At Swings & Smiles we recognise that parents need support just as much as their children do. We try to help parents through support at sessions, as well as monthly coffee mornings and our Health and Wellbeing Group. At this group we’ve been exploring ways to improve our self-esteem and wanted to share these with the rest of you. Everyone can benefit from a bit of self-love!

What is self-esteem?

Self-esteem is how we feel about ourselves. It's based on our opinions and beliefs about ourselves, which can sometimes feel really difficult, or even impossible, to change. These may be positive or negative. The more positive feelings we have about ourselves, the higher our self-esteem. The more negative feelings we have about ourselves, the lower our self-esteem.

How to have healthy self-esteem

The first steps to improving our self-esteem are to identify the negative thoughts we have about ourselves, and then challenge these.

To start, when you have a negative thought about yourself (it might be 'I'm not a very good parent') write this down and try to remember when you first started having these thoughts. Now try to think of some evidence that challenges these thoughts (for example 'My children are happy and they love me') and write this down. Also note down all the positive things about yourself – maybe it's that you're kind to others, or you make a delicious chocolate cake – and all the good things other people say about you too.

This might sound daunting, so start with around 5 things on your list and then add to it all the time. Keep your list to hand and you'll soon see that the positive points start to add up.

Post it notes saying How can we improve our self esteem?

There are some simple things you can start doing to give your self-esteem a boost. Some might feel strange at first, but the more you’re kind to yourself the more natural it will feel.

  • Challenge unkind thoughts about yourself if you find you’re putting yourself down. Ask yourself if you’d talk to a friend in the same way, chances are you probably wouldn’t
  • Stop comparing yourself to others. Remember that, particularly with social media, other people probably aren’t sharing the full picture either so comparing our lives to other people’s isn’t realistic
  • Say positive things to yourself – and keep doing it! Also learn how to take compliments from others, or even ask them what they like about you
  • Build a good support network of positive people - recognise who in your life drains your self-esteem, and who helps to build it up. Try spending more time with the people who build you up
  • Practise saying no – take time to think about things before agreeing to do something you don't want to. Set boundaries and don't take too much on

There are lots of practical things you can do to help yourself feel better too. You can try introducing a few of these but don’t overwhelm yourself. Once you’ve mastered the art of a good night’s sleep for example, then you can start thinking about being more active or making changes to your diet – but you don’t need to try to do everything at once. You may find some things work better for you than others, there’s no pressure to do it all.

  • Try to get enough sleep. Sleep is a very important thing and getting too little, or even too much of it, can really affect how we feel. Try to prioritise a good night's sleep where you can, and look out for tips on how you can improve your sleep (like these from the NHS) if it's something you struggle with
  • Think about whether your diet could be better. Eating regular meals will keep your blood sugar stable which is really important for your mood and energy levels. Eating good things naturally makes us feel good too, look out for some delicious and healthy smoothie recipes we'll be sharing soon
  • Get active! Exercise is proven to be great for mental wellbeing, and a brilliant opportunity to have some time to yourself. This in turn can boost your self-esteem
  • Go for a walk or get some fresh air. Again this is a great boost for your mind, and can be really calming and relaxing and a chance to reflect and all those new positive thoughts about yourself
  • Take up a hobby. Learning something new or doing something for you, whether that's something creative or just reading a book or getting outside, is a really positive thing to focus on 
  • Try giving back to others. Volunteering or helping out with a cause you feel passionately about will have the added benefit of making you feel great about yourself too, and we're sure you'll have lots of fun while doing it

Hopefully now you know a bit more about self-esteem, how to recognise if yours could do with a bit of a boost and some ways that you could try to improve your self-worth. We’ll be posting another blog soon with some more self-care hobbies and things you can try at home!