Do Over: Learning to Have Positive Self Esteem
Both stalking/bullying victims and "do over" clients talk to me about the failures in their lives. Not so much about the chances that they took that didn't turn out as they had hoped, but instead, of the chances that they didn't take, the jobs they didn't get, the relationships that slipped away, etc. When pushed, they invariably explain that their failures are down to low self esteem. It is as if low self esteem were a disease that they contracted, an illness that slowly sucked all of the health and happiness out of their lives. But it isn't a death sentence, you can learn to develop positivity in your life and nurture and grow your self esteem.
1# Understand that Self Esteem Really Means Self Acceptance
You won't have better self esteem simply because you lose weight, make more money, or change your clothing style. Self esteem doesn't come from becoming a "better" version of yourself, self esteem comes from accepting yourself, as you are this second. You are on a journey. That journey may include losing weight and getting healthier. It may mean getting a better job or starting a business. It may mean changing your style. But those are steps in your journey. Acceptance of who you are as a person, inside, no matter how much you weight, how much you earn, or how you look is an important component of success and happiness.
2# Surround Yourself with Positivity
I think it was Willie Nelson who once said, "Once you replace negative thoughts with positive ones, you will start to have positive results." It's so true! Think about it. If you listen to sad songs all day or watch sad films, you feel sad. You internalize that atmosphere. Step away from the sad songs, sad films, and anything that creates anxiety in your life. That doesn't mean that you have to stop watching horror films, reading true crime, or zoning out to reality TV. If you enjoy things that make you sad (I know I love tragic romance novels and old movies) that's perfectly fine....in moderation and with self awareness as to the emotional results.
Instead, create a happiness playlist. I have one that I use to get the day started on a positive note and one that I play when I need a positivity pick me up. Try watching some films and documentaries about people doing positive things. Grab some self empowerment books. Not only does creating a positive atmosphere for yourself help your mood, it also helps you to acknowledge that you are strong enough to change your reality. Accepting and embracing your own power is an important part of positive self esteem.
3# Surround Yourself with Positive People
In the same way, if you spend a lot of time with people who are unhappy, who complain, who are defeatists OR who put YOU down, step on your dreams, or make fun of you, you internalize that atmosphere too. This can be a hard habit to break. Especially if the negative people in our lives are family. But if you acknowledge that their negativity is their issue and nothing to do with you at all AND you limit access, even a little at a time, you will find that their negativity had less effect on you.
Exchange those negative people with positive ones and watch your own feeling of positivity grow. If you don't know any positive people, volunteer with inspiring organizations or help out at positive events. Help build or repair houses, clean up parks, teach computer skills to seniors, anything that makes you feel positive about yourself or your community is a great way to connect with positive "can-do" people.
4# Assess Yourself - Honestly
Having a positive self esteem comes from accepting yourself....that means your strengths AND your weaknesses. But many of us don't take honest self assessment because we are afraid of both. If I am honest about my strengths and skills, I won't have an excuse for why I am not using those strengths to make my life better. If I am honest about my weaknesses, I will have to address painful issues in my life, and do something about them. Either way, I have to get real with myself and that can be scary and uncomfortable. But, self assessment, after the scary part, can also be really liberating.
Try making a strengths and weaknesses list. Here is mine for inspiration. It's so easy to forget or diminish the positive things about yourself and magnify the negative aspects. But your list can help you put it into perspective. Everyone has weaknesses, some you can't do anything about, some you can re-frame into positives, and a lot of those weaknesses can be changed.
5# Compare Realistically
We all compare. We compare our clothes, our homes, our bodies, our bank accounts... really every aspect of our lives and if comparing inspires you, that can be a positive thing. I love pinterest. I love looking at all of the interior spaces, gardens, fashion choices, recipes, etc. and gaining inspiration from the creativity of others. But if I get hung up on what other people have, the size of their home, their access to luxury items, or even their creativity and artistic skills, it can be easy to fall into a negative comparison trap. In order to compare fairly and to gain inspiration from others instead of envy, I have to compare realistically.
But many of us don't compare realistically at all, which leads us to have unrecognized expectations and can even make us discount the real positives that we have in our lives. Let me give you an example.
I am roughly the same age as Gwen Stefani. We are about the same height. We share a similar hair color. I was once in a punk rock band. We both have three kids. I was married to a Brit. I like art and fashion. We are SOOOOO similar. ;-) But, when I compare myself to the glossy pictures of her or my home to her home in magazines, I can look at my own life and feel that in comparison, my life is lacking. I can never get my hair to do that Marilyn Monroe flip quite right. Red lipstick on me always makes me feel like the Joker from Batman. She is so thin! My house always looks....lived in. And that Blake Shelton fellow.......they seem so happy and romantic with each other.
Now you might say..."look Alex, she has a team of people who do her hair and make up, your hair might have that Marilyn Monroe flip too if you had her staff or a makeup artist that could select the perfect shade."
You might say, "yes she is thin and looks terrific in clothes, and if your success depended on that, you might focus more on your own weight."
You might say, "sure her house is beautiful, but with three kids, her house probably looks pretty lived in too when the photographers aren't around. I mean, wouldn't you clean and straighten if your house was going to be in a magazine? "
You might say all those things to me, because comparing myself to a style icon and mega star is ridiculous. We don't have comparable lives, even if we have some similar aspects.
But aren't most of us doing that every day? Despairing because our lives seem less romantic, less exciting, less luxurious, even less happy then the images that we see on TV and in magazines is a common condition. But it is so destructive because we aren't comparing ourselves to gain inspiration, we are comparing ourselves as a judgement measure and then feeling bad about ourselves when we don't meet those unrealistic expectations.
Creating a "do over" in our personal lives begins with having healthy, positive self esteem. Being able to acknowledge our flaws and weaknesses helps us to take action to fix what we can and accept what we can't. Reveling in our successes and strengths and embracing our uniqueness helps us to become grounded and mentally prepares us for the journey ahead. Fostering positivity and actively seeking to protect and nurture ourselves while using realistic comparisons to motivate and inspire ignites personal growth. All of these things together conspire to make happiness, success, and inner peace in our lives.