By Tracy Hutchins While the title suggests you are suffering from low self- esteem, most people would be in denial. Some of us don’t even appreciate that this is the route cause of what is or has been holding us back from the life we desire. We self – sabotage ourselves and our success journey by telling ourselves lies. We hide behind being an introvert, we blame our lack of education for our personal growth. We don’t accept compliments because we don’t believe them. We are never very kind when we communicate with ourselves and literally say things we would never dare say to any other person we know. We associate with the wrong kind of people, the kind that never encourage us, the kind that try and hold us back.
In my experience, over years of working with literally thousands of people, everyone suffers with some degree of poor self- esteem. Outwardly people ooze self – confidence but if you had to dig deep even the most secure person on occasion questions their abilities. They wonder if they are good enough for the job at hand. They wonder if they deserve their partner. They wish they were skinnier. They are not sure how they arrived at owning a successful business and the list goes on.
The good news is we can change, we can stop the rot, we can become more than we are. Building self – esteem is not an overnight project. Building self- esteem happens every day. Building self – esteem takes conscious effort. Building self- esteem is not about being the richest or the smartest or the most intellectual but it is about being the best version of you that you can be.
Having self- esteem sets you free. It’s goes hand in hand with having confidence, confidence in your ability to perform. So where do we acquire confidence? Well we could start with identifying a skill we would like to acquire, then we work out a plan of action as to how we will learn this new skill. This will probably involve some goal setting, a time frame and work. You may need to stretch yourself and get out of your comfort zone. How about you also try new things, go to new places, meet new people. If you are prepared to make a few small changes, your confidence will grow.
If you lack self- esteem, set bite size goals, so you don’t set yourself up for failure. To give you an example, I was with some old school friends the other day and one of the phobia’s each of us shared was having a cup of coffee on our own at a coffee shop. Now this may seem weird to some but for others it is a scary thought. This is putting yourself out there. What came across strong was the perception of others, what would they think, like shame that person does not have any friends. Now in most cases this is so far from the truth. Perhaps the person just needed time out, maybe they had had a hectic workday and they just needed a coffee break. Who knows the reason why they are on their own? The question is, does it matter? If you feel like a cup of coffee, go out and have one. This small initiative literally made a huge difference to me. Getting brave enough to sit on my own, got me out of my comfort zone and increased my confidence levels. It also gave me a well deserved 30 minutes of “me” time.
There are two lessons in the example above, the second aligns with “worrying about what other people think.” Over the years I have learnt that most people don’t think to much about what you are doing. The majority of individuals are just going about their daily lives, thinking about their jobs, their kids, their finances. When you realise this is true, it really is quite liberating. You don’t waste time trying to impress, instead you focus on doing what you need to do to get ahead. The one person whose opinion of you matters is you! Do what you feel is best, feel confident that you behave appropriately, and your self-esteem will soar.
Reward every milestone. To give you another personal example, I so admired people that were able to communicate effectively with large audiences but the thought of it just made me freeze. It was however part of who I wanted to become, so I stretched myself but started small, speaking to audiences of 20 or 30 people. This in itself was very dauting but each time I did it, I improved, and I often got compliments which helped me stretch myself just a little bit more. Today, I am proud to say that I have spoken to audiences of 10 000 people and while I am still petrified, I focus on the impact I can have on others as opposed to my fear. What skill could you develop that would help you raise your level of self- esteem.
Another way to develop greater self- esteem is to think on your accomplishments this far. We often downplay things like being a great mom, a caring daughter/son and a good friend. We don’t look at the effort that goes into running a happy home. You should also ask yourself if you live an integrous life, are reliable, honest, caring. Do you every come to the rescue and assist another human being. These are all admirable qualities and if you think on them you should feel a sense of achievement and enjoy higher self-esteem.
Perhaps you never exercised and now you are running marathons. You may never have excelled at school but you now hold a responsible position at work. You may contribute to charity or you may serve tea at church. It really does not matter how small the achievement, just recognise it for what it is, an achievement. Don’t underestimate your worth and the value that you add to others. Learning who you are and what you stand for, and then living these values, will increase your confidence. Don’t settle for a life of mediocrity.
You may need to address your past. Are there things that are holding you back? Were you conditioned to believe that you were useless, that your life would not amount to much? Do you come from a background of poverty, poor thinking & negative thoughts? This can be very destructive, however, you can’t change your past but you can improve your future. Don’t buy into the lies that you will never achieve. Your authentic life will not happen overnight. You may have to reprogram your brain by feeding it with different thoughts. Read something inspirational, stories of others who have overcome issues or dire situations and gone on to lead successful lives. These stories can inspire you to do the same. Listening to podcasts and surrounding yourself with the right kind of people that lift you up are also proactive ways of raising your self- esteem. Self-help content can inspire you to reach for the stars and help you get there. Such inspiration also makes you feel optimistic and better about yourself.
Another great way to get ahead is to focus on the things you can change. You can refuse to be negative about life. You can stop dwelling on the past and look to the future. You can decide to revisit your education. You can choose to be grateful for what you have as opposed to looking at all the things that you don’t have. You can stop comparing yourself to everyone else. There will always be someone that is better than you in every area of their life but it does not mean they are happy or that they are a nice person. You will be way better off if all your focus is on the present and the future and how great things can be, as opposed to the past and how things were.
One of the best things you have in your life is your ability to choose who you hang around with. Being popular and having a big circle of friends is appealing but way more important than that, is to have a few people whom you trust and have your best interest at heart. You are looking for people that are positive and uplifting, you want to surround yourself with people who believe in your dreams and help you grow. At all costs, avoid negative people. Negative individuals drain your energy, they focus on all the problems of the world, they rarely have anything nice to say about anybody and one day that will include you.
While I am not big on putting people on a pedestal, for a large portion of my life I looked to people that I regarded as good role models. I looked for strong woman who shared my value system. I looked to couples with strong marriages. I aspired to career woman because I have always believed that a woman should be able to support themselves. When you find such individuals, it is a good idea to model their behaviour and for everything that they do right, that you get right, you grow in self – confidence. You feel empowered because you know you are on the right track. This is a definite way to build self- esteem.
Another way to work on you, is to take care of you! This one is so big it may be one the thing we should have discussed first. It is virtually impossible to feel great about you if your hair is a mess, your clothes are grubby, you are carrying to much weight and your energy levels are way below par. We often get caught up in the trap of caring for everyone around us, that we neglect the person that matters the most. You cannot give the best you, to your friends, family, work colleagues if you are feeling mediocre about you. Now this may sound a little selfish and in some respects it could may well be, but it is also vital in building confidence and self- esteem. You may just need some personal time every now and then. A rule I have lived by for a very long time now, is get up, dress up and show up. There is not a day that goes by that I do not have a good day, only because I have taken the time to work on myself before I left the house.
Low self-esteem can cause a vicious cycle which makes you feel worse and worse. Feeling badly about yourself can lead you to feel unmotivated to change what is making you feel down in the first place. If you don’t change the root cause of your negative feelings, then your self-esteem takes an even deeper dive. This cycle of negativity can be damaging but as explained in the many examples above there are things you can do to break the cycle. Why not make a decision to start today! Make a decision to recognise and reward every step you take to being fabulous, it is so worth it.