Boost Your Self-Esteem and Your Health

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Harvard Medical School
Chrome 2001
Chrome 2001

Boost Your Self-Esteem and Your Health

Men's Health
Mental Health
Boost Your Self-Esteem and Your Health
Boost Your Self-Esteem and Your Health
A lack of confidence, a reluctance to trust your instincts, and treating yourself badly could be signs that it's time to improve your self-image.
InteliHealth Medical Content

Reviewed by the Faculty of Harvard Medical School

Boost Your Self-Esteem and Your Health

A lack of confidence, a reluctance to trust your instincts, and treating yourself badly could be signs that it's time to improve your self-image.


'Try a little tenderness'

How can you improve your self-esteem and develop a more realistic opinion of yourself?

Each day, do one thing to take care of yourself
Replace a junk-food snack with a piece of fruit; take a 10-minute walk at lunchtime; floss your teeth.

Talk to yourself as you would to a friend
Replace your usual self-criticism with words of encouragement. Instead of "I never do anything right," try "I do many things well."

Start a brag file
Take credit for your accomplishments no matter how small.

Spend time with people who make you feel good
You don’t have to avoid constructive criticism from supportive friends, but avoid people who only want to tear you down.

Take on a new challenge and reward yourself when you reach your goal
Start small, with easily reachable goals. Then work up to greater challenges.

Exercise regularly
Activity is good for physical and emotional health. Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise five or more days a week.

If these self-help measures don't work, consider getting professional help from a qualified therapist or counselor.

You won't find it down an aisle of the supermarket or in a bottle in your medicine cabinet. Your doctor can't prescribe it and you can’t buy it for your birthday. But without it you could be more susceptible to the common cold and more vulnerable to depression, heart disease and drug and alcohol abuse.

It's self-esteem, a reflection of how much you value, appreciate and approve of yourself. A healthy self-esteem means you like yourself, believe you deserve love and happiness, and feel confident in what you can accomplish.

But if you're plagued by low-self esteem, chances are you have an inner critic living rent-free in your head, one that whispers (or shouts), "I'll always be alone," "I'm stupid and boring," "I'm useless."

Regular verbal beatings such as these, along with a lack of confidence, a reluctance to trust your instincts and opinions, and treating yourself badly could be signs that it's time to improve your self-image. Think a little more Donald Trump and a little less Woody Allen.

"What's (self) love got to do with it?"
Besides making you feel worthless and unlovable, low self-esteem is hazardous to your health. The negative emotions or moods it triggers, such as anxiety and depression, can increase the risk for heart disease. How? They wear down the emotion-sensitive immune system and are associated with increases in inflammation, which has been linked to heart disease.

Low self-esteem can raise blood pressure and lead to unhealthy behaviors such as smoking, excessive drinking and avoiding social contact.

Low self-esteem can sap your motivation to take care of yourself. If you don't like yourself very much, blowing off steam with a six-pack after a bad day looks a whole lot more appealing than jogging six miles. Studies have shown that people with high self-esteem are more likely to exercise regularly.

"Don't worry…be happy"
A healthy self-esteem is an important key to positive emotional states. That's what experts call joy, contentment, feeling relaxed and gratitude. These positive states help buffer you against stress and they contribute to emotional and physical well-being.

Shakespeare was onto something when he wrote "Mirth and merriment…bars a thousand harms and lengthens life." Modern science is beginning to confirm the Bard's wisdom. Here are some findings linking positive emotions to good health:

  • Laughing and coping by using humor improved immune function. 
  • Positive emotions reduced the readmission rate of people hospitalized with heart disease.
  • Optimism (having a positive outlook and being able to bounce back from bad events) cuts the risk for heart attacks and has been linked to better recovery from heart bypass surgery.
  • Positive emotions help counteract the body’s reaction to stress.
  • Positive emotions produce more flexible, creative and efficient thinking.
  • Positive emotions are associated with better sleep.



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Last updated September 27, 2013

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