Question: Where is your self-esteem?
Are you in a good place … or in need of a boost?
February is International Boost Self-Esteem Month. I have a few thoughts to share on self-esteem, how it fluctuates with the events in our lives, and five ways to boost self-esteem if you need a little lift.
Our self-esteem reflects what we believe about ourselves, our capabilities, and our worth. It reflects the feedback we have received and internalized from those closest to us – starting with our parents and teachers and continuing with our peers, friends, and romantic partners.
As a child, I was both physically and emotionally abused by my parents. I grew up feeling unseen, unworthy, and unloved. My multiple suicide attempts can tell you where my self-esteem was.
But self-esteem is not a fixed quantity. It grows and decreases with the ups and downs of our lives.
We reconnect with a friend who reflects and amplifies our positive traits. Up.
We hit a snag at work that causes us to question our ability. Down.
In our darker days, our self-esteem may sink as we beat ourselves up, believing we are doing nothing well.
Luckily, we have the power to change what we believe about ourselves. Here are five behaviors to grow our self-esteem.
The Pathway to Becoming Our Best Selves: Five Ways to Positively Impact Your Self-Esteem
1. Cancel negative self-talk. When we allow negative internal dialogue, we amplify our flaws and diminish our self-worth. This negative voice is so harmful that it can derail our happiness and success. When we speak positively to ourselves, we grow our self-compassion, resilience, and confidence. We reinforce our victories (small and large) and our value.
2. Say no to perfectionism. Perfectionism is closely linked to low self-esteem. We feel an overwhelming compulsion to avoid making mistakes and judgment by others that immobilizes us. Perfectionism is often revealed through procrastination, avoidance, and low achievement. We can free ourselves by setting realistic expectations for ourselves, honoring our efforts and our wins, and forgiving ourselves when we fall short.
3. Validate yourself instead of seeking approval from others. The endless cycle of worrying about what others think of us clutters our minds and hearts with a constant drumbeat of the question, “Am I good enough?” The sooner we learn to answer that question with a resounding “YES!” and accept ourselves, the sooner we can step off the emotional rollercoaster of seeking affirmation from others.
4. Resist the urge to compare yourself to others. Comparing ourselves to others is normal, but we endanger our self-esteem by comparing ourselves to those who appear to have more of what we seek. They seem to have more fun, money, friends, love, attractiveness, or success. We must remember that we see their public persona, their observable best. Instead, the most healthy comparison we can make is to ourselves. Where were we (fill in the blank) days/months/years ago vs. where are we now? Instead of comparing ourselves to others, we celebrate how we have grown and what we’ve accomplished.
Pro tip: Take a social media break for a weekend. Invest that time in YOU – filling your power container by journaling, reading, being outside, connecting with members of your inner circle who mean the most to you. See how you feel when you concentrate on yourself. Maybe take a week’s break the next time!
5. Own your story. We may keep certain events and mistakes from our past a secret because of feelings of regret, shame, and fear of judgment. Things we did or didn’t do or maybe things that were done to us. While we can’t change past events, we can change how we think and feel about them. When we own our stories through the power of self-acceptance, we enable ourselves to construct a positive, useful narrative and belief about who we are.
I explore these topics and many more in my book, “I Love Me More: How to Find Happiness and Success Through Self-Love” as I share what I have learned on my journey from self-loathing to self-love.