We all know that in just about every case, a baby does not go from being swaddled and carried in its mother’s arms directly to running, jumping and leaping. There are exceptions. But, for most little ones, there is a usual progression involving rolling, crawling, pulling up, falling down, walking and then running.
When you learned how to drive a car, you probably started out in an empty parking lot accelerating and braking and then you practiced parallel parking before you set out on a long road trip behind the wheel.
There are so many things in life that happen gradually and step by step.
So, why is it we become frustrated with ourselves when we don’t automatically stop an unwanted habit?
In particular, why is it that when a person decides that it’s time to raise his or her self esteem, that person becomes frustrated and feels like a failure when it doesn’t happen all at once?
Keith is tired of feeling like a second class citizen. Pretty much all of his life, he has sat at the back of the room, remained quiet even when he had something to say, refrained from talking to the women he wanted to meet and basically managed to merely get by.
Yes, Keith has a decent-paying job, but it’s one he seriously dislikes. There have been a few relationships with women in Keith’s past, but they’ve never felt respectful, kind or fulfilling.
In just about every area of his life, Keith realizes that he settles for what he can get instead of going for what he really wants.
For Keith, this is all about self esteem. He has never felt good enough, smart enough, successful enough, handsome enough, worthy enough and the list could go on and on.
It is a vital first step for Keith– and you too– to affirm to yourself that you currently have and that you are ready to make a change.
Now that you know that you want to improve your self esteem, how exactly do you do that?
You may have made a commitment to yourself to boost your sense of self worth and perhaps friends and family members have encouraged you to do this too.
The roadblock that many people fall into is that they decide to build self esteem and, for awhile, they feel an improvement just having made this decision. Then they encounter a set-back of some sort and return to feeling worthless and inadequate.
You simply cannot jump from hating yourself to completely accepting and loving yourself.
Perhaps this happens for a few people, but it’s quite unusual.
The good news is this: You CAN incrementally build your self esteem and feel better and better along the way.
It all starts exactly where you are at this very moment. Don’t pretend that you don’t cringe when you look in the mirror or that you sometimes try to hide your background, what you do for a living or some other aspect of yourself.
It’s time to stand in the place where you are and to begin to move toward greater self-acceptance and self-love.
Here are 2 ways to build self esteem from where you are at this moment…
1: Listen in on your inner conversations.
For low self esteem to perpetuate and grow, it requires a steady stream of limiting messages. While these messages may come from your boss, co-workers or even family members, it’s quite likely that you are supplying the bulk of critical messages about you.
You can try to stop your thoughts, but it’s really tough to do– nearly impossible, actually.
What you can do, however, is to pay closer attention to the inner “conversations” between you and you. When you notice that you are mentally or emotionally beating up on yourself for not being, doing or having something that you think you should, recognize that as a critical conversation.
Start to see how many of these inner conversations happen over the course of a day or a week. This might require you to pause and really listen to yourself from time to time.
What you don’t want to do is to call yourself names for thinking these limiting thoughts– this, of course, is only adding more fuel to the proverbial fire of low self esteem.
What you do want to do is to notice that you are having a critical conversation and make the choice to interrupt it.
You might interrupt it by asking yourself questions such as: “Really? Is that really true?”
You might also interrupt a critical thought by introducing the opposite statement and see how it feels to think and even say it out loud. Experiment with some inner love talk. For example: Instead of “I’m so fat” try, “I am beautiful.”
It’s not necessary for you to believe the opposite statement in order for it to disrupt the limiting thought and potentially take hold as a truth you CAN believe in the future.
2: Look for the positives.
Get into the habit of looking for things about your life and yourself that you can appreciate and feel even somewhat good about.
Nothing is too small or insignificant.
Appreciate yourself for practicing good oral hygiene and for remembering to feed your dog! Find some part of your body that you do find attractive and pleasing (even slightly so).
Look for evidence of worthiness in every facet of your life– job, relationships, work, self-care, interests, hobbies– and don’t stop. Stay on the lookout for anything and everything that you deem to be positive and respectable and pause for a moment when you come across something.
Revel in the positives that you find and allow them to build.
Please note: This practice will not make you self-centered, selfish, arrogant or even an obnoxious Pollyanna! What it can do is to re-train your brain so that you are seeing more of the picture of what’s going on. Looking for the positives can help you build self esteem in healthy and sustainable ways.
As you become more positively-focused, your self esteem can improve little by little and, sometimes, by leaps and bounds.