A substance use disorder can demolish your self-esteem. It can impair your career, possibly leading to unemployment, it can damage your relationships and alienate you from the people who care about you, and, perhaps most importantly, it can make you feel like you have no control over your life. Recovering your self-esteem is an important part of recovery. When you feel good about yourself you feel less inclined to use substances to cope with life’s problem. Recovering self-esteem is not easy, but with consistent effort, you can feel good about yourself and feel like you’re more in control of your life. Here are some suggestions for how to do it.
Recognize your inherent value.
First, it’s important to note that not all experts agree on the value of self-esteem. Many take issue with the concept because it’s often misinterpreted. Having self-esteem does not mean that you have to earn love and acceptance or that you are better than others. Loving and accepting yourself and feeling good about your actions and the direction of your life are two different things. Before you think about self-esteem, it’s important that you recognize that you have inherent value independent of what you do. You deserve love, happiness, and acceptance simply because you exist. None of those things are dependent on living up to certain standards or achieving certain goals. Achieving your goals is great, but it’s not the basis of self-worth.
Don’t compare yourself to others.
A sure way to destroy your self-esteem is to compare yourself to others, either favorably or unfavorably. First, comparing yourself to others is always misleading. No one starts from the same place, has the same strengths or weaknesses, or has the same goals. While it’s great to be inspired by peers who have overcome addiction and found meaning in recovery, your own journey will look very different and comparing will only discourage you. On the other hand, it also doesn’t help to prop yourself up by comparing yourself to others who don’t seem to be doing as well. Those comparisons are equally arbitrary and they put you in a competitive state of mind when it’s much better to cooperate. The only comparison that matters is whether you’ve done a little better today than you did yesterday.
One of the best ways to feel better about yourself and increase your capacity to do good things is to take good care of yourself. Eat healthy, get enough sleep, and exercise regularly. Take a break when you need it and ask for help sometimes. Self-care makes you feel better and look better and it shows you value your health and wellbeing.
It’s hard to feel good about the direction of your life if you don’t feel like you’re working toward meaningful goals. Practice setting goals, even small ones and work toward them consistently. Every time you reach a goal, you will feel like you have made measurable progress, and more importantly, you will feel like you have more control over your life. Every goal increases your confidence and makes you willing to try something a little more audacious.
Connect with people who care about you.
Connecting with positive people is essential for improving your self-esteem. Our friends and loved ones can lift us up, keep us from overreacting, and reassure us when bad things happen. For people in recovery, connection is especially important. This often happens in group therapy or among members of mutual aid groups such as AA, SMART Recovery, or Refuge Recovery. It also helps to repair relationships with family and friends whenever possible. Having these connections keeps you from getting stuck in your own head. You have access to outside perspectives, which are often kinder and more forgiving than our own.
Another good way to improve self-esteem is to volunteer for a cause you care about. Often, people in recovery choose to help others struggling with addiction, but the specific cause doesn’t matter as long as it means something to you. Helping others makes you feel good about yourself and contributing to a cause gives you a sense of purpose. People who volunteer regularly report higher levels of happiness and gratitude, as well as greater self-esteem. Practice gratitude. Gratitude doesn’t boost self-esteem as much as it increases happiness and wellbeing. Letting people know you appreciate them and what they do is a great way to start. Also, consider keeping a gratitude journal by writing down two or three things every day that you’re grateful for, even if they’re small things. This helps you to focus more on what’s going well in your life rather than what’s going wrong. This can include appreciating things about yourself that you might otherwise overlook.
Use your strengths.
Many studies have found that we’re happiest when we’re using our strengths to do work we believe in. We all have something we do well or that we at least enjoy doing more than other things. The more we do those things, the better we get at doing them, and the more those strengths turn into a personal asset. So if you enjoy meeting new people, find a job where you meet a lot of people and not one where you’re isolated or dealing with the same coworkers. Being in the wrong environment, trying to do things you don’t enjoy and aren’t good at are ways to get quickly discouraged.
Strategically improve your weaknesses.
Just as we all have strengths, we all have weaknesses. It’s rare for someone to turn a weakness into a strength, but sometimes it’s worth the effort to improve a weakness so it’s no longer a liability. For example, maybe you aren’t especially organized and it’s hurting you at work. You may never be the most organized person in the office, but maybe you can improve it enough so it doesn’t hold you back. If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction or mental illness, we can help. Recovery Ways is a premier drug and alcohol addiction treatment facility located in Salt Lake City, Utah. We have the resources to effectively treat a dual diagnosis. Our mission is to provide the most cost-effective, accessible substance abuse treatment to as many people as possible. Request information online or call us today at 1-888-986-7848.