How you feel about yourself is the most important opinion regarding you. Low self-esteem can cause problems with many aspects of life, including your relationships at work and home. Healthy self-esteem, on the other hand, can improve your life tenfold. Here are a few tips for improving your own self-image.

Understand self-esteem
Robert Reasoner, of The National Association for Self-Esteem, explains that “self-esteem stems from the experience of living consciously and might be viewed as a person’s overall judgment of himself or herself pertaining to self-competence and self-worth based on reality.” Self-esteem, therefore, is not delusional or arrogant. Rather, self-esteem is rational and not connected with narcissism, boasting, bullying or other forms of vanity and conceit. Annie Fox, M.Ed., respected educator and award-winning author, stated, “In my book, arrogance has nothing to do with confidence. Confident people are rock-solid in their sense of self. Because they trust in their abilities, they have no need to step on or bring down anyone.”

Stop comparing yourself to others
Low self-esteem often develops when people compare themselves unfavorably to others. Your goal is not to emulate someone else. This will transform you into a pale imitation. Stay true to yourself and be a first-rate version of yourself. Fox said, “Lasting self-confidence comes from trusting that you’ve got what it takes to deal with whatever challenges you face.” Self-confidence doesn’t have to do with emulating or competing with someone else.

Mind your thoughts
If you encounter a self-esteem reducing event, pay attention to your thoughts about this event. The Mayo Clinic reports, “Your thoughts and beliefs might be positive, negative or neutral. They might be rational, based on reason or facts, or irrational, based on false ideas.” Many times, our low self-esteem doesn’t actually stem from external events but from our interpretation of those events. If your thought process is largely negative, you should change this trend. You want your thoughts to be optimistic, forgiving, encouraging and positive overall.

Take care of yourself
Your body and mind are not completely separate entities. Your physical appearance reflects how you care for your body. Dress well and practice proper hygiene. Nutrition and exercise are also very important. If you work out regularly and eat well, you will look better and feel better. Exercising releases dopamine, which will make you happier. It’s important not to become over concerned with your self-image. Don’t strive for unattainable standards of beauty. Realistically, treat yourself well and be the best that you can be.

Demonstrate gratitude
Be thankful for what you do have. If you don’t appreciate what you currently have, you most likely will never appreciate anything. You probably won’t feel fulfilled once you attain whatever it is that you think will make you feel worthwhile and competent, if you don’t feel grateful now. Once you reach the next level, you will simply strive for the next, and then the next, and then the next. There is nothing wrong with working toward your goals. But appreciate everything along the way.

Don’t listen to bullies
Bullies exist and not just in school. Fear of them can be debilitating. Fox said, “fear can hold us back, as in an ongoing bullying situation, where one’s self-esteem can erode over time. A bullying victim might start to feel ‘What s/he says about me is true. I AM a loser.’  When that happens, it can difficult to feel good about who you are.” It’s important not to let bullies get to you. They are usually acting from a position of insecurity and their judgments reflect far more upon their character than yours. In the end, the only true validation is validation that comes from you.

Avoid perfectionism
There is nothing wrong with trying hard. However, a state of complete flawlessness cannot be reached. Try your best but accept that not everything you create will be perfect. The world is forgiving of errors. Have the courage to forgive yourself for errors as well. Try to find comfort in knowing that you tried your best. Fox explained, “While it’s always nice to be in the Winner’s Circle, feelings of pride and self-satisfaction ultimately outweigh external praise.”