30 Days of Personal Growth, Day 27: A Letter to the One Looking Down

The lotus begins life in the muddy bottom of a pond. Slowly, it grows toward the surface. When it reaches the light, it becomes a beautiful flower.

I want to talk about you.

You’ve been told you’re not smart enough. You’ve been told you’re not good enough. You’ve been told that other people are better, more worthwhile. You’ve spent years crying, feeling sorry for yourself, thinking everyone else had a better chance to reach their dreams than you did.

I’m here to tell you you’re wrong.

You’re worthwhile. You’re not perfect. You have good and bad days. You don’t always remember things. You don’t always make the right decisions. But you’re valuable.

You don’t always feel beautiful. You slip up sometimes. Still, you’re unique, complex—and worthwhile. Nothing can make that more or less true.

You can’t control what others think about you. You can’t control what others do or say. You can’t read anyone’s mind, nor can anyone read yours. You’re not going to like or agree with everything everyone says and does. Some things others do are going to make you upset. But you can control what you do.

Every day is not going to be wonderful, but you can smile. You can feel thankful and joyful no matter what is happening.

You don’t have to be famous to be worthwhile. You can enjoy living an ordinary life. You can take pride in the things you do to keep things running smoothly.

You can speak clearly because you belong here. You don’t have to shrink away, thinking others’ opinions and existence are more worthwhile. You have just as much right to be here as anyone else, and you have a right to your own unique existence.

You have a right to be present. You can absorb details about people and the environment. You don’t have to worry about what your hair looks like. You don’t have to worry about your skin, teeth, height, weight, clothes, education, marital status, bank account, credit score, or friends list. Though you want to do your best in all aspects of life, you can’t control everything. Yet, you are worthwhile.

You can gracefully give and accept compliments. You can admire others and accept their admiration of you. You have a right to feel good about yourself no matter how you look.

You are not a static photograph. You are a living, breathing, dynamic human being. You are so much more than you know.

You don’t have to do anything to please others. You can be compassionate, but you can care about yourself, too. You can laugh, smile, and chat with others. You can put your two cents in just as anyone else can. You have that right.

You can absorb people, nature, and life freely. You can make mistakes, and you can learn from them. You don’t have to hide for fear others will know your shortcomings. Others have shortcomings, too.

You don’t have to worry about being the best at everything. You can’t. The most you can expect of yourself is to do your best work. Know that you can’t do everything perfectly, but know that you can be proud of what you do.

Not everyone is going to like you, and you’re not going to like everyone else. Yet you can accept others. You can accept yourself. You can take criticism with the intent of strengthening yourself. You can dismiss anything hurtful or rude.

You don’t have to judge others, and you don’t have to judge yourself. You can be as silly, smart, or sassy as you want, as long as you remember you’re no better than others, nor is anyone better than you. Like you, people have their own unique way of being. Your worth is on par with everyone else’s.

You have a right to look people in the eye. You don’t have to plan what you’re going to say. You can handle any social situation when it happens. You have a right to speak loudly and clearly. Others do too, and they expect that from you.

You are free to have your own style. You can wear prints, solids, sleek, bohemian, anything you want. You can express yourself through fashion, music, arts, writing, sports, any way you choose. You have that right.

You have your own gifts. Others have theirs. You are not going to be perfect even at your strengths, but you can take pride in what you’re capable of. No one has your unique voice, experience, biology, psychology, spirituality. Things won’t be easy, and nothing says they should be.

Stay focused. Growth is painful. Goals take discipline. But your dreams will come true if you believe in yourself and fight for them. You’re going to fail sometimes. You’re going to fall short of your goals.

But even if things don’t work out exactly how you want them to, you’re still worthwhile. You can pick it up and move ahead.

You can have a balanced view of yourself and others. No one is wholly good, bad, right, or wrong. Everyone, including you, is too complex for a label.

Your thoughts, beliefs, opinions, feelings, interests, and talents are worthwhile. You as a living, breathing being are worthwhile.

Let nothing distract you from that.

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30 Days of Personal Growth, Day 24: When It All Changed

“As I stopped feeling like I couldn’t do things, I began acting confident and successful, and I realized that the better I felt, the more opportunity was coming to me.” -Amy DuBois Barnett

I was waiting on something to happen. I was waiting to feel content, to feel as if I could accomplish something, to feel good about my life and about myself. As I hoped and prayed for my life to begin, I cried some nights and zoned out most days.

Why didn’t good things happen to me? I wondered. Why was everyone else so lucky, so fortunate? Where were my blessings? What had I done to deserve such a life?

I waited. And waited. And cried. Wasted time. Wasted money and energy. I wanted what others had and didn’t appreciate the things that were right in front of me, however small. I had nothing to be proud of, so I thought. I had nothing to show for myself. When was it going to be my turn?

Then something happened. Tired of wallowing in despair and blaming the universe and my elementary school teacher for my problems, I opened my eyes. I began to search for knowledge, for truth and wisdom. I devoured everything I could on being a better me. I took a deep, difficult look at myself and saw some things I didn’t like. But with information in hand, I was able to begin the long process of change. I was able to accept full responsibility for my life. I was able to change.

No longer could I blame others for anything I didn’t like in my life. I gained mastery over myself, over my thoughts and feelings, and over my actions. I became the woman I had always wanted to be, the woman I had not fathomed would be me. I made up my mind to accept myself and be bold, fearless, and strong. I became powerful, and that’s when my situation changed. I became confident, and that’s when my situation changed. No more bitterness. No more longing for the past. No more wasting the present. I changed, and everything around me changed.

Of course I still have more to learn, more ways in which to grow. But I’ve done what it takes many years to do: I’ve begun. I’ve realized that I want to live in peace and on purpose, and, with the support of family, friends, and mentors, I’ve made it happen. I decided to stop being a victim and start feeling empowered and confident. I didn’t wait my turn–I took it. When I made that decision, that’s when everything changed.

30 Days of Personal Growth, Day 17: 8 More Self-Esteem Tips

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.’

-Mariah Carey

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.

30 Days of Personal Growth, Day 16: 5 Quick Self-Esteem Boosters

Having a low opinion of yourself is not “modesty”. It’s self-destruction. Holding your uniqueness in high regard is not “egotism”. It’s a necessary precondition to happiness and success. ~Bobbe Sommer

Some days we need a reminder that we’re important, that we matter, that we can feel good about ourselves regardless of our circumstances. Here a five self-esteem boosters to brighten your day.

1. Accept that you’re a human being. This means you need to grow, move, eat, respond to stimuli, breathe, and excrete. We get so caught up in the details of life—career decisions, money, clothes, beauty—that we forget we’re just human. Go back to the basics. Remember that as a human being, you’re inherently imperfect. You’re going to make mistakes, some big, some small. That’s just part of the human experience. So instead of beating yourself up about not doing X or Y perfectly, remember that you’re only human—just like everyone else.

2. Realize you have a right to be here. Just by being a human being, you are intrinsically valuable, just as you are. You are entitled to breathe the same air as anyone else, and you are entitled to accept and love yourself. Take that knowledge and act on it. Don’t hide or lower your voice. Despite what society deems worthy, all human beings are of equal worth. No one is better or worse than you, regardless of money, status, education, looks, or anything.

3. Understand your self-worth is internal, not external. You don’t have a self-esteem switch on your arm that people can flick up and down at their leisure. People are going to say or do things you don’t like. They’re going to have attitudes, be mean, or be selfish. But you can choose to believe you’re worthy no matter what people do. It’s your choice to be happy or sad. Likewise, external things—your hair and makeup, clothes, credit score, education level—are bonuses, but are NOT indicators of your worth. Consider your worth fixed in spite of what goes on outside of you.

4. Be present. You spend 100% of your time with yourself, so why not turn some of your energy on the people and things around you? Look at the smallest details of things. Observe colors, patterns, and shapes. Observe people—without judging—and take in all the similarities and differences. Also, ask questions. That’s the easiest way to avoid negative thinking and start a conversation.

5. Be bold. Since you’re valuable whether you succeed or fail, have fun trying new things. Dance however you want by yourself or with someone. Walk around smiling just because it makes you feel good. Wear what you want as a reflection of who you are. Take bass lessons, go kayaking, try an art class. Look for fun things that will enrich your life experience. Lying in bed all day gets old.