You can wake up on the wrong side of the bed at any time of the year. During winter, though, it seems easier to slip into bad moods and moments of self-doubt due to a combo of low temps that make you want to stay under the covers, short bouts of daylight, or the general malaise that often accompanies seasonal affective disorder.
Having a day here or there where your self-esteem and confidence seem shot is a normal part of the human experience, according to Joseph Burgo, PhD, psychotherapist, and the author of Shame: Free Yourself, Find Joy, and Build True Self-Esteem. Such moments can actually help us build character he says: “When we consistently and repeatedly try to avoid potential blows to our self-esteem, it can inhibit us from growing and building pride.”
The flipside of this, according to Dr. Burgo, is that not learning how to feel better about yourself can potentially limit and hinder you from achieving the things you want in life. So, part of living your best life is learning coping mechanisms for dealing with moments of doubt. Below he shares his expert advice on how to feel better about yourself when you need of a pep talk.
1. Set small goals and define your intentions
You can become a person you’re proud of by setting and holding yourself accountable to realistic goals and expectations you set. “Begin every morning by clarifying what you’d like to accomplish that day,” Dr. Burgo says. “Define your intentions and set very small goals. Break down longer-term goals into smaller steps and work on them individually.”
Over time this will help you see yourself as “a person who can learn from experience, rather than being someone who is perfect and never falls short,” he adds.
2. Recap your day
“Building pride and raising one’s self-esteem depends upon achieving goals that matter to you, even very small ones,” Dr. Burgo says. At the end of your day, go through the intentions and goals you set and reflect on what you achieved and what you missed. Reflect on the things that may have prevented you from fulfilling your intentions.
3. Find the lesson or silver lining
“When we momentarily feel bad about ourselves—what I would call a shame experience—it sometimes has a lesson to teach us,” explains Dr. Burgo. Try to deconstruct what it is that’s making you feel poorly he advises. “Did you behave in some way that doesn’t conform to your values, for your expectations about the person you expect yourself to be? Understanding your values and expectations and then resolving to live up to them will help you recover from a shame experience and grow from it,” he says.
4. Identify your concrete values and expectations
Take some time to reflect on your core values and expectations for yourself. Knowing what these are will help you avoid seemingly haphazard or difficult-to-identify triggers or things that upset you. Plus, knowing and living up to your values will over time help build your self-esteem.
5. Focus on something other than yourself
If you find yourself in a situation in which you’re overwhelmed with negative thoughts and feelings, find a way to redirect your focus to something else. Doing a puzzle, going for a walk and focusing on the scenery, or finally getting around to cleaning out your fridge, can force your mind off the spiraling nature of negative thinking.
6. Connect with friends and family
It’s easy to isolate yourself when you’re feeling poorly but surrounding yourself with supportive friends and family can make all the difference. Nothing can turn around day filled with self-doubt like being gassed up by the people you love.
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