People tell me I am confident. Brave. Self-assured.
I often wonder how they would see me if they knew what sorts of things I think about, how I worry about being rejected, especially when I am being my authentic self. Or how often I have felt misunderstood. Or that I largely believe I will be betrayed. I wonder if they thought I was brave when I was terrified to simply go get an oil change, and how I wish my bird legs were more athletic. I wonder what I do to create an image of self-worth when so much of the time I have to work at a fair estimation of Isa.
Generating a solid sense of self-worth takes work. It doesn’t just happen. I was not born with it. Self-esteem is not built because one decides he wants it. We must build it with action. Esteemable acts. It is true, I have a solid sense of my worth today, but it isn’t a permanent experience. I have to work at it daily, sometimes hourly. We are not marble statues after all. We are fluid and evolving and impacted by current variables.
How we see ourselves will influence every single iota of our time, our perception of others, and every choice we make – from the brands we purchase to our general attitudes to the people we love and how well we love them.
Therefore, I have been vigilant in the practices that have helped me along the way. There are a few crucial acts of esteem that prove effective in building self-esteem.
- Choose your friends and time with family carefully. Spend time with those who lift you up and especially those who respect you. For many years I chose poorly. Not always, for I have had some great friends, but often enough to keep me down in the dirt. Each time I shared something for which I was proud, my old friends would take it upon themselves to knock me down. If I used big words, they would roll their eyes. They felt that I would benefit from knowing I was not important. They did not honor my need to be important. These sorts of friends are not your friends. They are competitive and measure themselves by remaining just a little bit better than you. They make jokes at your expense. They tell you in subtle ways that you think too much of yourself whenever you begin to feel like maybe you are worth something. They lecture you, or dismiss you, and they expect you to behave in ways that serve them. Get rid of them. Cast them off. It is actually better to be alone than to be with them. Pay attention to those who listen and validate and guide you with compassion. With whom do you feel safe? With whom do you trust to remind you of your worth? Do they support your choices, or do they control your choices? Regarding family, be sure you are not seeking love from those who want to keep you in a box, or expect you to make choices that do not serve you. Stick with those who recognize your growth and respect your autonomy. Sometimes family revolts when we change and no longer play familiar roles. Family can make your life about them. Well, you are in fact that one who has to live it. So be sure it is what you really want. This “push back” is not yours to fix. Demand that people honor your choices when you know the choice is your true calling.
- Practice saying no. Be selfish enough to care for yourself. One of the greatest leaps in my esteem has come with my willingness to tell people that I will not do something just because they want it. I have determined that my needs are just as important as theirs. Additionally, I feel less compelled to justify it. People don’t actually want a huge explanation as to why you will not appease them. Keep it simple and show up for them when you can do so without harm to you.
- Make a list of the internal things you like about yourself and read it aloud daily. When I first tried this, it was difficult. I was afraid there was nothing. I was afraid of being too big. Today, I can list and recite openly those things that are simply true. I am reliable. I have a keen sense of humor. I take risks. I give honest feedback. I take care of my body. I am smart. I am caring. I am curious about others. I am fun! External things are great, like being popular or pretty, yes. But the internal stuff is not dependent on anything outside of our true nature.
- Find a spiritual path that constantly encourages your divine nature. As you struggle, and we all do, your higher power will be all around you and even inside of you to balance your challenges with comfort and power. When I am feeling worried or insecure, even inferior, I imagine my goddesses whispering in my ear, holding my hand, sitting next to me. Sometimes I imagine a giant span of wings attached to my back, or a crown of sparkling light over my head. I tap into the notion that I am a magical being with a soulful depth of power. I am divine in and of myself because I was created by a divine source. That source runs in my blood and sits in my bones. It emanates off my skin. I decide that I am going to move about in this way because it helps me feel I am worth knowing.
- Lift up those around you. The fast track to self-esteem is to celebrate the strengths and wins of those around you. Show them you are not threatened by their power. Recognize them. Compliment them. Soothe them. Help them feel loved. Choosing to actively inspire and appreciate another’s gifts and success is setting the stage for mutually supportive relationships. If those around you meet this behavior with distrust or dismissal, pay attention to whether or not they really have the self-worth to match you. They will either slowly get on board, or they are not someone you can count on with regularity.
Loving yourself will bring a beauty and an energy to your life and to others. As spiritual leader Marianne Williamson suggests, “Your playing small does not serve the world.” We are born to shine, so let’s get to it.