When you have a mental illness, your self-esteem can take a nose-dive. When I’d get really depressed, I’d think I was dull and boring. I felt unworthy of love, and wondered why anyone would want to be bothered with me when I considered myself to be such a big downer. With medications, therapy, and the love of the tremendous people in my life, I’m much better. I still have the occasional bad day, but I’m better.
So what do you do when your self-esteem is in the toilet? How do you help yourself feel better, and how do you hang on until you do? Here are some things that helped me:
- Do Something Productive-This is a great self-esteem booster. It doesn’t have to do anything big; no one’s asking you to build the Taj Mahal. But do something. Vacuum the floor, email a friend, go for a walk, watch the news, call someone you haven’t seen in awhile. Some are more obviously productive than others. While vacuuming is productive in that you’re cleaning your home, the others are productive, too. Going for a walk is exercise, which keeps you healthier. Emailing or calling someone maintains important relationships, which everyone needs. Watching the news keeps you informed, which makes you a better citizen.
- Be Sociable-Even though you may not want to go out, it helps. I know. I’d have to force myself to go out with friends, but I almost always enjoyed myself, at least a little, and felt better afterwards. Just meeting someone for lunch can ease your loneliness and remind you that someone actually likes you enough to spend time with you.
- Make Friends-If you don’t have friends, make a few. I met most of my friends through work, but there are other ways to meet people, too. Like to read? Join a book club or “Friends of the Library” club. Have a mental illness? Check out your local NAMI (National Alliance for Mental Illness) group or EA (Emotions Anonymous). Have a favorite cause? Volunteer to help out. The Web can be a great way to meet others. I met my boyfriend through an online dating site, and we’ve been living together for over 5 years now. Some of the dating sites also have sections for people looking for someone to just be friends with.
- Be an Active Partner in Your Treatment-Keep your appointments with your doctors and therapists. Tell them honestly how you’re feeling and what your concerns are. Ask for their advice or input. Take your medications as ordered. Put effort into your treatment. Don’t be a passive patient.
- Give Yourself Credit-When you’re feeling down about yourself, think of positive things about yourself or your life. It can be something small, like “I have a nice smile,” or something big, like “I’m a college graduate.”
- It Gets Better-If you have a mental illness, low self-esteem may be s symptom. Don’t mentally beat yourself up over it. Remember a time when you felt better about yourself, and know that you can feel better again. While many mental illnesses are chronic and are best considered “managed” rather than “cured,” you can feel better again.
For more tips on raising your self-esteem, check out the Mayo Clinic web site.