Let’s chat about something that in some way, shape, or form affects us all. I’m talking about self-esteem. I will shamelessly admit that I have a considerably low self-esteem. Sometimes I am careful to not show it, other times my crafty side manages to fake confidence so I can trick myself into thinking my esteem is higher than it truly is. It messes with my head and can get rather exhausting. I’ve come to a point in my life where I have to examine my situation and make some decisions about myself. Right now, I’m about to embark on two life-altering events, which include planning for a baby, and choosing a graduate program. These are wonderful milestones that I know anyone would be blessed with. I’m terrified and unsure about my abilities. I’m filled with self-doubt and self-loathing. The good news is that I’m aware of this dilemma and want to crack it once and for all. I suspect I’m not the only one out there with low self-esteem so I’ve decided to share my findings with you.
So, what is self-esteem, anyway? Basically, it’s how you view yourself. Good self-esteem develops from a positive self-concept, which exhibits a general belief that you are good and worthwhile. Associated factors include a sense of confidence, a belief that you are a capable person, and that you are worthy of love and respect. Now before I get ahead of myself, it is possible for people to have too high a self-esteem also. These folks have an unrealistically positive and inflated sense of self and may come off as arrogant. Low self-esteem causes you to put little value on your opinions and ideas, and only focus on weaknesses. It holds you back from having confidence to do things you might be interested in doing, such as hobbies or careers. This might come from a fear of failure, which in turn can result in self-sabotage at work or school. I know I am guilty of this crippling behavior.
The ultimate goal is to possess a healthy self-esteem. This doesn’t mean being in love with yourself- this means liking yourself and accepting yourself for who you are. Building confidence and being more assertive are viable reasons to adjust your esteem, not to mention gaining security in your relationships with other people. So, how the heck do we accomplish this? Well, first you should know it’s an ongoing process that is practiced over a lifetime, not a quick fix.
Some tips on improving your self-esteem:
Boost Your Awareness
One of the very first things you can do is to start paying attention to what triggers you. This includes situations and people. Next pay attention to how those situations and people make you feel. Identify these feelings. For instance do you feel insecure? Unattractive? Inadequate? Most likely these thoughts are irrational, and there’s a chance you know this, but it’s important to recognize each of them.
Change Your Environment
Surround yourself with an uplifting environment. Studies have shown that brighter colors tend to eradicate positive energy. Play music with a positive message. Hang motivational quotes in places you walk past every day. Personally, I’m a sucker for words so I try to keep positive quotes around for my consistent review. If you have awards or anything symbolizing accomplishment, you should put it out, to be reminded of what you have done.
Take a Stand on Self-talk
One very common thing most of us tend to do is practice inner dialogue that is devaluing to yourself in some way. I do it constantly. This is the voice that says, “you’re not good enough”, or “you’re a screw up”, or any of the other million negative, self-deprecating phrases. These need to stop. To help with your self-esteem, you need to start counting how often you say these things to yourself, and try to stop yourself in that moment. It won’t be easy, but it is so necessary.
Clean it Up
Do something extra for your appearance such as put on makeup, shave, or add a dab of cologne. Maybe buy a new outfit. At the very least, practice good hygiene. The belief that you feel better when you look better actually holds some weight. And when you present the best version of yourself, others will notice too.
Celebrate Your Successes
Did you land a big account at work? Or meet that weight loss goal? Whatever you may have accomplished, you deserve to celebrate it. Treat yourself to a movie with a friend, or buy that pair of boots you’ve been eyeing. Go ahead and tell someone about what you accomplished. You earned the recognition!
Do Something You’re Good At
I know what you’re thinking. You think you’re not good at anything. Well, I call your bluff. Everybody is good at something. Even if it is only one thing, that’s okay, it’s something. It doesn’t have to be playing an instrument or building a house. Maybe you have a gentle nature and are good with animals. That’s a talent. So volunteer at an animal shelter or start a pet-sitting business. The possibilities are endless. If you can do something, then do it.
Learn Something New
A key way to build self-esteem is to build on yourself. Learning something new is great because you build on your skill set, which enhances your knowledge, and adds to your talents. Plus, it’s fun!
Join the Crowd
Reexamine those you hang out with. In order to feel better about yourself, you need to put yourself in the company of people who make you feel good. If you surround yourself with people who put you down, constantly complain or nag, then it would be difficult for anyone to feel good in their presence. Likewise, be careful of friends who make a habit of flaunting their possessions and accomplishments. You want to be around others who like and accept you for you. A reciprocating sense of encouragement with your friends is imperative for self-growth.
Setting goals can certainly enhance your self-esteem, but only if you actually accomplish these goals. To do this, it’s important to have a structured plan in place for reaching the goal that you set. You can have a long-term goal such as graduating college, or a short-term goal such as cleaning out your closet, or even something in the middle, like losing ten pounds. Set your goal, create your plan, implement the steps, and then once you reach that goal, make sure you celebrate!
One of the culprits of low self-esteem is self-blame. Blaming yourself for something that is beyond your control can not only make you feel badly about yourself, but can also fuel anxiety or depression. It’s time to forgive yourself and let it go. If there was something still bothering you from the past, or you need to make amends with someone, then now is a good time to do that. If you are practicing self-deprecating behavior at the reins of someone else, it’s time to realize you don’t need anyone’s approval but your own. If any of this is an ongoing issue, I suggest talking to a therapist to help you clear out some of those thoughts.
Step out of your comfort zone. Take a new route home. Eat at a new restaurant. Start up a conversation with somebody. Join a club or committee. Just one little ounce of effort in uncharted territory will boost the hell out of your confidence.
No More Comparisons
You are the one and only you. There is nobody like you. Comparing yourself to others is just giving them the power to hog the spotlight of your delusion. It really will not make you a better person. A little known secret- everyone has insecurities, even those you feel you don’t measure up to. Pay attention to when you start comparing and then reverse it by thinking of the things in your life you are grateful for. I bet there’s a lot.
When you are feeling a little unsure, try trusting yourself. You say you’re scared to take a step? You’re afraid you’ll mess it up? I say give yourself more credit than that! Trusting yourself is the key to personal empowerment. You totally got this!
Exercise releases endorphins and helps boost serotonin and dopamine, or the “feel good” chemicals in your body. It also helps accomplish weight and body image goals, as well as relieves stress. Getting enough physical activity will naturally help you feel better about yourself, thus helping to boost your self-esteem.
Avoid Toxic Stuff
Alcohol can physically deplete you of Vitamin B as well as Omega-3s. Omega-3 fatty acids maintain levels of dopamine and serotonin in your brain. While some people think having a few drinks helps to enhance confidence, a.k.a. “liquid courage”, they are actually contributing to depression and low self-esteem. Consequently, low self-esteem can manifest into alcohol and drug addiction. Overall, it’s best to avoid these substances.
Hopefully you can find value in yourself, and make it a point to bring a low self-esteem to a healthier place. Remember self-esteem issues are common for those of us with mood disorders, but it doesn’t mean we have to accept that’s how we must live. I know I will continue to work on my own self-esteem, as I have confidence you will work on yours.