How to boost your self-esteem and improve your mood at the same time? That’s what this article is all about, including practical tips!
Self-esteem, moods, and emotions are linked. When we are happy and in a good mood, we tend to have more self-confidence and accept ourselves more easily.
On the other hand, if we are in a vulnerable state, our self-esteem can also drop.
Table of Contents
- 1 How to boost your self-esteem: Introduction
- 2 There are strong links between self-esteem, moods, and emotions
- 3 People with self-esteem problems can’t get their spirits up
- 4 Low morale can trigger self-esteem problems
- 5 Moving towards neuropsychology of self-esteem?
- 6 Use your emotions to boost your self-esteem
- 7 The philosophy of Baruch Spinoza
- 8 How to boost your self-esteem: Conclusion
How to boost your self-esteem: Introduction
Having good morale every day is not easy, especially if you have low self-esteem.
However, it is possible to take care of your morale and consequently boost your self-confidence.
This article will uncover the relationship between our morale and self-esteem and discuss ways to help us maintain a better mood.
Self-esteem is not only how we see ourselves. It is also an overall emotional feeling that invades us when thinking about ourselves.
Some researchers define self-esteem as the “affective component of self-concept.”
This definition indicates how much it is “contaminated” by this emotional dimension. Indeed, it is what makes us more than just “cold identities.”
There is a clear relationship between our mood and our self-esteem: anything that puts us in a good (or bad) mood will improve (or decrease) our self-esteem.
Conversely, any change (be it good or bad) in self-esteem will influence (negatively or positively) our mood and will also influence our body image (positively or negatively).
Generally, people with low self-esteem tend to perceive negative feelings, especially in stressful situations.
Perhaps a specific chronic lack of self-esteem is just a result of mood disorders (i.e., all the forms of depressive diseases).
For example, in people suffering from dysthymia (a chronic and not very intense form of depression), the prescription of an antidepressant treatment can sometimes lead to a net improvement in self-esteem problems.
Good self-esteem also facilitates so-called “emotional intelligence”: the ability to perceive, decode and regulate all of our emotions and those of others.
Good self-esteem can also act as an emotional thermostat and help modulate the impact of negative emotions and not let them become too prominent or generalized.
Therefore, emotions clearly influence the way we look at and judge ourselves.
This link between self-esteem and emotional life seems more specific to emotions related to our self-image: shame more than anger, pride more than well-being.
This is not just about strong emotions. This effect also exists at a level as simple as the overall feeling of energy.
For example, a follow-up study was conducted over several weeks showing a close correlation between the level of energy felt by the volunteers (who were feeling perky) and self-esteem.
These discreet emotions represented by our moods, these daily oscillations of morale, are so slight that we sometimes forget their presence and influence. However, they can also play a role in balancing our self-esteem.
- Kernis & Goldman, Stability and variability in self-concept and self-esteem, in Leary & Tanyney, Handbook of Self and Identity, Second Edition, The Guilford Press, 2011
- Neiss, et al., Executive Self, Self-Esteem, and Negative Affectivity: Relations at the Phenotypic and Genotypic Level, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 2005
- Brown & Dutton, The thrill of victory, the complexity of defeat: Self-esteem and people’s emotional reactions to success and failure, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 1995
- Watson, et al., Global self-esteem in relation to structural models of personality and affectivity, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 2002
- Harber, Self-Esteem and Affect as Information, Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 2005
- Brown & Marshall, Self-Esteem and Emotion: Some Thoughts about Feelings, Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 2001
- Thayer, The origin of everyday moods: Managing energy, tension, and stress, Oxford University Press, 1996
People with self-esteem problems can’t get their spirits up
People with low self-esteem tend to “sink” when they are not doing well. If they feel unloved, they may withdraw into themselves instead of seeking to re-establish vital social connections.
If they feel they are failing or in uncomfortable situations, they will blame themselves and self-deprecate, instead of encouraging themselves to keep going.
They will be less likely to try to cheer themselves up and limit themselves when experiencing positive emotions. In contrast, people with good self-esteem will be able to enjoy themselves as they should.
But why do these people react this way? There is research that has provided a range of explanations:
- They are used to feeling gloomy and therefore have a greater familiarity with negative emotions. This would make them less likely to try to chase them away.
- Due to past failures, they have the conviction that it is tough to change their moods, so they give up doing so.
- They think improving morale would encourage them to confront situations again. Therefore, they are afraid that these future encounters will cause harm to their self-esteem again.
The problem is that these repeated failures in adjustment attempts will lead to emotional wear and tear and psychological de-motivation that will aggravate self-esteem problems.
- Sanna, et al., Mood, self-esteem, and simulated alternatives: Thought-provoking affective influences on counterfactual direction, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 1999
- Wood, et al., Savoring Versus Dampening: Self-Esteem Differences in Regulating Positive Affect, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 2003
- Heimpel, et al., Do people with low self-esteem really want to feel better? Self-esteem differences in motivation to repair negative moods, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 2002
Low morale can trigger self-esteem problems
Typically, people with self-esteem disorders clearly describe how some days are worse than others, depending on fluctuations in their mood.
What would be for others only a temporary mental dullness, awakens in these people a whole bunch of thoughts of self-loathing, ruminations on their difficulties, and a decrease in the desire to act and to live.
However, negative moods do not only cause discomfort. They also seem to diminish the ability to act, create, solve problems, etc.
Research has also shown that slight decreases in morale are facilitators of depressive relapses in fragile people at this level. Especially if they have experienced several depressive episodes in the past.
Even small and transient decreases in morale in people with a history of depression and suicide attempts impact their ability to solve minor, simple everyday problems.
- Segal, et al., Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy for depression: A new approach to preventing relapse, The Guilford Press, 2002
- Williams, et al., Problem Solving Deteriorates Following Mood Challenge in Formerly Depressed Patients With a History of Suicidal Ideation, Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 2005
Moving towards neuropsychology of self-esteem?
Advances in neuroimaging, a technique that allows us to see the different brain areas in action, have been and are expected to be surprising.
They allow us to better understand that all psychic phenomena, thoughts or emotions, are linked to psychobiological manifestations.
They also demonstrated that no psychological suffering exists without being associated with cerebral disturbances. As such, an imaginary disease does not exist since it clearly exists as a disturbance in the brain.
They also showed how different treatments, psychotherapeutic or medication, can normalize these disturbances.
Currently, there is no such research on self-esteem functioning and disorders. However, some work in the area of depression is very closely related to self-esteem.
Thus, a team of researchers has shown the neuropsychological basis of specific “errors” occurring in the brains of depressed people. The experiment went like this:
- Researchers present volunteers, depressed or not, with lists of words.
- Some words describe qualities (generous, kind, intelligent, etc.), and other words describe faults (hypocritical, cheap, vindictive, etc.).
- The researchers first asked volunteers to read these words in a general way (“What do you think about generosity? Greed? “), then from a personal perspective (“Are you cheap or generous yourself? “).
The results of this research are as follows:
- In “normal” (non-depressed) people, different areas of the brain are activated depending on whether the words are read from a general or personal perspective.
- The psyche of non-depressed people clearly differentiates between thinking about a character trait and attributing it to themselves. The dorsomedial prefrontal cortex is a specific area of the brain known to be the seat of the tendency to “personalize” processed information.
- On the other hand, in depressed people, this area tends to be activated at all times, especially when negative words are mentioned, even in a general sense.
- In other words, when asked: “What do you think of this defect?” depressed people reacted as if they had heard: “Are you affected by this defect?” and tended to think that they did.
- Etkin, et al., Toward a Neurobiology of Psychotherapy: Basic Science and Clinical Applications, The Journal of Neuropsychiatry and Clinical Neurosciences, 2005
- Fossati, et al., In Search of the Emotional Self: An fMRI Study Using Positive and Negative Emotional Words, American Journal of Psychiatry, 2003
The tendency to personalize in people with depression
The tendency to personalize primarily negative information is one of the characteristics of depressive illness (such as feeling like “it’s all my fault” or “it’s always on me”).
This tendency also causes depressed people to feel helplessness, guilt, and self-depreciation. This constantly parasitizes their minds and degrades their self-esteem.
Moreover, it is one of the favored targets of cognitive psychotherapy, which consists in making the depressed person aware of the existence of these automatic distortions of thought.
This is the first time that neuroimaging research has revealed that our brain is at the basis of such a psychopathologic mechanism.
When depressed people explain that “they can’t help it” and that they can’t help but react this way, we may actually believe them.
Indeed, these mechanisms are not dependent on their will. Therefore, these people can only try to correct them but not prohibit their occurrence.
Fortunately, it is not because a phenomenon has a biological basis that it cannot be changed by the force of the psyche.
Other studies have shown that brain dysfunctions in depressed people improve under psychotherapeutic treatment.
Indeed, the observed disturbances are said to be “functional” and are not brain lesions.
This means the tendency to attribute negative information to oneself is “fixable” in the case of depression.
So extrapolating on this, there is no reason to think this would not be the case for self-esteem suffering.
Use your emotions to boost your self-esteem
The possibility of working on our state of mind, on this mixture of moods and thoughts, is widely affirmed today.
We know it is not beneficial for our mental well-being to let negative emotions such as sadness, anger, or worry reign. At least not for too long and too often. It’s not good for your self-esteem either.
Besides, you should pay attention to your moods. These are much more discreet than emotions and are often more harmful because they are more hidden and, therefore, less easy to spot.
Moods can also often more significantly impact all aspects of our behavior and worldview.
Our moods act in a way by “infusion.” While our moods are not very powerful, they will play an active role if we let them impregnate our psyche for a long time.
Working on our moods, therefore, represents an essential topic in self-esteem psychotherapy and the prevention of depressive relapse.
By working on our state of mind, we can train our ability to control it and develop it little by little through regular training.
- Thayer, The origin of everyday moods: Managing energy, tension, and stress, Oxford University Press, 1996
- Forgas, The Affect Infusion Model (AIM): An integrative theory of mood effects on cognition and judgments, in Martin & Clore, Theories of Mood and Cognition: A User’s Guidebook, Psychology Press, 2001
- Muraven & Baumeister, Self-regulation and depletion of limited resources: Does self-control resemble a muscle?, Psychological Bulletin, 2000
Some tips to boost your self-esteem by working on your moods and states of mind
Regularly observing your emotional changes, large and small, is called “self-regulation.”
This consists of regularly assessing your mood in a small notebook, then establishing the link with the thoughts and life events associated with it.
For example, when I’m feeling blue and melancholy, here are different questions I might ask myself:
What kind of thinking does this provoke in me, and what behaviors will I adopt?
How do I manage, or not, to fight them?
What events triggered these moods?
Is my reaction proportional to what happened, or is it excessive?
If my reaction is proportionally excessive, I am probably a victim of some form of emotional thermostat imbalance.
Therefore, to regulate this emotional thermostat, it is recommended to practice regular exercises to control it more adequately.
Cognitive work is all the work we can do related to our thoughts.
Basically, it consists of no longer confusing your thoughts with reality.
Practicing regular meditation exercises seems to be an excellent way to regulate your emotions.
Meditation can be practiced in any form: mindfulness, Zazen, etc. In any case, it helps significantly in the early detection of mood swings and keeping them at bay.
One can make a deliberate effort to elicit or welcome every opportunity for positive, legitimate, and sincere emotions.
These efforts will facilitate the overall emotional balance, especially if practiced in an adapted and not plated or stereotyped way.
Use a therapist
Sometimes, the help of a therapist is necessary to carry out this type of work on yourself, especially if you have already proven depressive tendencies.
Adapted therapies work on emotions, thoughts, and triggering situations.
Furthermore, we must not forget to pay attention to the settings of our “thymostat”: the thermostat of our discrete emotional states.
Good to know: “thymia” means “mood” in Greek.
The philosophy of Baruch Spinoza
In therapy, the theme of happiness or positive emotions is often addressed. However, in the psychiatrist’s profession, their task is mainly to relieve the suffering of people in difficulty.
Helping the patients build their happiness in small steps through positive emotions is not their primary concern.
That’s why it’s interesting sometimes to turn to other people and writing to help us improve our moods.
For example, there are collections of readings of a famous philosopher, Baruch Spinoza, who is a person who glorifies joy and happiness.
For him, only joyful passions are worthwhile. Only joy remains and brings us to action and consequently to the bliss of taking action.
For Spinoza, the so-called “sad” passions only lead to impotence. And so, if we want to be free and active, we must try to achieve a maximum of “joyful” passions.
This philosopher was neither naive nor a dreamer; instead, he just decided to celebrate joy as well as sadness.
FYI: Whether by chance or by fate, his name was Baruch, which means “blessed.”
How to boost your self-esteem: Conclusion
As we have seen, there is a clear relationship between our mood, emotions, and self-esteem.
Indeed, anything that puts us in a good or bad mood will tend to improve or lower our self-esteem slightly.
And vice versa: any movement (be it an injury or food) in our self-esteem will influence our mood negatively or positively.
Studies have shown that psychic phenomena, whether thoughts or emotions, are related to manifestations in the brain.
It is recommended to use your emotions to boost your self-esteem. Ways to do this are:
- Cognitive work is the regular observation of your emotional state; its goal is to stop confusing your thoughts with reality.
- Regular practice of meditation exercises: this will significantly help in the early detection of mood swings and also in avoiding them (tip: avoiding dysbiosis can also help to avoid mood swings).
- The deliberate effort to arouse positive, legitimate, and sincere emotions. All of this will facilitate the overall emotional balance.
- And finally, knowing that our moods and emotions influence our self-esteem, perhaps we should adopt Spinoza’s philosophy more often and celebrate joy and good humor in our daily lives.