Did You Know Motivation is Linked to Self-Esteem?

8 Ways to Get Out of a Rut and Feel More Confident

Woman hugging herself

Do you feel like you’ve lost motivation to get things done? Are you feeling hesitant at work to ask for that raise you deserve? Or maybe you have been thinking to leave your partner but are not sure how to do it? Perhaps it is time to examine how your self-esteem may be impacting your motivation for change. 

What is self-esteem? 

The word ‘self-esteem’ is often interchangeable with self-love, self-confidence, self-worth, or self-regard. But simply put, self-esteem is the opinion you have of yourself. It involves the confidence and appreciation you have for yourself. Self-esteem can impact how you love yourself and others, your successes, your attractiveness, your ability to make decisions, and your security in choosing a life you want to live. Healthy self-esteem is based on how a person views their own inherent worth. Of course, every human being is worthy; however, feelings of worth may waver when an individual ties worthiness to expectations, standards, salary, or achievement. 

Linking low self-esteem and motivation

Low self-esteem can result from holding negative or self-limiting beliefs about yourself. Examples of self-limiting thoughts may be believing you are unworthy, unlovable, a failure, powerless, weak, or incompetent. Naturally, if you feel this way about yourself, it is impossible to feel good about yourself. Many of these self-limiting beliefs arise from not feeling valued by parents, peers, the workforce, or society. Life events that affect our self-esteem may be because of trauma, abuse or neglect, bullying, cultural or social expectations, and discrimination. As adults, the inability to see one’s own self-worth is the seed for negative self-fulfilling prophecies that may spiral into reduced motivation, depression, anxiety, disordered eating, and other mental health concerns. 

How to boost self-esteem 

Now that we know what can cause low self-esteem, here are 8 strategies to try to boost your self-esteem and increase motivation for change. 

  1. Focus on your strengths: make a list of your favorite qualities and strengths. Are you loyal? Caring? Resilient? Creative? As you go through the day, take a moment to jot down these qualities as they come up. Perhaps you helped a neighbor jump start their car and you liked the way you offered to help. Note it down! Focusing on what you like about yourself will positively improve your mood.


  2. Make a list of accomplishments: at the end of the day, it is common to mentally run through the to-do list and name all the tasks that are undone. This behavior reinforces feelings of guilt or failure. Instead, make a list of the things you accomplished! This can be small day to day tasks such as showering, getting the kids to school on time, or completing a work project, to larger life accomplishments such as graduating from school, receiving a degree, getting a promotion. The goal is to feel joy and satisfaction in your achievements.


  3. Practice gratitude: there is tremendous research linking gratitude and improved self-esteem. Asking yourself a simple question of, “what made me happy today?” or “what is going well in life right now?” can interrupt negative thought patterns and change your mood. The answers can be simple things, such as the sun is shining, you ate a delicious meal, got to talk to a friend, or go for a walk. Being mindful of daily gratitude increase hope and motivation.


  4. Building a social life: feelings of loneliness can lead to reduced motivation, depression, and apathy. Instead of waiting for loved ones to make plans, invite your friends or family to a gathering. Leading and organizing social events can increase a sense of purpose, goal setting, and planning. Additionally, social interactions are shown to improve sense of identity and community.


  5. Giving and receiving compliments: how do you typically react when a compliment is given to you? Try to immediately give a compliment back? Or make a joke and pass off the compliment? Giving and receiving compliments are often difficult for people with low self-esteem because they may feel awkward or as if they are unworthy of receiving the compliment. Instead, practice taking it in and saying, “thank you.”


  6. Stop comparing yourself to others: by comparing yourself to others, you may be reinforcing thoughts of failure or shame, which ultimately reduce motivation. Remember, there will always be someone better off and worse off than you. Each person has their own journey, and your own experiences are unique to your story.


  7. Recognize and change your negative self-talk: the first step in recognizing negative self-talk is through mindfulness. Practicing mindfulness allows you to slow down and catch the negative thoughts and beliefs. The next step is to dispute the thoughts with positive, strength based, or reassuring sentiment. Also, entering therapy and finding a therapist that fits your needs can be a powerful strategy in improving your self-talk.


  8. Value based living: making decisions that go against your own values leads to guilt, shame, and discouragement. Take some time to identify what is priority for you, who is important in your life, and what are you in control of and how can you foster those aspects of life. When you live a life that you value, you will be more motivated to accomplish goals and dreams!


For more information on mental health, improving self-esteem, or treatment, contact Orange County Health Psychologists by calling 949.528.6300 or emailing info@OCHealthPsych.com 

Written by Dr. Sharline Shah for Orange County Health Psychologists