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Bad Day? 8 Ways to Feel Better About Yourself

If trying to think yourself into a better mood fails, try doing something instead. Here are eight ideas.
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Some people claim the way you talk to yourself is the key to how you feel.

Try it. Pump your first in the air and repeat after me: "I feel great about myself!"

How did that work out for you?

Positive self-talk can be helpful at times, but more often than not those mental conversations veer off course because it's too easy to be your own worst critic.

That's why feeling great about yourself isn't about talking; it's about doing. Try doing one of these eight things:

Ask for help.

I know: You probably don't equate feeling vulnerable with feeling happier with yourself.

Asking for help actually does several things: It shows you respect the person you ask; it shows you trust the person you ask; and it shows you're willing to admit a weakness or lack of knowledge and skill.

Asking for help isn't a sign of weakness. It's a sign of strength, because it shows you're secure enough to admit you need help.

Try it. Ask for help. You'll make other people feel better about themselves--which is reason enough, because that will automatically make you feel better. And you'll also feel better about yourself because you felt strong enough to ask.

Do something nice that no one will notice.

If the true test of character is what you do when no one else is looking, one of the best ways to feel better about yourself is to do something nice when no one else is looking.

Then you're not doing it for praise or recognition but simply because you think it's the right thing to do--and when we do the right thing we always feel better about ourselves. (Even if doing the right thing is really, really hard.)

I like to put grocery items back on the shelf that have fallen on the floor or shopping carts that have escaped the cart corrals and wandered off into the parking lot or clothes that have fallen off a rack. I know it's someone's job to do it, but if I'm standing right there, why not me? It makes me feel like I'm helping someone.

That always feels good.

Fail, so you can keep getting better.

Failing, even at something simple and inconsequential, is demoralizing. So how can you feel better about yourself by doing something when you know you'll fail?

Example: Years ago I could do three sets of 20 dips with (relative) ease. I stopped working out for a long time. Years later I started going to the gym again and tried to do some dips.

I did four. Woo-hoo.

But two weeks later I could do three sets of 8. A few weeks after that I was doing three sets of 12. Within a few months I was doing 20, 16, and 14.

And here's the cool part: Every time I did just one more than the last time, I felt awesome. I was getting stronger. I was improving.

Pick something you can't do well. (Consider picking something physical since you'll get the added bonus of improved fitness and health.) Then do it.

You'll fail. So what. Keep doing it. You'll get better.

And every time--every time--you make an incremental improvement you'll feel better about yourself.

Say you're sorry.

Because not saying you're sorry creates a weight that slowly crushes your self-esteem.

Recapture that "first" feeling.

When something good happens you feel happier.

For a while. Then you adapt. You revise your expectations upwards. And then you're not as happy.

Think about a day when you felt excited and happy. Maybe it's the day you truly fell for your significant other. Or maybe it's the day you started your business. Life was filled with promise and hope and anticipation.

It still is.

Sit at the table, watch your significant other putter around the kitchen, and picture that first day. Or step outside where you work and picture that first day. Remember how you felt. Your significant other is still just as wonderful. Your business is still capable of reaching incredible heights.

Nothing has really changed except maybe you--and your expectations.

What you already have is wonderful. Bask in that thought. You'll feel better about yourself and you'll be inspired to make things even better.

Go out of your way to meet cool people.

I'm lucky enough to get to meet some extremely accomplished people. Sometimes I find myself in a group and it can seem like a game of "Which item doesn't belong in this picture?" and the totally-out-of-place item is me.

That doesn't feel so great.

But when you meet cool people and pay close attention you'll notice something interesting. For the most part, they're just like you: They share some of the same fears, insecurities, failings, etc. They don't live a charmed life.

You realize they're just regular people who have worked really hard to become great at what they do. And you have a lot more in common with them than you think.

Compliment someone who doesn't expect it.

If giving flowers "just because" carries more emotional weight than giving flowers on a holiday, giving a compliment to someone who doesn't expect it carries more emotional weight, too, both for the person you compliment and for you.

Tell a fellow business owner you love how she's decorated her store. Email an author to say you love his book. Walk over and tell your neighbors with whom you never speak (if you're like me you have plenty of neighbor-stranger options) their flowers are beautiful.

Every day the people around you do good things. Compliment them, even if it's not your job or your "place" to do so.

They'll love it--and you will love how that feels.

Step back into the shadows.

It's your time to shine. You're about to receive recognition and praise. Won't that feel awesome? Maybe... for a minute or two.

Try this instead: Shift the spotlight onto someone else. Let an employee take credit. Let someone else lead the project. Let another person take credit for your idea.

When you seek acclaim or affirmation from others, the feeling is fleeting at best. When you can step back, secure in the knowledge of what you've done, that's a sure sign you feel great about yourself--and that those feelings will last.

Share the spotlight. Better yet, avoid the spotlight. Even if people don't know what you did, you will.

And that's all that matters.

IMAGE: rkramer62/Flickr
Last updated: May 2, 2013

JEFF HADEN | Columnist

Jeff Haden learned much of what he knows about business and technology as he worked his way up in the manufacturing industry. Everything else he picks up from ghostwriting books for some of the smartest leaders he knows in business.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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