5 Steps to Boost Your Self-Esteem
For the first 32 years of my life, I would never admit to having low self esteem. I thought that was for other people, people who were lonely, ugly and sad. That wasn’t me; I had too much going for me. My mother told me so. She expected a lot of me and I did everything I could to rise to the occasion. Low self-esteem wasn’t an option – not for me.
But as an adult, I struggled. I made poor decisions that caused me a lot of pain. I wasn’t happy, not even close. Everyone else had life figured out, but I didn’t.
I ignored the negative thoughts ruling my mind, believing if I could find the right formula (spouse, career, job), all the dark feelings would simply go away. Unwilling to admit that I didn’t like myself, I tried to be anything, but who I was. I faked life a lot and hoped no one would figure out.
No one wants to admit they have low self-esteem, especially people raised with high expectations. If we’re successful at managing our life, we can fool most of the people around us with our strategies of control, over-achieving, and an air of confidence. We pretend everything is okay by being far more than okay. We falsely believe that if we can excel, eventually our inner life will catch up and align with our external actions.
But it doesn’t.
And that’s because we use all these external machinations to cover up an underlying belief that we’re less than expected. The more we try to prove our value, the higher the stakes become, and the more weight we add to that belief. It’s like being an alcoholic, the more we do to prove our worth, the more we convince ourselves that we need to do more.
Although low self-esteem may seem like a never-ending loop of struggle and embarrassment, we can improve our inner worth if we’re willing to work our way through these five steps:
1 Acknowledge the Problem
Believe it, or not, you’re already taking the first step to improve your self-esteem when you admit you don’t feel good about yourself. As I explained above, no one likes to face the reality that their self-esteem is causing issues in their life. But you’re probably beginning to realize that some of your relationship problems stem from allowing others to treat you as you believe you deserve. You suspect that every negative thought you have about people runs parallel to what you fear about yourself. Every label you place on others you know all too well, because…well, need I say it?
2 Understand Power
Step two is probably the hardest and the point where a lot of people get stuck intellectually. It’s at this stage when we have to come to terms with power. We must understand that the external world has no power and no meaning, only that which we give it. We determine what things mean, and there isn’t anything exempt from that truth. Not only do we determine the meaning behind things, we assign value to everything, even our self. Because everyone does it and we think these perceptions are true, we believe that other people’s opinions of us matter more than our own. But the reality is we don’t determine another’s value and they can’t determine ours. We have to break that mental habit and find a new one that focuses on acceptance.
3 Commit to Self Love
Step three is becoming your own best friend, advocating for yourself, respecting yourself, loving yourself (all of it), and taking care of yourself. You must learn to choose yourself over others, and things, and jobs, etc. Otherwise your opinion of YOU will always be a low-ball offer. Increasing your self valuation takes time. You’ll be tempted to gravitate toward approval, just because it seems easier and it’s what you’re used to (we all are). You’ll probably compromise some and you’ll need to recommit, but that’s all part of the process of self-discovery you’re now on.
4 Embrace Change
When you commit to honoring yourself, everything is going to change and you have to be ready for that. You have to want to take part in the change and do things that will accelerate growth even when it’s painful and scary. People will probably move on when you change your priorities, and it may be a while before you find new healthy people who will support your new life choices. Be patient and willing to wait. You may find yourself at the crossroads of your career or compelled to move to a new area. When we open the door to change, it’s going to come, so get ready to welcome it. Life may seem out of your control for a while. You may want to resist, but keep bringing your thoughts back to the necessity of change. You are, like the Velveteen Rabbit, becoming.
5 Serve Others
We often struggle to see ourselves as valuable when we don’t really do anything to help others. When we focus too much on our problems they tend to seem ginormous and overwhelming, all of which can bring us down. But the quickest way to increase your inner feeling of value is to focus on helping and serving others. When we can give and serve without the need for return, we recognize our power to have an impact and make someone’s life better. Those thoughts can alter our beliefs and therefore the way we feel about how much we’re worth. Serving others in ways that use our true gifts helps us generate our own sense of self-worth so we can stop relying on people and things to make us feel valuable.
You’re in a great place today because you want real strategies to boost your self-esteem, not just tricks to fool you into feeling better. You want to be better…at least in your own eyes. And honestly those are the only ones that really matter anyway. Long term, it’s a guarantee you’re going to spend your entire life with you. Your inquiry is evidence you believe there is a better way to live and you’re right.
These steps, as I’ve outlined them won’t necessarily occur in a linear fashion. You’ll keep coming back to revisit them if you’re committed to your worth. Neither can you choose one or two, skipping the rest. They’re a package deal, a journey you take toward wholeness. And finally, you’ll have times when you begin to feel great about yourself and then that feeling will vanish leaving you deep in the blues. That’s normal, so don’t take it as a “sign.” We build our self-esteem over time when we choose to live authentically, something a lot of us never learned in kindergarten.
An Offer from Me to You
If you need help with any of these steps or want more information about how to navigate any or all of them, please let me know. I want to help any way I can. Request a specific topic you want me to cover more. Take advantage of my free 30 minute coaching consultation, or start a lively conversation in the message box. A lot of people are here reading and I’m not the only one who has great insight on self-esteem and how to improve the way we feel about ourselves.
Thanks everyone…for being you.
In life and love,