In my opinion, the importance of confidence and having a high opinion of yourself is vastly underrated. We act like having confidence would be nice, but it’s not a necessity.
Guess what. It totally is.
I think there is some confusion as to what it actually means to have self-esteem. Some people think that having lots of friends and being successful will improve our self-esteem. Others think that losing weight will get rid of their low self-esteem. Or that you have to actually accomplish something in order to be able to have self-esteem in the first place.
None of that is true. Put simple, Self-esteem just means that you appreciate yourself for who you are, including your faults and flaws. Self-esteem means that you know you are worthy, that you are good enough and you deserve everything you have.
In the past few years, I’ve really improved my self-esteem. I went from being a girl who thought she wasn’t worth the space she took up in a classroom, to a passionate, much more confident person that has come to appreciate her own strong personality. Of course, not every day is amazing, but I mostly feel good about who I am and I take pride in the things I stand for and my abilities and accomplishments. Today, I want to share three things that have really helped me get there.
Take a self-esteem inventory
‘You can’t fix what you don’t know’ is a sentence one of my therapists once said to me. It always stuck with me. Before we can start working on our self-image, we need to identify irrational thoughts and negative self-talk.
When I was in therapy at the age of fourteen, my therapist made me draw a line on a piece of paper. On the left side, she wanted me to list 10 strengths, and on the right side 10 weaknesses. I didn’t have a lot of difficulty coming up with ten weaknesses, but it was hard to come up with the strengths. My therapist made me look at it from a different perspective: had others told me they thought I was a good at something? I recalled times where people had called me smart, witty, a good writer. People had told me that they enjoyed my blog posts (man I’ve been around for a while) and they thought I told cool stories. Viewing it from this perspective, it was much easier to come up with 10 strengths.
Set realistic expectations
Something that used to kill my self-esteem a lot was setting unrealistic expectations for myself. I consider myself to be an overachiever: I was that girl who always wanted to get straight A’s, run long distances and read books in one day, otherwise I wouldn’t be happy with my progress. While that girl is still inside me, I’ve come to terms with being okay with not always being the best at something. I still strive for the stars, but I don’t consider it a failure if it doesn’t work out. And that makes a big difference in my self-esteem.
Let go of perfection
It took a long time for me to come to terms with the idea that I was never going to have the perfect body, the perfect job, the perfect face or the perfect home. For a long time, I wanted to be perfect, and I wasn’t going to be okay with anything less. But the truth is, if you strive for perfection, you will be unhappy for the rest of your life.
Instead, at this point in my life I try to focus on my achievements, especially as I achieve them. I try to be mindful about them. Example: when I graduated in 2016, I tried to really be present in that moment. Instead of minimizing my accomplishment (Oh, It really wasn’t that hard, no big deal) I recognized the accomplishment for what it was. It was progress, it was a big step in becoming an adult and moving forward, and it was okay to be proud of that.
I’m not trying to make it sound easy
Building self-esteem really does sound a lot easier than it is. It takes so much time, effort, trial-and-error, patience and honesty. It took me years of therapy, reflection and self-growth to get where I’m at now. But I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the results. I think working on your self-esteem is an essential building block to living a happy and fulfilling life, and we need to start treating it that way.