Doing the tree pose in the town centre, just because she felt like it. If she wants to do something, she doesn’t care what other people might think. She just goes ahead and does it!
I wasn’t like that at her age!
It took me years to learn that being me was good enough, that I didn’t need to pretend, to say Yes to things I didn’t want to do to be accepted.
Being happy with who we are is the essence of a good sense of self-esteem. And it can be so hard. Society keeps throwing at us ideals of looks, lifestyle, job, income, hobbies… It takes inner strength to look at all of that and not feel shaken.
The good thing is that, if self-esteem doesn’t come naturally, it can be cultivated.
So how do you do that?
Reject the negative self-talk
We tell ourselves such horrible things all day long.
Have you ever stopped and actually listened to your internal monologue? “I’m not good enough.” “I can’t wear that, I look horrible”
Can you imagine saying that to a friend, or even to a distant acquaintance? Probably not. And yet, if we’re not careful, that’s how we talk to ourselves all the time.
Stopping the negative self-talk takes work but it can be done. It starts with becoming aware of it. Rather than having these thoughts in the background of your mind, doing their dirty work without you even realise it, bring them to the front of your mind and look at them.
After becoming aware of it, you can choose to go with that thought or not. The more you repeat something to yourself, the more convinced of it you will become. You have a choice, once you have become aware of the negative self-talk, take breath and make a decision: do I believe it (and choose to embrace the emotions I triggers) or not (and decide to refuse the emotions it triggers).
Ban “should” from your vocabulary
“I should have done this” and “I shouldn’t have done that”…
Whenever I use the word “should”, I feel as if I have done something wrong. Even if it something as minor as “I should have taken the bins out last night rather than this morning.”
The very word “should” puts you in a position of lack and of extra responsibilities. Just writing it here, I can almost feel it physically pushing on my shoulders.
Rather than should embrace more definite words such as: “I am”, “I choose”, “I will”.
These affirmative words give you your power back. There is no other force telling you that you “should” be doing this or that, you are making the decision.
I really encourage you to try that one and let me know how you get on. I found it very powerful.
Take some distance
Sometimes we beat ourselves up over nothing: 5 minutes late for an appointment and we call ourselves unreliable; an overdone dinner and we are the worst cook that has ever existed…
These extreme opinions cause you a lot of stress for very little actual damage.
Instead try and take some distance and look at all the good things that are going on for you and around you.
Taking some distance will also allow you to notice that you are the only person who is affected by these details.
You can’t please everybody all of the time
I don’t remember where I heard that but I can distinctly remember when. I was in my early twenties and studying in Brussels. At the time, I had a pretty low self-esteem and didn’t handle even slightly negative comments well at all.
When I heard that, my world changed! I couldn’t possibly please everybody all of the time. And when I looked at it from the other point of view, I realised that, sometimes friends would get on my nerves but it didn’t change anything to the way I felt about them. I was perfectly fine with them not being perfect, but somehow I was expecting myself to be.
So, I really hope it will have the same impact on you: You cannot possibly please everybody all of the time.
With low self-esteem usually comes low self-care. Again, I was guilty of that. Since I wasn’t good enough in my eyes, why on Earth would I do nice things for me?
So many people have told me over the years that I had to make sure I did something for me every day, or at least every week.
And it took me years to get it. When I look back, I can’t believe how long it took me to understand I had to put myself on top of my priority list every day!
So, don’t take as long as me and start now. Look at your days and identify at least 15 minutes every day that you can take just for you. Put a timer on if you like and for these 15 minutes do something that YOU enjoy – and it doesn’t have to be productive, quite the contrary!
You might actually find that you don’t know what to do with this time for yourself. If that’s the case, don’t worry, just sit and chill for 15 minutes. Maybe have a cup of tea. Little by little as you take that time for you every day, you’ll start rediscovering what you enjoy doing.
Self-esteem is one of the foundation of a happy life but it can be so elusive. Fortunately, you can (re)build your self-esteem from the ground up if you need to.
Remember that you cannot please everybody all the time, take 15 minutes a day to do something you enjoy and let me know in the comments how you get on.