How to build self-esteem during recovery from an addiction

What is self-esteem?

Self-esteem refers to an individual's overall subjective feelings of personal value and self-worth. While alcohol, drugs, or compulsive behaviours can initially mask insecurities and make people feel more confident, these feelings are short-lived.

Write your own affirmation

An affirmation is a simple, positive statement you say to yourself. Write an affirmation that reflects how you want to feel about yourself, for example: ‘I am proud of myself.' Repeating these affirmations can help transform negative self-talk into a more optimistic view of the self. Do note that this process takes time. Give yourself a month of saying it out loud to yourself every day.

Forgive yourself for past mistakes

Never let past wrongs define your present. Take the time to recognise and acknowledge what you did, allow yourself to feel remorse, then look for ways to do things better in future.

Accept compliments

People with low self-esteem often miss opportunities to build their self-esteem simply by acknowledging the kind words of others. Here are some things you can try the next time you receive compliments:
1. Resist the urge to dismiss it
2. Assume they are sincere
3. Say thank you and enjoy the compliment
4. Note how the compliment reflects your thoughts

Do something kind every day

Research has shown that engaging in pro-social behaviour, or actions designed to benefit others, can play a role in improving self-esteem. One way to express your appreciation of others is to do kind things for them. You don't have to make a grand gesture - something as simple as holding a door open for another person, giving up a seat on the bus, or giving someone directions if they look lost can elicit a genuine ‘thank you'.

Start making changes

It is important to remember that change takes time. Making self-determined steps in the right direction - even small ones - can play a role in boosting your self-esteem.
If a major change seems like too much, break it down into smaller acts, and choose to do one a day or one a week, whichever you feel you'll follow through on. With each small change, inwardly celebrate your success in moving toward your goal.

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