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  • Caleb Birkhoff

10 Steps for Building Self-Esteem through Therapy: Discovering Your Best Self

Do you feel like you are constantly under a cloud, with no silver lining in sight? Do you find yourself thinking negative thoughts about yourself and your abilities? If so, you are not alone.

We all have our moments of doubt and low self-confidence. However, when these thoughts take over and impact your daily life, it’s essential to seek help. It can have a detrimental impact on your mental health and your quality of life. The good news is that there is help available with a therapist in San Francisco. Fortunately, therapy can be one of the most effective ways to boost self-esteem and discover the best version of yourself. Below we will discuss some of the ways therapy can help build self-esteem and give you the confidence to take on life’s challenges.


1. Understanding Self-Esteem


To start building your self-esteem, it is important to understand what it is and how it affects you. Self-esteem refers to how you feel about yourself, your self-image, and self-worth. If you have low self-esteem, you may feel inadequate, unlovable or powerless. It’s not uncommon to experience imposter syndrome as a byproduct of low self-esteem. This can lead to a sense of hopelessness or depression. Through therapy, you can work with a professional who can help you understand the root cause of your low self-esteem and develop strategies to improve your self-worth. Self-esteem can be built and developed by performing esteemable acts, things that make us feel good about ourselves, our image, self-worth, or even sense of self. The easiest way to think of an esteemable act is following through on commitments you make, which coincidentally is also a great way to build trust in relationships with other people.


2. Identify Self-Sabotaging Behaviors


Self-sabotaging behaviors are actions and thoughts that hold you back from reaching your full potential. They can range from negative self-talk to not taking care of your physical and mental health. Identifying these behaviors can be difficult, especially on your own, though some of them might be painfully obvious in your life through the patterns they create. With therapy, you can work with a professional to recognize the behaviors that are holding you back and learn techniques to overcome them. These techniques may include mindfulness, positive affirmations or cognitive-behavioral therapy.


3. Identify and challenge negative self-talk


Negative self-talk is one of the most significant obstacles to building self-esteem (and one of the most pervasive self-sabotaging behaviors), yet it's often so ingrained that we don't even realize we're doing it. Therapy can help you identify these negative thoughts and beliefs and challenge them. By noticing and questioning negative self-talk, you can learn to change it. A trained therapist can help you develop alternative, more positive thoughts and belief systems that support your well-being. Negative self-talk can sometimes find it’s origin in things you were told (explicitly or implicitly) in your youth, we accept it unquestioned and have it become a pervasive thought about ourselves (in therapy we sometimes refer to that as a core belief).


4. Improve coping skills


Therapy can teach you effective coping skills to use during challenging moments. Coping skills are strategies that help you manage your emotions, thoughts, and behaviors. When you find yourself in a situation that triggers difficult emotions, having coping skills can help you regulate your reaction and prevent negative thoughts from spiraling out of control. Some common coping skills include mindfulness, deep breathing, and progressive muscle relaxation. I’m a big proponent of action oriented coping skills, it’s usually easier to act, or react to something, than to try to think our way out of a feeling.


5. Learning Self-Compassion


Many people with low self-esteem struggle with self-compassion. It can be hard to treat yourself with kindness and understanding when you don't believe you deserve it. Therapy can help you learn self-compassion, which is a critical component of building self-esteem. Self-compassion involves treating yourself with the same kindness, concern, and support that you would offer to a good friend. Your therapist can help you develop self-compassion by guiding you through exercises and techniques such as self-acceptance and self-forgiveness. The easiest way to think about self-compassion is the way you would treat a dear friend, many people find it much easier and more natural to extend kindness and patience to someone else, what if we could turn that inward and take care of ourselves.


6. Enhance self-awareness


Psychotherapy can help you develop self-awareness, which is the ability to recognize and understand your emotions, thoughts, and behaviors. When you become more self-aware, you can make better decisions, become more confident, and improve your relationships with others. A therapist can help you become more aware of your thoughts and emotions and teach you how to manage them effectively.


7. Develop a growth mindset


People with a growth mindset believe that they can always improve and grow. In contrast, those with a fixed mindset believe that their abilities and traits are set in stone. Therapy can help you develop a growth mindset and learn to embrace challenges and setbacks as opportunities for growth and learning. With a growth mindset, you'll be less likely to get discouraged by setbacks and more likely to persist in the face of adversity.


8. Building Positive Relationships


Having positive relationships in your life can also help to build self-esteem. Therapy can provide a safe space to explore and discuss how your relationships are currently shaping your self-worth. You can work with your therapist to identify positive relationships and learn how to build connections that are healthy and supportive.


9. Practice self-care


Self-care is an important part of building self-esteem. In therapy, you can learn how to practice self-care effectively. Self-care includes activities that help you take care of your mental, emotional, and physical health. Examples include exercise, meditation, spending time with loved ones, and pursuing hobbies you enjoy. When you make self-care a priority, you'll feel more confident and better equipped to handle life's challenges.


10. Celebrate Your Progress


Finally, it is important to celebrate your progress. Building self-esteem is not an easy journey, and it takes time and effort. Recognizing and celebrating your achievements along the way is important for maintaining your motivation and momentum. Your therapist can help you reflect on your progress and find ways to celebrate your accomplishments.


Feel Better About You


Building self-esteem through therapy is a journey that can lead to a happier, healthier you, with a more fulfilling life. With the help of a professional, you can learn to understand your low self-esteem and develop strategies to improve your self-worth. Therapy can help you develop the skills and mindset necessary to improve your self-esteem and find the best version of yourself. Whether you struggle with negative self-talk, self-sabotaging behaviors or lack of self-compassion, there is help available. Through therapy, you can gain the skills and confidence to live a more fulfilling life and be proud of the person you are.


I hope that this list helps you feel more confident to understand yourself through therapy in San Francisco. If after reading all of that, you’re still swirling with questions feel free to call me at 415-990-1452 for a free 15-minute phone consultation and to get some questions answered. I would be happy to hear what is happening for you, what you’re looking for and provide some direction to finding the right therapist for you.


If you are seeking help with couples therapy, drugs and alcohol, life transitions, discovering yourself, or therapy for men’s issues, you can read more about how Caleb Birkhoff might be able to help by clicking here!




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