You really have to look inside yourself and find your own inner strength, and say, ‘I’m proud of what I am and who I am, and I’m just going to be myself.’
In keeping with yesterday’s self-esteem theme, here are eight more tips to motivate you on your journey. Enjoy!
1. Be honest with yourself and others. You have a right to be here, so you don’t have to settle for things you know aren’t good for you. Be open about your feelings, but keep it positive. If you don’t agree with someone or something hurts you, say so. You’re not always going to be comfortable, but you have a right to express your thoughts honestly.
2. Speak your mind. This ties in with being honest with yourself and other people. If you overhear a conversation about the NBA Playoffs and you’re a raving basketball fan, jump in the discussion. Chances are people won’t think you’re crazy, and even if they do, that’s their opinion. Write to magazines and newspapers or leave comments on blog posts. You’ve got something to say, so let it out.
3. Take care of your body. You may not like your belly, thighs, or other parts, but your body is all you have here on Earth. Instead of hating it, try appreciating it for what it does for you. Think about how your brain activates your myriad parts—your eyes, nose, mouth, ears, arms, legs, feet. Get annual checkups, enjoy exercise, and try to eat well. Don’t hurt yourself with excess alcohol, tobacco, or other substances. It’s not always easy, but your body appreciates when you treat it right.
4. Be specific about problems or mistakes. It’s easy to jump into global judgments when you make mistakes—”Oh my gosh, I’m so stupid” or “I can’t believe I messed that up”—but try to be very specific about your actions, and leave your self-worth out of it. Don’t berate yourself if you forget to pay a bill or you stutter during an important presentation. You’re human; mistakes are inevitable. Pinpoint exactly what you did and make effort to improve next time.
5. Live by your unique values, but don’t judge others for theirs. I grew up a Christian and was taught to put my faith in God first. As I got older—and moved from the ultra-conservative South to the liberal North—I realized that many people didn’t believe in anything beyond here and now. That was unsettling to me for a while. I became extremely judgmental and unloving toward people. But as I got older, I learned that people have their own unique viewpoints, beliefs, and experiences. Despite what the church teaches, it’s not fair to expect diverse people to adhere to a single standard. The best thing to do is stand by what you believe for yourself but understand that others have their own ways of living. Believe what you want for you—not anyone else—and remember that others have the same right.
6. Realize you’re too complex for a label. In my quest for healthy self-esteem, I applied global labels to myself. I’d tell myself I was a “great” or a “winner.” But when things went bad, I was a “loser” or “hopeless.” None of those labels is accurate. You have to realize you have positive, negative, and neutral attributes. You may volunteer at a nursing home (positive) but you tend to lie (negative) and you grew up in California (neutral). You’re neither good nor bad; you have the potential for both. So before you smack a “winner” or “loser” tag on your forehead, remember that you have positive, negative, and neutral aspects of yourself. All people and life itself have the same attributes. Also, remember that while you may have one thing you love and are good at (for me, it’s writing), you have many more gifts and talents, whether you’re aware of them or not. Being good—oe bad—at one thing does not define you.
7. Give up mind-reading. When you have low self-esteem, you spend most of social interactions calculating your every move and hoping people don’t think you look stupid. But I urge you to give up the psychic act—you can’t read anyone’s mind any more than he or she can read yours. So relax. Be yourself. Say what you want and remember that you can’t change how you’re perceived, but you can change how you present yourself.
8. Speak to yourself lovingly. An honest yet positive voice is crucial for your self-esteem. As mentioned in #4 (being specific), speak to yourself as you would a loved one. Give yourself compliments and constructive criticism. Would you tell someone you cared about that they were stupid, worthless, or ugly? Probably not. And people who do say those things have their own issues. So don’t beat yourself up. If your best friend made a mistake, you’d probably tell her that we all do. When our family members do negative things, we’re often upset but we love them unconditionally. So do the same for yourself. You, after all, are your own family member. Start loving yourself as one.