“Nobody can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending.” Maria Robinson
In addiction recovery, one of the important things we work on with you is repairing and growing your self-esteem.
Self-esteem is how we assess our own value, or how worthy we consider ourselves to exist. After years in addiction, your self-esteem can suffer greatly. Coming into recovery, you may become aware of things you aren’t proud of in your past. You may have behaved in ways that were out of character or didn’t fit with your true values. Often, addiction does a lot of physical and mental damage too, which affects how you feel about yourself.
Like anything else worth pursuing, improving self-esteem requires a bit of work. It involves developing and maintaining healthier emotional habits, but doing so provides a great emotional and psychological return on your investment.
Here are some behaviors that, when adopted and practiced, will help you nourish and enhance your self-esteem. Find the ones that help you and stay with it.
Be mindful of negative self-talk.
In order to change anything, we need to recognize that there is something to change. By simply becoming aware of our negative self-talk, we begin to distance ourselves from the feelings it creates and identify with them less. Without this awareness, we can easily fall into the trap of believing our self-limiting talk.
As soon as you find yourself going down the path of self-criticism, gently note what is happening, be curious about it, and remind yourself that these are just thoughts and not facts.
Respect and reward yourself for staying in recovery.
Anything that helps you maintain your addiction recovery will also raise your self-esteem.
So, if addiction recovery meetings and support groups help you stay sober, go to them regularly. If aftercare outpatient therapy sessions help you stay drug-free, make them a priority. If exercise, yoga, or meditation make you feel calm, do them more often. If you love music, the beach, hiking, art, or other creative pursuits, then spend more of your time participating in the things you enjoy.
If you need a reminder of what makes you feel good, make a list and display it on your refrigerator or bathroom mirror where you can see it every day. Do these things that make you feel good often.
Give yourself a pat on the back for what you already do.
Many people who lack self-esteem fail to recognize the worthwhile things they already do. They take themselves for granted in many areas of their life. You might be working hard to get through college, giving your time to a charity, or helping a friend in need. Perhaps you are caring for an elderly or sick relative, or taking care of your home and children. You’ve done it for so long that it’s just part of life, but it’s still worthy of your respect. If you’re doing it, give yourself a pat on the back.
Self-esteem doesn’t come from doing new or exciting things. It’s more about sticking with the things that matter to you and the people you care about.
Don’t deny yourself recognition and rewards for the good things you do. By rewarding yourself, you’re signaling that you believe in your value. You’ll feel better for it.
Recognize and emulate the behaviors of people you admire.
If you can name the things you admire in others, you can set out to do similar things yourself. It’s not about copying other people, but about drawing inspiration from them.
Why do you look up to the people you respect? Do they get involved in their community and freely give their time and energy to help others? Do they accept people for who they are? Do they greet everyone with a smile? Are they consistent about their values? Perhaps they don’t take life, or themselves, too seriously and always have a kind word toward others.
You can adopt behaviors you admire in others. It just takes a decision on your part. You are in control of your behavior.
Thanking people is recognition of their value and makes them feel good about themselves. By saying thanks, you’re offering that person an opportunity to boost their self-esteem, which is a worthy thing to do. The more we notice good qualities in other people, the more we tend to notice our own positive qualities.
Apologize in a heartfelt, meaningful way.
Did you snap at your partner this morning before you left for work? Perhaps you said something derogatory toward a co-worker, or spoke badly about a friend behind their back. Perhaps you used something that didn’t belong to you without asking.
It isn’t just about saying you’re sorry. It’s about fessing up to what you did, acknowledging why it wasn’t okay, and how you will avoid doing it again. It will benefit your self-esteem to put right the mistakes you’ve made.
Say affirmations out loud.
Affirmations are very simple, encouraging statements about ourselves. Initially you may feel uncomfortable saying nice things about yourself. You may be much more used to beating yourself up or judging your mistakes. Affirmations help to counteract negative or limiting beliefs. The more you say them, the greater the boost to your self-esteem.
Below are some examples of affirmations. Make a list of affirmations that are meaningful to you and post the list next to the list of things that make you feel good. This will help you remember to repeat them out loud to yourself often.
• I am proud of myself.
• I am worthy of love.
• I respect myself and others.
• My life is important.
• My life is free of drugs.
• I take care of my health.
• I’m allowed to make mistakes.
• I am stronger than temptation.
• I am in control.
• I respect my body and my loved ones.
• I will be a better me.
• I like the person I’m becoming.
• I accept my past.
• I treat myself with kindness.
• I am a good friend.
Surround yourself with the people who support your recovery.
In addiction recovery, the people you surround yourself with can have a major impact on how you feel about yourself. Avoiding potentially toxic relationships and situations is important.
Addiction recovery isn’t about giving yourself unnecessary challenges or hardship. There’s no need to test yourself or prove you can do everything you used to do. It’s better to give yourself space and time to build solid recovery foundations. Being around people who encourage and support your recovery will help to rebuild your self-esteem, and as you feel better about yourself, you are less likely to return to addiction.
Take care of your physical health.
Healthcare should be a top priority in your life. Sometimes people have a faulty belief that putting their health needs before anything else is selfish. But ignoring your health sends a message that you don’t value yourself.
Make good health a priority by eating nutritious foods, exercising, getting sufficient sleep, and developing daily habits to maintain a healthy mind and body.
Perhaps you have a very specific limiting belief that’s really holding you back from feeling worthy of love or good things in life. If that is the case, you may benefit greatly from talking to a professional therapist. Participating in therapy for childhood trauma or very painful experiences, especially if they’re jeopardizing your recovery, can be vital to maintaining your sobriety as well as improving your self-esteem.
For help and support to overcome addiction, call us at 330-330-8777 to discuss your treatment options, or use our Contact Form for a callback.