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Self-Esteem Boosting Tips for Older Adults

By Tamar Cooper | 02/15/2021

People with high self-esteem tend to have better relationships and feel more secure around people

“You really have to love yourself to get anything done in this world”. -Lucille Ball, actress

What is self-esteem? 

Self-esteem is a person’s evaluation of their own worth. Simply put, it is what someone thinks of themself, whether positive or negative. Our concept of self-esteem begins in early childhood and is formed by the image we build for ourselves through experiences with people and different situations. The things we experience as a child initially form a foundation in shaping our self-esteem. Successes; failures; and how we are treated by members of our families, teachers, religious authorities, friends, etc., contribute to a basic sense of self.

Many adults who report low self-esteem say that as a child, they were often harshly criticized, yelled at, ignored or treated poorly one way or another. Some also say they were never recognized for their accomplishments, or were instead criticized for them. Often, they report being bullied or made fun of by their peers (Psychology Today, Nov. 21, 2020). 

How many of us look back at our childhood and recount painful memories of feeling lesser, a failure or just “invisible”?  We all know what it feels like to have a bad day, but when those feelings and the messages of our childhood experiences dominate our life, our self-esteem may need an upgrade. 

Low self-esteem can have a big impact on one’s life, and this is no less true for older adults. Some symptoms of low self-esteem are: 

  • Self-neglect
  • Anxiety
  • Eating disorders
  • Social withdrawal
  • Not trusting one’s own opinion or instinct
  • Worrying excessively about what others think of you 
    (Mindvalley. (2019, Jan). 10 Powerful Ways To Instantly Boost Your Self Esteem. Retrieved from:

How can we boost our self-esteem?

How we feel about ourselves impacts how we live our life. If we are experiencing any of these above symptoms regularly, we may want to take a look at ways to boost our self-esteem. People with high self-esteem tend to have better relationships, feel more secure around people and are better able to accept and manage the highs and lows of life that we all experience. And in general, they are happier.

The following are just a few simple suggestions we can use to boost our self-esteem: 

  • Keep a daily journal. We can write down our accomplishments, big and small, including at least 3-5 things we are grateful for
  • Help someone else each day. This can be as simple as just saying a kind word to someone. Caring about others can help put things in perspective and make us feel good in return.
  • Exercise. This doesn’t mean we have to go to the gym. Instead, we can take a walk, or if we can’t walk, we can try sitting exercises, which involve stretches, lifting small weights, or moving our legs or arms while seated in a chair. Movement can be refreshing for the mind and body, but we should be sure to reach out to a doctor to make sure exercising is safe for us first.
  • Learn something new. We can try a new recipe, talk to someone we haven’t reached out to in a while, read or pick up that hobby we’ve been thinking of.
  • Simplify/declutter. Our surroundings play a role on our mood and how we feel. Ever notice how sitting outside in nature or going to the country feels relaxing? That relaxing feeling comes from being in an environment where there is less to focus on, less to be occupied with. To achieve this at home, we can change up our rooms by moving things around to create a space that allows us the freedom to breathe and think without stress.

If we suffer from low self-esteem or experienced a difficult childhood, there are many resources that can help us make the changes necessary to improve our self-esteem. A good place to start is looking into behavioral health services offered in the community, such as those available through Benjamin Rose Institute on Aging. These services often offer mediation, guided imagery, self-talk and individualized therapies, which can all help boost self-esteem.

If we’re feeling like our environment is stressing us out, and a professional has suggested hoarding may be an issue, behavioral health services can be helpful with this, too, in addition to programs specifically designed to address hoarding. 

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Behavioral Health Services

Benjamin Rose's Behavioral Health Services provides holistic mental health care to help older adults in the Greater Cleveland area manage symptoms.