What Is Self-Esteem

What Is Self-Esteem? How To Improve It for a Healthy Lifestyle!

June 1, 2022

What Is Self-Esteem? Self-esteem refers to the cumulation over a lifespan of thoughts and feelings that construct our perceived self-worth in the context of our relationships. Self-esteem supports or empowers us to achieve goals, make changes, and determine the course of our own lives.

When it comes to creating a healthy lifestyle, self-esteem underlies the confidence we have in ourselves to:

  • Make decisions
  • Set goals
  • Follow through on plans
  • Confront and overcome challenges

The first step to creating a healthy lifestyle is to identify areas for change. Incorporating a nutritious meal plan or consistently being active in the face of every day obstacles may seem insurmountable at times. By identifying your goals, the thoughts and feelings associated with them will become clearer. You can then ask yourself whether the thoughts that arise are helpful or not.

Thought Patterns that Erode Self-esteem

All-or-nothing thinking. Seeing things or actions as always good or bad. For example, you started a new diet and in the first few days, you are on point. Then, you have a cookie at a work meeting and think to yourself, “I’ve blown it…I’ve never been able to stick to a diet, I have no willpower.”

Mental filtering. Seeing only the negative details of a situation and dwelling on them. You get a performance evaluation with all positive ratings, except for one. You proceed to continue to think about the one criticism despite all the positive feedback.

Discounting the positive. You agree to go jogging with a friend, only to not be able to keep up and end up walking instead. You tell yourself you aren’t cut out for exercise.

Jumping to negative conclusions. My friend didn’t return my call, so I must have done something to make her mad.

Negative self-talk. Often negative self-talk is disguised as self-deprecating humor. Oh, I couldn’t do that dance/exercise class with you, I have no coordination and I would look like a fool.

Building Self-Esteem through Positive Thinking

Challenge “all or nothing,” biased, or pessimistic thoughts and replace them with accurate, positive, and constructive self-talk. Here are some suggestions:

  1. Treat yourself with grace and encouragement and use hopeful statements such as “Today might be tough, but I can manage whatever comes my way.”
  2. Forgive yourself for slips ups. When making any behavioral change, such as incorporating exercise into your day, there will be setbacks. “So, I didn’t get that work out in today. Rest is also good, and tomorrow is a new day.”
  3. Avoid “should” and “must” statements. Evaluate the source of the “should” and “must.” These might be judgments that need to be tossed all together. If not, try replacing them with “I plan to, or my goal is to.”
  4. Focus on the positive, what you have learned, or the progress made. Spend your energy on what is working, the new skills you are learning, and the solutions you find when things do not go as planned.
  5. Show gratitude for yourself. Your body and mind have carried you this far. Recognize that choosing to make your health a priority means you have already started the journey. Every success and failure that has come before has put you on the path towards healthier living now.

Finally, pay special attention to the positive behaviors you adopt to create a healthy lifestyle. Preparing a healthy meal or carving out time for exercise are both acts of self-care that demonstrate self-love. Who knew that a healthy lifestyle could boost self-esteem further!

Kimberly C. Kimchi, Ph.D. is a Clinical Psychologist and the Director for Behavioral Health at Missouri Weight Management and Metabolic Institute

What Is Self-Esteem


Kimberly C. Kimchi, Ph.D. is a Clinical Psychologist and the Director for Behavioral Health at Missouri Weight Management and Metabolic Institute at the University of Missouri. Dr. Kimchi holds a doctoral degree from Hahnemann University/Drexel University and fellowship training in neuropsychology from the University of Michigan. Currently, she is a faculty member within the Department of Health Psychology at the University of Missouri.