Written by Karl Perera, MA, DipLC
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Self Esteem is what we experience when we feel good about ourselves. Feeling happier with yourself will definitely make a huge difference to your level of self esteem and confidence. So what have I learnt about becoming happier as a result of my experience of low self esteem and writing about this topic for more than twenty years?
There are many reasons why you may feel bad about yourself, but on this page we will concentrate on the ways to be happier with yourself, rather than why you may feel this way.
Some of the ways to be happier with yourself include self-acceptance, understanding yourself through self-discovery, improving yourself through learning, developing new social and practical skills, and prioritising self care strategies such as setting and achieving goals.
To be happier with yourself will require you to improve in many different areas but, above all, you must learn to appreciate what and who you are much more than you do now. You may be wondering how to actually do this. Well, let’s look at these points one by one and the real steps you can follow to move towards a place of liking who you are.
How to feel happier about your life
Many people make a huge mistake thinking that being happier means achieving some specific goal. It isn’t. If you have ever said “when I have this…” or “when I have done that…I will be happy” then you are linking your happiness to something outside of you and this is wrong. If all you do is chase goal after goal, even if you achieve them, you are not going to be happy in the long run. You’re always going to want more. I’m not saying that this is necessarily a bad thing, but by allowing your happiness to depend on getting or achieving, you prevent yourself from being happier.
In other words, what you are doing is forever postponing your happiness, and if you are not careful your life will pass without much joy. The truth is that you’re only going to be happier when you decide to be.
Being happy means choosing to feel that way no matter what is happening in your life. The truth of this is easily proved. Have you ever seen a rich person who is unhappy? Have you ever read about the rich and famous celebrity who committed suicide? Have you ever visited a country where people don’t have a lot of money, but you can see they are smiling. Happiness does not depend on money, goals, how big your house is or anything outside of you. Learn how to become happier inside
One of the truest testimonies of this comes from my son and my daughter. They recently went travelling to Africa, and were telling me how absolutely mesmerised they were by what they saw and experienced during their time there. Despite the scarcity of things the majority of us take for granted such as water, a pair of shoes or a phone, they told me how happy and welcoming the community was. No one was complaining, because they simply focus on all the good things that they do have, things which you really can’t put a price on. Things like family, friends, nature and tradition. My son kept saying how inspiring it was to see and experience all of this first hand.
This reminds me of one of my favourite quotes – one to think about:
“As we strain to grasp the things we desire, the things we think will make our lives better: money, popularity, fame… we ignore what truly matters, the simple things, like friendship, family, love. The things we probably already had.”
Working on your self esteem is a big part of accepting the good things that are within you and that make you very unique. I advise you to start work on building your self esteem and happiness today.
How Can You Be Happy Now?
Easy. Decide to be happy and think of all the reasons you have to be so. What are you grateful for? Happiness is a choice. You CAN choose it right now. Or you can focus on what’s wrong with your life and think about all the things you need to do and that means choosing to feel unhappy. If you look close enough though, I guarantee you will find a lot of things to be grateful for, things which some people around the world can only dream of having…
What is the definition of happiness? Think about this…
It is simply the absence of sadness. A baby is born happy because he has not yet learned how to be unhappy. Sadness is something that happens because we think about the negative and concentrate on what is wrong. Try focusing on what is right in your life for a change, I guarantee you’ll feel MUCH more positive.
If each day you think about the things you are thankful for, you will soon realize you are so lucky. Enjoy that feeling! Choose happiness and don’t put it off.
Now That You Know This – These Three Things You Must Do To Be Happier!
Take care what you tell yourself, your self talk. Correct yourself if you say “when I do this or when I have that….” and make a plan to get it, but be happy anyway no matter what happens. Set your goals, but know that if you hit a few obstacles along the way, it’s okay, and that every day is a learning experience that can only make you better and stronger. You are evolving into a better version of yourself, and this in itself is something to smile about. If you catch yourself saying “if only” then stop right there. Deal only with what you can change.
That wonderful song “Don’t worry, be happy” says everything you need to know. What difference does worrying make? There are certain things that are, and will always be out of your control. By expecting to be able to control and manipulate every situation so it is favourable to you, you are setting yourself up for huge disappointment. Obsessing and worrying over the future in this way only gets in the way of you enjoying this very moment, because that is all you have. The past is the past, and the future is the future. You live in the now. What do you have right now that you’re thankful for?
When you look to be happier, you’ll only ever find it in one place. Inside you. It exists nowhere else. Next time you feel unhappy, remind yourself to be grateful for what you do have and for who you are. Choose to be happy and reject sadness!
Make Self-care a Priority
Many people fall into the trap of trying to please others rather than attending to their own needs. Self care is essential if you are to make progress towards your goals. It is also important because your health, both mental and physical, should take top priority so that you can perform at your best.
Self care does not have to be selfish. You should strive for a balance where you first attend to your own needs, taking care of your body and mind, and then you can help others more effectively. Self care and self compassion which drives it create a healthy life balance on which you can build your self esteem and happiness.
Self compassion will mean that you support yourself rather than criticise yourself. But how can you become more self-compassionate?
Practicing Mindfulness and Meditation Can Make You Happier
In his book, The Mindful Path to Self-compassion: Freeing Yourself from Destructive Thoughts and Emotions, Dr. Christopher Germer recommends mindfulness and meditation to help build self-compassion. One way that mindfulness helps is that it teaches you to acknowledge your experience of life and the challenges you have faced as necessary and common to us all. Find out how to use meditation to build your self esteem here.
Mindfulness is a state where you feel present in the moment and become aware of your deepest feelings and thoughts. One of the most important aspects of mindfulness which can make you happier with yourself is that you notice your feelings but do not judge them. Mindfulness can help you accept yourself, your emotions and thoughts, without any self criticism.
Mindfulness also helps put your situation and feelings into perspective. As Germer says, mindfulness enables us to understand when we are self-critical or feeling pain, acknowledge it as a natural part of life, and shows us the way out of it. Without mindfulness we can react to the feelings and situation and lash out in anger, or feel sorry for ourselves.
Meditation is a well-known technique for relaxing and ridding yourself of stress. It refreshes the mind and body, but it can be combined with mindfulness to help you feel happier. During this kind of meditation, normally called guided meditation, someone guides you through what to do this includes advice and suggestions for being mindful and accepting your emotions.
My Experience with Mindfulness Meditation – Did it Help?
I tried doing ten minutes mindfulness meditation each day for one month to see what difference it made to how I felt about myself. I must say I wasn’t sure how useful it would be, but I knew two things before I started. The first, was that I need to cut my stress level and relax more. The second, I needed to become more positive and feel better about myself and my life. Train yourself how to use mindfulness meditation for happiness.
After a week I already found that these sessions had helped relax me and I looked forward to this time devoted to relaxation and reflection. The guidance on the meditations was very helpful to remind me about the many different feelings I experience in daily situations. It made me understand that the feelings I experience are common to everybody and that I shouldn’t judge these feelings, I need to accept them and move on.
After my experiment I think that meditation is something that we can all benefit from and I advise you to try it out. Everybody reacts differently and I’d be interested to know how you get on if you decide to try it. Here is an opportunity from my friends at Hypnosis Downloads to try mindfulness meditation (normally 7 days but I have this special offer for you), go try it right now!
Make The Best of Opportunities for Self-Discovery
Self-discovery helps you to learn more about who you really are, and understand what you want in life. This is the basis of knowing which direction you want to move in your life. An understanding of who you are will help you appreciate and feel happier with yourself.
Challenges are opportunities to grow and to learn more about your strengths and weaknesses. If you see problems as challenges, rather than obstacles, such an attitude can help you to grow in confidence. This study by Yair (2009), shows how those who experienced important events in life, were able to change the course of their lives with the benefit of added knowledge about themselves.
Self-discovery also involves trying new activities, learning new skills and learning in general. All these activities can increase your appreciation of both yourself and the world around you. It also teaches you about what you enjoy and what you don’t, what you can do and what is possible for you. Yes indeed, self-discovery can help you become much happier about yourself!
So, make sure you are open to any opportunity to grow and develop. Take on new challenges even if it means moving out of your comfort zone. This is very important for your self esteem, confidence and happiness because you are giving yourself the best chance to discover what your limits really are and not what your mind tells you. Also, facing challenges will help you overcome fears, which will then open up new ways to become even happier.
How to Set Goals that Will Help You Be Happier
You can formulate goals that you will enjoy achieving. Not only that, but you will be able to take pleasure from each small success and be keen to move on to the next. Your goals should take you closer to your vision for the future. This article published in Career Development International in 2013, suggests that setting and working towards goals can improve motivation and well-being and result in feeling happier.
Focus on your achievements no matter how small. Focus on what is really important for you. When you know what you want to achieve then set goals (small steps) and reward yourself when you achieve each step. This is a real example of how to apply self care in your life in order to improve yourself by building on every success you have.
You can’t do it all, so don’t try to. Use your skills and abilities as best you can and trust that everything will work out. Decide what to achieve and how to live. Choose wisely, but have faith in what you believe is best for you.
Here is a quote that sums this up well:
“One of the most difficult things in life is to discover yourself and to set yourself realistic goals and expectations which you feel able to achieve. You may need to be content with achieving less than 100 per cent.”Terry Looker. Manage Your Stress for a Happier Life: Teach Yourself. Source
Consider what is already good in your life and what you want more of. Stop dwelling on the things that are missing. Be determined to build on the positives and the strengths within you and you will make progress.
Be warned though, many people set goals but never celebrate their achievements. They constantly look to the end goal which, of course, will never come because there is always something more you can do. Being happier about yourself is only possible if you enjoy the process of achieving and challenging yourself with each goal. Enjoy the success so far and celebrate you.
Never Compare Yourself to Others
One of the most costly mistakes, and I know this well, is to compare yourself to others. You are not like anyone else. Comparing yourself can only hurt your self-confidence and damage your self esteem because you will always find something better in others and this gives you justification to criticise yourself. Don’t do this!
Another reason why comparing yourself with others is a bad idea is that you give them power and allow what others do and achieve to affect your progress and happiness. Let your own values and interests be a positive guide that inspires you to progress. Comparing means that you are driven by outside forces such as fear of what others think. Being happy with yourself can only be built on respecting what you are and having the confidence to trust yourself, despite what others think.
Comparisons also lead to competing with others. Life is not a race, it is a marathon. Set your own standards and try to reach them, don’t be scared to fail and accept your own limitations. Competing with others will drain you and drive down your self esteem because there will always be someone better than you. Decide on your own unique path and stick to it.
Feeling happier about yourself happens when you like what you are doing, where you are going and have your priorities right. Trust this process.
Your self esteem grows when you have a sense of direction, a satisfaction about your choices and actions and an understanding that you are doing your best to achieve a positive outcome. This will increase your self respect too, as you will know that you are giving yourself the best chance of success possible.
More Tips for Being Happier With Yourself
- Be honest and kind to others. Helping others is so rewarding and is the root of happiness and well-being. Give your kindness to others without expecting anything in return. Do this and you’ll give yourself NO chance of being self critical.
- Spend time with your kids. Your time is the most valuable gift you can give. They grow up quickly, don’t miss your chance to be part of their experience everyday.
- Give and be generous! Give your time and of yourself. By doing this you will have no guilt when you want to spend time alone or on your own projects. If you organise yourself you CAN make time for yourself and others. You will feel more in balance and will feel you are living your life with meaning and purpose.
- Understand yourself and reflect on your strengths and weaknesses. Find new ways to use your strengths in every area of your life. You will find satisfaction when you are doing what you are good at and when you accept your weaknesses. When you reflect on your weaknesses, after accepting them ask yourself if you can develop yourself in these weaker areas so they become less of a burden and even some of these may turn into strengths.
- Always try your best and you will be happy with yourself.
- Be grateful for your life as it is! Take satisfaction in those positives that you already enjoy. Be thankful for all the good things you have been given. Try to improve your life, yes, but be realistic about where you are and where you want to go.
- If you have faith use it. Faith in God is very helpful to many of us. Religion teaches us our importance as people but also reminds us we need help from above to achieve anything real.
- Stay true to your beliefs and values and don’t betray them, or you will hurt inside.
- Enjoy your life for the wonderful gift it is. Experience it all, the good and the bad, and give love.
- Don’t drive yourself so hard you no longer enjoy your life or see the goal you set yourself.
- Prioritise your health and devote your energy towards improving and maintaining yours as best you can.
- Take time out each day to allow yourself time to reflect, meditate and recharge each day.
- Germer, C. (2009). The mindful path to self-compassion: Freeing yourself from destructive thoughts and emotions. Guilford Press.
- Looker, T. (2011). Manage Your Stress for a Happier Life: Teach Yourself. Hachette UK.
- Ouweneel, E., Le Blanc, P. M., & Schaufeli, W. B. (2013). Do‐it‐yourself. Career Development International.
- Yair, G. (2009). Key Educational Experiences in Israeli Families: Adventures, Trust and Self-Discover. Journal of Comparative Family Studies, 40(5), 809-825. Retrieved January 29, 2021, from http://www.jstor.org/stable/41604327
Website Author and Your Guide
Karl Perera is a fully qualified Life Coach (DipLC), Teacher (MA), and author of the book Self Esteem Secrets. He has taught at various universities including Durham, Leicester and Anglia Ruskin, Cambridge. He has run More-SelfEsteem.com since 1997 since suffering from low self esteem for more than 25 years overcoming it in his thirties.