Attentive listening, celebrating small milestones, and sharing motivational quotes can help boost your loved one’s self-esteem.

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Low self-esteem is characterized by a negative perception of oneself, often influenced by various factors such as:

  • past failures
  • criticism
  • traumatic experiences
  • ongoing pressures, like societal stigmas
  • unrealistic expectations
  • comparison to others

Witnessing a friend or loved one deal with low self-esteem can be challenging. Offering encouragement and empathy and helping them challenge negative beliefs can provide support.

Here are five practical tips to help a friend or partner dealing with low self-esteem.

Active listening is a communication technique that involves fully concentrating, understanding, and remembering what the speaker is saying. This should then be followed by a thoughtful response once they’re finished talking.

Research from 2023 shows that feeling heard is crucial to an individual’s healthy self-development. When you take the time to listen actively and attentively, it validates your friend’s thoughts, feelings, and experiences.

This validation can foster a sense of worthiness and belonging, which are essential components of healthy self-esteem.

Setting and achieving goals can significantly boost self-esteem, showcasing one’s capabilities and fostering a sense of accomplishment. Encourage your friend to establish manageable, realistic goals.

For instance, if fitness is a challenge, suggest simple objectives like a 15-minute walk three times weekly or 5 minutes of morning stretching. As they reach these milestones, they’ll gain a sense of achievement and momentum, enhancing their self-esteem.

Offer ongoing support, celebrate their successes, and inspire them to aim higher.

Motivational quotes often contain uplifting messages that inspire individuals to believe in themselves and their abilities. Reading such quotes can provide a sense of encouragement, reinforcing positive beliefs and promoting a more optimistic outlook.

2018 research suggests that motivational quotes can be a valuable tool for addressing low self-esteem, particularly in individuals with chronic illnesses. But their effectiveness may depend on tailoring the quotes to the specific sources of low self-esteem experienced by each individual.

For instance, if your friend doesn’t believe they can make it through a difficult time you can send them this quote from Christian D. Larson:

“Believe in yourself and all that you are. Know that there is something inside you that is greater than any obstacle.”

Such quotes can be integrated into daily routines as screensavers or desk reminders, serving as constant sources of encouragement.

Negative self-beliefs often contribute to feelings of inadequacy, low self-esteem, and depression.

Through techniques like cognitive restructuring — an approach used in cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) — you can learn to challenge and replace these negative thoughts with more realistic and balanced ones. This can lead to improved self-esteem and greater resilience.

Some evidence suggests this may be particularly helpful for individuals who’ve experienced stigma, prejudice, or discrimination.

Here’s how you can help a friend restructure negative self-beliefs:

  • Identify the belief: Help your friend pinpoint the negative belief they want to challenge, like feeling inadequate in their career.
  • Question the evidence: Prompt them to examine the evidence supporting their belief and consider instances where they’ve succeeded or shown competence.
  • Consider alternatives: Encourage exploration of alternative explanations or interpretations of the evidence, highlighting positive feedback or past achievements.
  • Challenge cognitive distortions: Identify and address cognitive distortions influencing their thinking, promoting factual evaluation over distorted perceptions.
  • Explore balanced thinking: Guide them to adopt a balanced perspective by recognizing positive qualities and past successes that contradict their negative belief.
  • Test the belief: Support them in taking small steps towards their goals to test the validity of their belief, such as applying for a new job or tackling a challenging project.
  • Provide support and encouragement: Offer ongoing support, reminding them of their strengths and celebrating their progress, no matter how small.

Research published in 2016 suggests that individuals with low self-esteem struggle to accept compliments due to their negative self-image, making them feel uneasy and devaluing praise.

The findings show that encouraging a concrete mindset over an abstract one closes this perception gap.

A concrete mindset refers to a way of thinking that focuses on specific, tangible details and immediate experiences rather than abstract concepts or overarching theories. This change boosts receptivity to positive feedback.

To help your friend accept compliments, encourage them to focus on the specific qualities mentioned. For example, if they’re praised for presentation skills, encourage them to consider aspects like clear delivery or thorough research, rather than dismissing it or attributing it to luck.

Breaking down compliments into tangible elements helps them appreciate their strengths, internalize positive feedback, and shift from vague views to concrete appreciation of accomplishments.

Supporting a friend with low self-esteem requires patience, empathy, and understanding. Encourage them to challenge negative beliefs, celebrate their strengths and successes, and seek professional help if needed.

Ultimately, your support can make a significant difference in their journey towards building confidence and self-acceptance.