Improve Your Self-Esteem with Exercise–Key 2 (Excerpt from “8 Keys to Mental Health Through Exercise!”)

 Improve Self-Esteem with Exercise!--Key 2, Free Excerpt from %228 Keys to Mental Health Through Exercise%22 #books #exercise #mentalhealth #selfesteem

Enjoy this Free Excerpt from my NEW book, “8 Keys to Mental Health Through Exercise!


“To be beautiful means to be yourself. You don’t need to be accepted by others. You need to accept yourself.”

~Thich Nhat Hanh

 “Most experts see self-esteem as an important aspect of mental health. I agree: self-esteem seems to underlie almost every issue for which my clients come to therapy. They say they’re there because of depression, or anxiety, or relationship problems, but at its core, the real problem is almost always a struggle with self-esteem.


Self-esteem can be defined as the opinion we have of ourselves, or how we Anxiety & Women: Hormones, Sleep & What You Can Do www.DrChristinaHibbert.comfeel about ourselves. Healthy self-esteem means we have a positive outlook about ourselves, others, and life. The world calls this “high self-esteem,” and it is associated with healthier behavior, including greater independence, leadership, life adaptability, resilience to stress (Fox 2000), more sports involvement and exercise, healthier diet, less smoking, and lower suicide risk (Torres & Fernandez, ).


On the other hand, “low self-esteem” is correlated with the absence of wellness and is a frequent underlying aspect of depression, anxiety, low assertiveness, feelings of hopelessness, suicidal ideation, and a poor sense of personal control (Fox 2000). Low self-esteem is also associated with higher self-criticism, negative thinking, an inability to cope effectively with life, and poorer overall mental health, including a greater chance of developing clinical depression, anxiety, suicidal tendencies, eating disorders, stress, substance abuse, and other mental illnesses (Mann et al., 2004).


In fact, self-esteem is one of the strongest predictors of subjective well-being. It is an essential aspect of mental wellness and quality of life (Diener 1984). Feeling good about who, and how, we are helps us feel good about life’s situations and other people, and helps us face challenges with confidence and compassion. Healthy self-esteem is also correlated with greater physical activity, and greater physical activity is correlated with higher self-esteem (Fox 2000). It’s therefore crucial we develop healthy self-esteem if we want a rich, healthy, and happy life. As we’ll discuss below, exercise can play a valuable role in helping us achieve this.”


“Which Comes First—Exercise or Self-esteem?

Researchers have long been asking, “Which comes first—self-esteem or

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exercise?” We know there is a high correlation between those who are physically active with healthy self-esteem. Common consensus is that this relationship goes both ways. Those who already have high self-esteem are more likely to exercise and participate in sports, especially those who feel confident in their physical abilities and appearance. On the flip side, those with lower self-esteem and physical self-perceptions, including those who suffer from depression, anxiety, and other mental health disorders, are less likely to engage in regular physical activity. However, this group has the most to gain from exercise, and research shows that regular exercise increases positive self-feelings and evaluations, meaning they feel more confident, capable, and healthy through regular exercise and activity, leading to higher overall self-esteem (Fox 2000).


While research can’t exactly pinpoint, it appears there are several mechanisms that lead to improved self-esteem from exercise.

First, as we already know, exercise improves mood and enhances positive self-regard. This, in turn, seems to have a positive effect on self-esteem.

Second, exercise can improve body image, satisfaction, and acceptance for some, which increases overall self-esteem.

Third, exercise leads us to feel more physically competent, which may then improve how we feel about ourselves overall.

Fourth, exercise helps us feel more in control of our appearance, health, and bodily functioning, which can increase a sense of self-efficacy.

And finally, exercise, and especially group exercise, can improve relationships and increase a sense of belonging, which is important in the development of self-esteem (Fox 2000).


Overall, it’s likely that each of these factors interplay to create improvements in mind, body, and self-esteem. Since exercise helps us improve our physical, mental, emotional, social, and spiritual health, it makes sense that this would lead to a greater quality of life and improved sense of self-worth. When we stick with an exercise or fitness routine, we demonstrate motivation and dedication, both of which are associated with greater self-esteem and self-perceptions (Fox 2000). Bottom line: no matter how it works, exercise and self-esteem go hand in hand.



“Exercise, Self-Esteem and Self-Worth

Why, then, if exercise holds so many secret ingredients for our mental health and wellbeing, is it only weakly correlated with how we perceive our ourselves, especially our bodies? I have a theory. I believe this happens because too many of us still don’t feel our self-worth. Even when the outward evidence says, “You’re important! You’re valuable! You’re an amazing human being!” we don’t believe it. We believe our own “evidence” instead, evidence we’ve collected through our whole lives via true or untrue thoughts, beliefs, and perceptions of experiences. This “evidence” says, “I’m not good enough.”


One of the main problems with self-esteem is that it’s mostly based on external

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Zion Ponderosa Women’s Adventure Retreat

sources. Research shows that basing our worth on external sources—like appearance, academic or physical performance, or approval from others—leads to greater anger, stress, relationship and academic problems, and higher alcohol and drug use and eating disorders (Crocker 2002).


In contrast, those who base their worth on internal, constant sources, such as being a virtuous person or sticking to moral standards, tend to have greater success in life, including higher grades and lower likelihood of eating disorders and drug/alcohol use. In fact, students in one study who based their self-worth on outward sources, like academic performance, were found to have poorer self-esteem, even when their grades were higher than others (Crocker ). This shows the power of having a true, deep sense of self-worth versus basing our worth on self-perceptions and self-esteem.


Understanding self-worth is crucial in exercise for mental health success; it helps us believe we can do it, stick with it, and reach our fullest mental and physical health potential. When we feel confident, we’re not only more likely to exercise; we’re more likely to let go of the self-perceptions and beliefs that hold us back and make us feel like a “failure.” We’re more likely to overcome the roadblocks, stop unhealthy thoughts and beliefs, and stay motivated and dedicated to exercise. As psychologist Nathaniel Branden writes, “The level of our [sense of self-worth] has profound consequences for every aspect of our existence: how we operate in the workplace, how we deal with people, how high we are likely to rise, how much we are likely to achieve—and in the personal realm, with whom we are likely to fall in love, how we interact with our spouse, children, and friends, what level of personal happiness we attain” (1995, p.4-5). Yes, we need self-worth.”

~Excerpt from 8 Keys to Mental Health Through Exercise, Key 2



Read all of “Key 2: Improve your Self-Esteem with Exercise,” in my NEW book, 8 Keys to Mental Health Through Exercise

And read more excerpts, like “How to Get (& Stay) Motivated!” and posts like “Mental Health  Through Exercise–Key 1: Make it fun!”

Learn more about building self-esteem and self-worth here.


How does exercise impact your sense of self-esteem and self-worth? I’d love to hear from you. Leave a comment, below!

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How to Feel Self-Worth: “The Pyramid of Self-Worth” [& video]

How to Feel Self-Worth: "The Pyramid of Self-Worth" [w/ #Video]; #selfesteemSeveral years ago, in my psychology practice, I began to wonder, “How can I help my clients feel their true worth and value?” For years, women and men had come in with various problems for which they were seeking help—relationships, depression, anxiety, fears, addictions—but underlying each of these “issues” was a bigger one—low self-esteem, or what I call “a poor sense of self-worth.” They may have thought they were struggling with anxiety, but really there was a deep sense they could do nothing right; or they thought they were “a recovering perfectionist,” but really they were terrified they just weren’t good enough. Yes, self-esteem and self-worth are core issues for most of us, at one point or another.

(For more on self-esteem vs. self-worth, check out the following articles: Self-Esteem & Self-Worth: 10 Things Everyone Should Know; 5 Reasons Self-Esteem is a Myth; If Self-Esteem is a Myth, then what is the Truth: Understanding Self-Worth; Self-Esteem vs. Self-Worth: Q & A w/Dr. Christina Hibbert)


The Question of Self-Worth

But how do you help someone feel loveable if they don’t believe they are? I started by teaching the tools of cognitive-behavioral therapy, like how to use a thought record to change your thinking. This helped, to some degree. It targeted the thoughts and feelings that led to poor self-worth and created more realistic beliefs. It helped people think more positively about themselves. It helped them feel more confident–sometimes. Basically, it increased self-esteem.

However, I kept hearing, “I know you’re telling me I am important and of value. I can even tell it to myself, because I know, in my head, it should be true. But I don’t feel it.” Something was obviously missing–the experience of self-worth–the ability to feel their true, innate, and infinite value.

I wanted to know what I could do to help people feel self-worth–not just try to convince them to believe what I felt and saw of their worth. I wanted them to experience it for themselves. I began to read, study, and ponder about self-esteem and self-worth. I read book after book. Soon, I had created “The Pyramid of Self-Worth,” or my theory on how to teach people to experience and feel their true worth and value.

I even chose self-worth as the theme for the first year of my Personal Growth Group (which is a group of women who gather once a month to hear a lesson and work on personal growth together, and now is online, too). This allowed an entire year to work through my theory and test it with my friends, group members, and clients. Finally, I began to see real results.


The Pyramid of Self-Worth

Check out this 3-Minute Therapy video from my YouTube channel for a quick overview of “The Pyramid of Self-Worth.”


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The basic premise of The Pyramid of Self-Worth is this: Instead of creating our sense of self by what we think, or how we look, or what we do—self-esteem—we must build our sense of self-worth by going deep inside, into our soul. As we do this, we stop basing our worth on a “persona,” false false self, or ego. Rather, we build our sense of self-worth from the inside–by getting to know who we already are, who we desire to be, and who we have the potential to become.

This process begins with self-awareness, to see all of who we are; then, self-acceptacne, to accept what we see, and finally, self-love, or learning to truly cherish and appreciate who we are and who we have the potential to become. These three practices, I have discovered, can eventually lead to a full, rich sense of self-worth. We will be discussing each of these in greater detail in upcoming posts, but for now, allow me to just give you a brief introduction.


The 3 Components of “The Pyramid of Self-Worth”


Before you can accept who you are, you have to see yourself. Self-awareness involves being willing to see your strengthsHow to Feel Self-Worth: "The Pyramid of Self-Worth" [w/ #video]; and weaknesses, your traits and states, your relationships and values and everything that is part of who you really are. It also includes getting in touch with your spirit and listening to what it whispers about your divine worth.


After you see the parts of who you are, it’s time to accept them. Some struggle to accept strengths, while others fail to embrace weakness. Some hear the whispers of who they really are but fail to believe what they hear. Self-acceptance is a crucial element in feeling your true worth, and for many people, is the hardest part.


Beyond simply accepting yourself, you must learn to love yourself. You must learn to embrace your strengths and weaknesses, treat yourself well, and take care of your needs. Self-love involves practicing self-care, self-compassion, and self-kindness. It also involves letting yourself give and receive love to/from others. It is the final layer that unlocks the full experience of self-worth.


How to Feel Self-Worth

As we work through the layers of “The Pyramid of Self-Worth,” we get out of the competitive, comparative, outward space of “self-esteem” and into the loving, accepting, inward space of self-worth. We begin to feel our potential. We begin to experience the love that fills our soul. We begin to understand we are so much more than we ever dreamed, and we begin to see our possibilities are endless. That is feeling self-worth.

 ~This is the first in a series of posts on “How to Feel Self-Worth.” This post is based on an excerpt of Dr. Hibberts forthcoming book on Self-Esteem After a Breakup, with New Harbinger Publications. (Coming March 2015!)


 Be sure to read parts 2-5 as this series continues!

(Part 2) “The Pyramid of Self-Worth”: Step 1, Self-Awareness

Self-Worth Building Tool: 

Each of the posts in this “How to feel self-worth” series includes some “tools,” or exercises to help you build your sense of self-worth. Give it a try and see what you discover about your sense of self-worth. Then, leave a comment, below, and let us know how it’s going!

1)    Can you ever relate to this statement?: “I know you’re telling me I am important and of value, and I can even tell it to myself because I know, in my head, it should be true. But I don’t feel it.”

  • If so, write out the ways in which you can relate. Vent out all that you feel. Examine what you have written.
  • If not, why not? Write it down. Examine what you have written.

2) What do you think/feel about the ideas presented in this post? Do you agree/disagree? Why? Do you have questions? Write these down, then leave a comment, below, and join the discussion.

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(Part 4) “The Pyramid of Self-Worth” Step 3-Self-Love (& video) (coming soon!)
(Part 5) “The Pyramid of Self-Worth” Step 4-Embrace Self-Worth (coming soon!)

“If Self-Esteem is a Myth, then What is the Truth?”: Understanding Self-Worth

"If Self-Esteem is a Myth, the what is the Truth?": Understanding Self-Worth,“If Self-Esteem is a Myth, then what is the Truth?”: Understanding Self-Worth

 I appreciate the feedback I’ve received on my article, “5 Reasons Self-Esteem is a Myth”. Some of you were excited about the insights I shared; some weren’t so sure. If you haven’t read it yet, I suggest you give it a look. In this post, I hope to build upon those ideas, to help us understand a little better why self-esteem isn’t the way to go & why “self-worth” is.


Self-Esteem vs. Self-Worth

 “Aren’t Self-Esteem & Self-Worth the Same Thing?” I’ve heard this question many times, and if you’re using a dictionary, then the answer is: “Yes”. In fact, most definitions for “self-worth” simply say, “See self-esteem”.

I, however, disagree that self-worth and self-esteem are one and the same. Self-esteem, to me, is more external, surface, conditional, and changing, while self-worth is internal, deep, unconditional, and enduring.

Here are a couple definitions I found for “Self-Worth”:

1)   Respect for or a favorable opinion of oneself[1]

2)   One’s worth as a person, as perceived by oneself[2]

3)   The sense of one’s own value or worth as a person (origin 1960-65)[3]

The last two seem closer to what I’m talking about but they’re awfully simple definitions for such a deep, core principle.


Defining Self-Worth: 

What I’m proposing is a new definition of self-worth. Yes, it includes our sense of value or worth as a person. But I take it a step further.

To me, Self-Worth means: The ability to comprehend and accept my true value—to understand I am more than my mind, body, emotions, and behaviors, to see myself as God sees me, to accept His love for me, and to learn to love myself in like manner.


Self-Worth is Deep

 I know this is getting a little deep and spiritual, but to me, self-worth is deep and spiritual. Too many of us settle for “self-esteem”—for Understanding Self-Worth: "If Self-Esteem is a Myth, then what is the Truth?", www.drchristinahibbert.comfeeling good about how we act, look, feel, think—instead of seeking what lies beneath. We fail to get to know our true selves because we’re too caught up in the selves we create.

No matter how much we learn to love who we seem to be on the outside, we will never fully embrace our worth until we dig deeper. Self-worth isn’t about our outsides. It’s about knowing who we really are on the inside. It’s about connection—to other people, to our true selves, and to our Higher Power.


Self-Worth is Accepting the Truth

As I accept the Truth—that I am not a “personality” but rather a “soul,” with innate, unchanging potential and worth—I learn to accept all of me: my strengths and weaknesses, my “good” and my “not so good”. I see that I can choose to become stronger or weaker, but these things don’t define me. I can then let go of who I or others think I am and just be who I am. Because who I am is a divine soul, full of light and love and joy and all things good. I just have to go deeper and see it.

Perhaps Marianne Williamson’s brilliant (and now famous) quote says it best:

 “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that frightens us most. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and famous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that people won’t feel insecure around you. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in all of us. And when we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”[4]

I agree. We were “born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us.” And it is “in all of us.” Understanding this Truth not only allows us to freely accept and love ourselves, it opens the door for us to help others do the same.


Self-Worth is Possible for All

I know some of you don’t believe me. I know there are some who are reading this and thinking, “Yeah, right. That might be true for some people, but it’s not true for me.”  You don’t believe you will ever experience self-worth.

Well, I’m here to tell you you’re wrong. You are of worth. You are valuable. You are loveable. You are important. You are essential to this world. And you don’t have to believe me. Not yet. You just have to open yourself up to the possibility. Open yourself up to the idea, and you can and will someday know for yourself that what I say is true. For everyone. Even for you.

What do you think about self-worth and self-esteem? Questions? Challenges? Comments? Join the conversation below.

More on this Topic: 

Check out my 5-part series on How to Feel Self-Worth using “The Pyramid of Self-Worth” and also

Self-Esteem vs. Self-Worth: Q & A w/Dr. Christina Hibbert [plus video]

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Be sure to check out Dr. Hibbert’s Amazon Bestseller, This is How We Grow
available now on!

 "If Self-Esteem is a Myth, the what is the Truth?": Understanding Self-Worth,

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[1] Online Dictionary in “Reference Tools,” Microsoft Word.

[2] Webster’s Dictionary, hardcover, 1998.

[4] Williamson, M. (1996). A Return to Love, quote.