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.
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.
Failure. It's not a nice word, is it? For many of us, we see failure as a glaring red stop sign. "Go no further," failure tells us, "You are not good enough to succeed." But did you know Walt Disney's first animation company was dissolved within six months? That J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter was rejected by 12 publishers? For both, failure was not a stopping point–they continued to try until they found success. How did they keep believing in themselves, instead of seeing failure as a message they couldn't succeed? They separated their work from their self-worth.
How do we define our personal values? In my post last week, "What Is Self-Worth", I explored the topic of self-worth. When we are living with low self-esteem, we often struggle to find self-worth. This comes from believing we are unable to succeed at the things we value personally. But where do these values come from? How do we decide what is important to us?
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.
Do you know how to talk back to your negative self-talk? Knowing how to identify negative self-talk first is important because what you tell yourself becomes your reality. When your core beliefs are self-critical, doubtful and make you feel inadequate, your self-esteem suffers tremendously. The good news is if you are willing, you can talk back to negative self-talk and transform it dramatically with just a little effort.
Do you wish you could take control of your inner critic, that voice in your head that constantly puts you down? It is the critical inner voice that says unkind things about you and paints a negative view of who you are. If you don't take control of this inner critic, it can become quite powerful and authoritative, which will make you pay more attention to it. This can end up damaging your self-esteem. But you can take control of the inner critic and find peace of mind.