Self-esteem is a term you hear a lot about. It is incredibly important and plays a large role in our happiness. How we feel about ourselves affects our choices, the way we interact with others, and many other things in our lives.
Similar to achieving your dreams, I don't think there is one magic formula that is a cure all for low self-esteem. I believe there are many different strategies that can definitely help, but at the end of the day, you need to figure out what helps you the most. Having good self-esteem is a choice and an on-going practice. Now don't get me wrong, I don't believe you wake up in the morning, snap your fingers and say "I am going to have good self-esteem today." However, I do think you have to make an active decision to take steps everyday to improve your self-esteem.
The list below is not comprehensive by any means, but it is a great starting point. I wouldn't recommend you try everything at once. Ease your way into it. Pick one or two things that really speak to you. Give them a try. I'm not talking about for an hour, or a day, but instead you need to pick a few that you can commit to trying for at least 21 days - they say it takes 3 weeks to form a new habit.
1. End the negative self-talk
I can’t tell you how often I hear kids saying, “Ugh, I’m so stupid/fat/ugly/etc.” You would never speak to a friend like that and it is definitely not a good way to speak to yourself. For example, just because you don’t do well on a test, that doesn’t mean you're stupid. If you keep telling yourself you are, let me tell you, you will definitely start believing it. Next time, try saying something like, "Ugh I made so many stupid mistakes" vs. "I am stupid". BIG DIFFERENCE. One is an action, whereas the other, is defining who you are as a person. If you haven't heard the term self-fulfilling prophecy, I highly recommend you read about it.
2. Stop over-analyzing
I don’t know about you, but I can definitely be the queen of this one. Being math brained, I have a bad habit of taking a situation and turning it around in my head to look at it from all different angles. For example, have you ever read a text or an email and tried to interpret the meaning behind the words? You reread and analyze what the writer “really” meant when they said _________. Big ole waste of time-the chances of you getting it right are slim to none and it really doesn’t help you in anyway, shape or form. Great idea: the next time you are over-analyzing something that happened or was said to you, stop what you are doing and ask the person involved. Way more effective and will make you feel better in the end. Usually what we come up with in our heads is way worse than what is really going on.
3. Be a Part of Something Bigger Than Yourself
I think this one is huge and really one of the reasons I started Girls Dreaming Big Family. Imagine being a part of something where you could be your authentic self and fully accepted for who you really are. How liberating and empowering! Your self-esteem will thank you. Especially if you find a place where people come together with the sole purpose of supporting each other, inspiring one another and just plain being there for when times get tough. To me, that sounds incredible and truly life changing. Find somewhere like this. I know it can be intimidating to put yourself out there, but in the end it is well worth it.
4. Give Back
This one is powerful for many reasons. First, we often take for granted how good we really have it. When you volunteer, you tend to meet people who have it way worse than you. Giving back gives you perspective on your own life and problems. Also, it is amazing how when you help someone, YOU are the one that ends up feeling way better. Your impact on their life doesn't compare to the good feeling it has on yours. Making a difference in someone's life is an intoxicating drug and one that I actually would recommend.
5. No more comparing yourself to others
I used to love fashion and gossip magazines. I would go over to my mom’s house and she would have a stack waiting for me. She knew how much they made me "happy". They were like brain candy to me. Well, just like candy, it sure does taste good, but is not so great for you in the long run. I would end up comparing my life, and how I look to the people in the magazine. Let’s be honest, very few people truly look like that or lead the lives of those people. Without even realizing it, I would be left feeling “less than”. That is a pretty terrible feeling and a total waste of energy. I finally realized, once I stopped reading the magazines on a regular basis, who I am is enough. It is not about looking a certain way or leading a fabulous life. It is about owning who you are and not caring about how it measures up to everyone else. This is not an easy feat. We are bombarded on a regular basis with images and messages of what the "ideal" look and life is. For me, I made the conscious choice to stop watching all the reality tv (I was definitely a reality tv junkie) and lay off the brain candy. Sounds crazy, but well worth it!
6. Stop Judging others/bad mouthing
Yeah...I used to be not so great on this one. I’ve done a lot of self-work and I truly make effort to not take part in judging or bad mouthing others. When you look at someone and pick them apart, all you're really doing is communicating to the world how terrible you feel about yourself. You are wasting your time focusing on other people’s imperfections and you're doing it because ultimately you haven’t made peace with your own. For example, I have always been on the skinny side and at different points in my life probably looked a little too thin. In the past, I would look at other girls and comment to my friends about how they looked sickly skinny. I was zeroing in on them, and being hateful about it, because I was insecure about my own appearance. All that energy was wasted on a stranger and it just reinforced my own insecurities about my body.
7. Get rid of the frienemies
This one drives me crazy. I watch way too many high school girls have friendships that are based on totally shallow and superficial things. A friend is someone who accepts you for who you really are and their sole purpose is to support and love you. Someone who puts you down and makes you feel badly about yourself, is not a friend. Someone who ditches you for a better opportunity, is not your friend. Someone who posts something mean about you on twitter is not your friend. Having those type of people in your life only makes you feel terrible about yourself. When you find a group of women who will support you and be there no matter what, that changes everything.
8. Stop doubting yourself
This one is related to the negative self-talk, but has a little bit different spin on it. I think too often we think about all the things that could go wrong and forget to put our energy into what if it did work out. Believing in yourself and knowing you are capable is huge! Give it a try. The next time you think about something you want in life, only allow yourself to put energy in all the reasons why you would be awesome at it.
9. Stop doing things that you know in your gut are wrong
Have you ever hit send on a text that you wish you could get back. There is that split second moment, when something inside you whispers (sometimes incredibly quietly) that this may not be a good idea. Listening to that feeling is important. Whether you like it or not, we tend to get that nagging feeling inside when we are about to do something that goes against what we believe in is right. Many times, we ignore it and pretend it doesn't matter. However, in the end that doesn't leave you feeling so great about yourself. We are all wired with a set of beliefs and views about life - now these can be different from person to person and can change at different points in our life - but the more you live in congruence to them, the better your self-esteem will be.
10. Get out of your comfort zone
Until more recently, I very rarely got out of my comfort zone. I hated putting myself out there and potentially looking stupid. What I didn't realize was that starting a company doesn't really leave you with much of a choice on that one. On a regular basis, I am doing things that are WAY out of my comfort zone. Even though I dread it going in, I walk away with a new sense of confidence. Tackling a fear head on is an incredibly empowering feeling.
11. Get off the couch and do something active.
Don’t get me wrong, I love couch time as much as the next, but after awhile it can start to bring you down. Being physically active is so good for you and can boost your self-esteem on so many levels. Not only does it affect how you look, but it also changes how you feel. One of the reason it makes you feel so good is because when you exercise your body releases endorphins-basically a happy chemical in your body that people reference when they say they experienced a runner's high.
In case you haven't seen the Dove Real Beauty Video yet, I have included it below. It really drives home the message about how we sometimes have a very skewed view of ourselves.
I would love to hear from you! Did any of these strategies speak to you more than others? Do you feel like I left something off that has made a difference in your life? Please take a moment to leave a comment or share this post with a friend.