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Happiness and Self-Fulfillment

A quick story about toxic people and self-esteem: Imagine you decide to plant a tiny sprout in your garden. When it flourishes, it will bring you deep joy. But first, it needs your focus and care to grow. Those who come into your garden and see your sprout give you support and space, encouraging your progress. But occasionally, a different kind of person comes into your garden. Knowingly or unknowingly, they march across the soil, step on your plants, and in the worst-case scenario, grind your tiny sprout into nothing.
How's your body image? Are you attractive? Do you like the way you look? Do other people think you're beautiful? It's hard to talk about body image without sinking deep into our most vulnerable places. As standards of beauty become progressively less realistic (hello Instagram filters, goodbye pores), being able to have an honest conversation with ourselves about our looks becomes increasingly difficult. Yet we each live within our own, unique bodies every day–being able to look at them in a realistic (and non-damaging) way is a valuable tool towards understanding who we are, developing a healthy body image, and ultimately towards building self-esteem.
Do we have to conquer fear? I've gone through some changes in my life recently that have me thinking about fear. In particular, how we react to feeling afraid. Why are some fears considered perfectly acceptable, while others fill us with shame and demand action? Being afraid of an aggressive animal, an impending surgery, or a loved one experiencing harm are all considered rational and acceptable. Yet we tend to hide our fears of social interaction, object/behaviors that feel uncomfortable, or people who affect us. So, what makes certain fears unpalatable? What makes us decide a fear is unfounded or embarrassing? Why are some fears allowed, while other fears must be conquered?
Accountability matters when we're building self-esteem. We do not like to do things wrong. As children, many of us are taught that wrongdoing results in punishment. We learn to deny mistakes, to avoid the "bad" experiences that result from being blamed. Yet though we may learn to avoid culpability, we never stop making mistakes–they are a natural part of life. So, what happens when we shift away from denying mistakes and focus on using accountability as a tool to build self-esteem?
"Be yourself." "You do you." "Listen to your heart." The messages behind authenticity are beautiful ones: you are the center of your world and you are the only voice that matters. But while such phrases are inspiring, we live in a world that bombards us with beliefs, opinions and general emotional noise. This creates a dilemma that many of us struggle with–how do I think like myself when everyone and everything is trying to tell me how to think?
If I could talk to the teenage version of myself about authenticity, I know what I would say. I would tell her the very things she is afraid make her "weird" are actually the things that make her awesome. I would tell her to stop wasting energy being afraid of judgment, and to put that energy towards enjoying the things that make her happy.
Explore your low self-esteem? How do you do that? Picture a road map. On one side is a bright red dot, labeled "High Self-Esteem." This is our destination, the place we dream of arriving. Our map is covered in routes that twist and turn, approaching the red dot from all different directions. On our journey we will be able to explore these, finding the ones that lead us closer to our goal. But in order to begin, we need to find the dot labeled "You Are Here." We have to know our starting point. We have to explore the starting point of our low self-esteem to know how to raise it.
Do you find that it's hard to make time for self-care? We all have busy lives and play many roles, but if we don’t take care of ourselves and listen to what we need, it makes it harder to take care of the ones we love. When we make time for self-care on a regular base, research shows that most of us begin to develop healthy self-esteem, are more mindful and present, and feel more control over our mental health.
You can avoid the self-esteem traps that create unrealistic self-importance instead of healthy self-esteem. You should continue to build yourself up despite possible self-esteem traps because living with low self-esteem has many negative consequences as well. Low self-esteem can make you unwilling and unmotivated to achieve what you are capable of, averse to relationships that you deserve, and it can make you vulnerable to depression.1 In order to protect yourself, it is, therefore, vital to build your self-esteem. However, there are ways that build self-esteem that can end up fostering other negative outcomes in your life, or self-esteem traps. If you want to maximize your wellbeing and have more positive interactions with people, then it pays to be mindful of the self-esteem traps of narcissism, jealousy and resentment.
Did you know that there are ways to improve confidence in less than five minutes? Whether you are feeling anxious about a meeting, worried about a test or feel down in the dumps, these tricks have helped me shift my mind from fearful to feeling in control and they take just a minute or two of your time. These are ways to improve confidence.
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