5 Ways To Raise Your Self Esteem
Often, we accept that society decides our value, and when we don't perform to its tune, we feel bad about ourselves and lose self-esteem. Let's change that.
Many of us experience low self-esteem when we feel like we are not valued. How often do you ask yourself:
"Am I good enough? Have I done enough? Do I deserve happiness?"
Over the years, I've noticed that there are 3 big societal pressures that drastically affects how we think and feel about ourselves - which then drives our behaviour.
I want to share a story about an Asian woman who was born in the 50s. From the moment she was born, everyone told her that her value and responsibility to her parents was to find an acceptable man and build a family. So, for the first 30 years of her life, she prioritized being a model partner who could take care of her husband and raise a prosperous family.
However, because her relationship was started with the wrong reasons (service versus love), it failed, and her life turned upside down after she went through a divorce. Being a single mother to 2 young kids, her community was not supportive. They frowned upon her and condemned her for not maintaining a successful union because they believed that a single mother was inadequate to raise successful children.
With the loss of support from her community, she desperately looked to adopt new values that society would deem successful to be valued again. So, she decided to focus on her career and prove that she can support her children!
In our society today, having a well-paying job is the icon of success and those who achieve, are generally well-respected. Unfortunately, because she had become a stay-at-home mom when she had her children, she lost a lot of opportunities for her career and the skills she built a decade ago were no longer relevant. Thus, her career was at a standstill, and she could only secure minimal employment and often did not feel useful in the roles that she performed.
Well, what's left? What else does society value? Raising successful and respectful children! So, she decided to live vicariously through the achievements of her kin. It became her sole desire to ensure her children achieved the success that she could not, and unfortunately, as they became adults, they then also fell under the same societal pressures and by all indications, seemed like they are falling into the same paths of 'failure'.
After all these experiences, she does not believe that she deserves happiness. By all society measures, she's not valuable! She failed at marriage. She failed at building a career. She failed at raising kids.
How can such a person improve their outlook on life? How can they believe that they have value?
What is wrong with this picture?
In this story, this woman gave away control over her happiness, self-esteem, and self-worth to her marriage, career, and children! When those failed, she felt lost, useless, and alone - her value was always tied to what society deemed valuable; she never believed in herself.
1. Control what you can, accept what you cannot.
Wanting your marriage, career and children to be successful is not inherently a bad thing, but we should be mindful of how we define success. We should never blindly accept external definitions, and always re-calibrate what success could mean. Step back and re-frame the situation whenever you feel negative emotions, and strive to see the positive of the experience you went through to appreciate the learning that has occurred.
Additionally, we must always remind ourselves that we can never control outcomes, only the effort we put in and how we perceive the situation. Thus, it is foolish to tie your self-worth to desired outcomes, and if we instead base our value on the journeys we have travelled and the life lessons learned, we can accept the gifts of our lives.
When you give away control, you are giving away responsibility.
Constantly remind yourself that your life is your responsibility. No one can live your life for you. Define what success is for yourself, take responsibility for the decisions you make, and accept the outcomes.
2. You cannot help others before helping yourself.
When you devote yourself to a life of service, you are implicitly putting expectations that over time, others will take care of you in the same way that you've taken care of them.
Unfortunately, this is not sustainable for many reasons:
- Obligation: What you think you're doing to be helpful to them, may not actually be helpful, so they do not feel obligated to help you back;
- Dependency: You're teaching others to be dependant on you and not capable;
- Inability: Even if they did want to help you, they might not be competent or have the knowledge to help;
- Responsibility: The only one ever responsible to help you is you because no one understands or cares more about you more than you.
If you've boarded a plane and listened to their safety instructions, you'll notice that they specifically mention that in the case of an emergency and the air cabin pressure changes, you must take the mask and put it on yourself first before helping others.
This is because if you are the only competent person to put on a mask properly, and you decide to prioritize others, when it comes time to put the mask on yourself, you've run out of oxygen and no one can help you.
Give yourself the direct attention you deserve.
Let's Get Better Together
When bad things happen to us, we rely on the feedback of others to let us know if things are okay. But depending on the company we keep, the feedback can either be supportive or negative, which can drastically affect the way we feel about the situation. Your first step to combat this is to believe in yourself. Recognize the control you have over the decisions you make in your life and accept the outcomes.
If the power dynamics are balanced, then the person developing self-efficacy may still be motivated by the feedback from others, but there should also be motivation from recognizing the outcomes of their actions and how this can effect change in their life. (Gecas & Schwalbe, 1983)
Being self-sufficient is hard. You might not be ready for that yet. Thankfully, with the power of the internet, we are now more connected than ever and you don't have to be alone. Build up your confidence by finding an inclusive community that cares about you and wants to support you.
Eventually when you become self-sufficient - share your story, and help someone else in your position.
3. An Exercise You Can Try
Get into the habit of doing one nice thing for yourself every day. Start simple. Brush your hair. Make your bed. Take a walk. Start doing things for yourself whether or not you believe you deserve it. Actions lead thoughts. As you start performing acts of self-care, your brain will be guided to believe that you are worth it - because why else are you taking care of yourself?
4. Positive Self-Affirmations
What we tell ourselves matters. Positive words can help you to challenge and overcome self-sabotaging and negative thoughts. When you repeat positive self-affirmations often, and believe in them, you can start to make positive changes.
What are the best things to say to yourself when you are feeling a certain emotion? What if you're dealing with specific situations? We built a public lookup database to enable anybody to easily search and add specific affirmations to power up their motivation based on how they're currently feeling and overcome self-defeating thoughts.
And remember, you can only make changes if you keep at it. Consistency is everything.
Most people overestimate what you can get done in a day, and underestimate what you can get done in a week.
5. Our Book Recommendations
If you or a family member is struggling with low self-esteem, we recommend these books.
Braving the Wilderness - Brené Brown
What to Say When You Talk To Yourself - Dr. Shad Helmstetter
Thank you for reading, and I hope this article was meaningful to you. This was written to help my friends, family, community, and everybody that is out there struggling with low self-esteem. If you have any thoughts about how this resource could be improved, please don't hesitate to write below to let me know. This was written with lots of feedback and love from the Co-x3 Family, and special thanks to Ann and Shania for staying up with me and exploring this topic together.