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Meditation for self-esteem

Self-esteem is, quite simply, how we value ourselves. More specifically, it’s the thoughts we tell ourselves about the type of people we are. If our thoughts about ourselves are generally positive, then we have healthy self-esteem. If our thoughts about ourselves are often negative, then we — like many other people — may have low self-esteem. The good news is that meditation can help to change the relationship we have with our thoughts, ultimately building self-esteem and increasing our confidence. Read on to find out more about the benefits of self-esteem meditation.

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What is self-esteem?

What is self-esteem? Self-esteem is how we feel about and value ourselves. A fragile sense of self is one that fluctuates day to day or moment to moment. It’s influenced by positive and negative experiences that are either externally provided (for example, when we are complimented or belittled by a coworker) or internally generated (when we reflect on our performance after a presentation). Alternatively, a stable sense of self will rarely, if ever, change.

People often assume that self-esteem and confidence are about repeating a story — one that makes us look or feel really good — in the mind over and over again. But what happens when negative thoughts inevitably creep in and challenge the validity of that story? A common approach for coping with negative thoughts is to try to forcibly change them or retrain our thinking to be more positive. But if we’re hyper-vigilant about looking out for any negative thinking, aren’t we then constantly preoccupied with negative thinking? Suddenly, this approach seems counterproductive — not to mention, exhausting.

True self-esteem, on the other hand, is being able to let go of old storylines and open ourselves up to experiencing the vulnerability and uncertainty that come with no longer having those comfortable stories to fall back on. When we’re able to recognize that our thoughts and feelings aren’t the sum total of who we are, we’re able to access a gentle, quiet confidence that’s not affected by our internal or external worlds.

It’s tempting to think that our self-esteem has been impacted by past events and is contingent on future ones. Rather, self-esteem happens in the moment and comes from a peaceful mind that no longer identifies so strongly with passing thoughts and feelings, and instead recognizes them as just that — passing. So, how do we begin to unlock the control our thoughts and feelings have over us? The answer is, of course: meditation. And Headspace has guided meditation for self-esteem.

Headspace co-founder Andy Puddicombe speaks on how to improve self-esteem

The impact of self-esteem meditation

Think of the mind as a blue sky — a blank canvas on which thoughts, feelings, and experiences appear. The true essence of the mind is calmness, brightness, clarity, and happiness. But when burdened by negative thoughts, the mind gets cloudy, dark, and even stormy. We become overwhelmed by these thoughts, identifying with them in such a way that diminishes our confidence and feelings of self-worth.

That’s why meditation can be such a powerful and transformative way to improve self-esteem. No matter how cloudy the sky becomes, we know there will always be a blue sky on the other side. It’s the same way with the mind: no matter how busy it appears, we know there is always an underlying sense of stillness and quiet confidence — if we can just stop long enough for it to appear. Just like the blue sky, the still mind is always present and available to us. We learn to access this place of spacious clarity through meditation.

Here’s how it works: Imagine, for example, experiencing a thought which says, “I’m no good,” and then believing it as something true and substantial, and having that affect how you feel about yourself. Through meditation, we experience thoughts, but we are able to recognize them as passing. Instead of identifying with them or using them to reinforce an old storyline in our mind, we simply let them go. The more we practice, the easier it becomes to go beyond thought, meaning giving thoughts less attention and not allowing them to define who we are. We can experience the innate nature of the mind — which is quiet, confident, and ever-present.

Try this 10-minute meditation on self-esteem



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Guided meditation for self-esteem

You can find many self-esteem meditations, self-love meditations, and compassion meditations in the Headspace app, featuring a variety of different techniques including visualization meditation — which involves focusing on a person or something more abstract to hold your attention. If you’re looking to give it a try, this mini-meditation is a great place to start.

First, find a comfortable position and take a couple of deep breaths, breathing in through the nose and out through the mouth. Gently close your eyes, feeling the weight of your body press down. Allow your focus to move above your head, and imagine a steady stream of warm sunlight flowing down into your body and washing away any tension. Visualize the sunlight traveling all the way down to your toes, bringing with it a sense of ease and space. Feel it fill the body, dissolving any discomfort or tension.

Now, imagine that warm stream of sunlight slowly traveling up your legs toward your waist, and into the upper half of your body. Feel it gradually move up through the chest, spreading around the shoulders and back, and flowing down your arms and into your hands and fingers. Any last areas of tension are softening as it moves up through your throat, neck, and head into your face until it reaches the very top of your head. Sit in the feeling of warmth, calm, and comfort. Allow that feeling to remain.

Now, let go of the image. In your own time, gently open your eyes. Try to recognize the quality of your mind in that moment, and make an intention to carry that awareness into the rest of your day.

Start a self-esteem building meditation program with Headspace

Headspace offers a 30-day self-esteem meditation course (available to subscribers only), focused on developing a new perspective on negative mental chatter and a less-judgmental inner life, by creating some space in your mind to observe negative and self-critical thinking. The idea is not to replace negative thoughts with positive ones. Rather, it’s about seeing through the nature of thought altogether. It doesn’t matter what thoughts arise in the mind, we know that within ourselves is a place of clarity and quiet confidence that’s not affected by the internal or external world. These meditations train us to find that place, not only during practice, but also in everyday life.

And if you’re looking for other types of meditation, explore all that Headspace has to offer, including meditations and courses covering everything from stress and compassion to sleep, focus and more. Get started now!

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