”Question: In February, people acknowledge 'Improve your self-esteem.' What does that mean?
Reading time: 5 Minutes
- Learn how exercise can improve your self esteem.
- Self-esteem is determined by a multitude of physical, mental, social, and emotional factors.
- We can improve self esteem through positive self talk, focusing on what is under our control, finding a supportive community, and exercise.
- Exercise improves self esteem through short term (mood enhancement) and long term mechanism (abilities and physique).
Self-esteem is defined as our evaluation of our self-concept and feelings associated with that evaluation. Self-concept is our perception of our attributes and qualities. What is your self-concept? What is your evaluation of your self-concept?
Self-esteem is multifaceted and involves our global judgment of ourselves (physical, mental, social, emotional, etc.).
Most of us have experienced low self-esteem at one point or another in our lives. Signs of low self-esteem include negative self-talk (the way you talk to yourself in your mind), comparing yourself to others, and focusing on the negatives or mistakes in your life, and ignoring the positives and accomplishments. If you would like, you can take the Rosenberg Self-Esteem Assessment online (scores below a 15 indicate low self-esteem). If you are concerned about your self-esteem level, please reach out to a mental health professional.
Even if you have relatively high self-esteem, you will be well-served by practicing self-esteem-enhancing strategies. Here is a list of several strategies you can use on a regular basis. We will first define each of them and then focus on exercise as a strategy.
The way we think about and talk to ourselves very strongly influences our self-esteem. If you notice that you are spiraling into a habit of negative self-talk, literally say to yourself (in your head or out loud), STOP, and then re-frame the thought. For example, if you miss a day of exercise and start to say to yourself, “I’m so lazy – why can’t I just get to the gym…”, say, “ STOP!” and re-frame it with something like, “Ok, no workout today, I had too many other things that took priority and didn’t plan ahead well. No worries, I’ll make my plan for tomorrow now so that I am sure to get back on it.” Move forward positively.
Focus on what is under your control
There are many circumstances that we have very little control over. It is important to realize the things we do have control over and focus on those. We need to spend our time and energy focusing on what is within our sphere of influence, and let go of the rest.
Find your tribe
Have you ever heard that you start to become like the 5 people you spend the most time with? It is so important that we surround ourselves with positive people, with friends who are going to give us an honest, but positive assessment of who we are and our worth. If you find that the folks you are hanging around send you into a negative spiral, it might be time to find a new tribe.
Research has shown time and again that exercise can significantly increase our self-esteem. There are many mechanisms by which exercise increases our evaluations of ourselves. First, in the short-term, exercise enhances our mood and puts our minds in a more positive state. Second, in the long-term, exercise makes us feel good about our physical self – our abilities and physique. Last, and in both the short and long term, exercise provides us with a sense of accomplishment that boosts our confidence.