serious about scheduling and protecting time to build a habit that will improve it.
3. Flip Regrets into Values
One of the biggest reasons people get stuck in low self-esteem is the habit of self-criticism and negative self-talk.
Specifically, whenever they’re reminded of a failure from their past or something else they regret, they start obsessing over it and beating themselves up for it…
- How could I have been so dumb?! I knew he wasn’t a good guy but I kept seeing him anyway…
- If only I had studied harder for my college entrance exams, I could have gone to a better school and found a better career instead of being stuck in this one I hate…
But the more you elaborate on your regrets, the more you teach your brain that they’re important, which makes your brain “remind” you of them more and more frequently.
And the more overly-focused you are on your regrets, the harder it is going to be to build healthy self-esteem.
Now, while there are lots of techniques for letting go of negative thinking and self-criticism, I’ve found this one especially helpful for dealing with regrets:
Flip your regrets into values
In other words, look at your regret not as a bad thing, but instead, as a message signaling something about your values and what matters most to you.
- Suppose you feel regret after a memory of lying to your spouse years ago. Instead of using regret as a trigger for self-criticism, ask yourself: What does this feeling of regret say about my values? Maybe it’s reminding you how much you value honesty and want to be honest in your relationships going forward. Or maybe it’s reminding you of how much intimacy in your relationships matter to you and how important it is not to let things like dishonesty interfere with it.
Instead of seeing regrets as emotional punishments, start looking at them as messengers of value—reminders of the best version of yourself that you aspire to be.
Regret is a future-facing emotion. We feel it so that we can be motivated to be better in the future.
All You Need to Know
Self-esteem is a belief, not a feeling. And beliefs are built on habits—small actions done consistently over time.
Here are 3 things you can do in 5 minutes or less to that will improve your self-esteem by building better habits:
- Keep a self-gratitude diary
- Schedule an early-morning win
- Flip regrets into values
Learn More About Improving Your Self-Esteem
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