Think back on the last three or four goals you set for yourself. Did they have to do with your physical appearance or career? Chances are the answer is yes. Wanting to lose weight, get fit, get a promotion, eat healthier or be more productive are all admirable goals, but when did we lose sight of making our emotional health and wellness a priority?
As a psychotherapist for more than 40 years, I have been struck with finding time and time again that the one key factor that underlies our sense of happiness and wellbeing is not what we achieve "out there" but rather it is our underlying sense of self-esteem that makes or breaks our sense of wellbeing. It is the underlying filter that we see the world. If we don't truly love—or even like—ourselves, nothing from the outside will truly fill the void from within.
If you are like most of my clients over the years, the phrase, "I'll be happy when…" typically ends with responses such as "I'm thinner", "I get in better shape", "I find a mate", "I get a better job", "I get a promotion", " I have children", "I move" or "I have more money". What do responses all have in common? They all assume that things on the outside hold the key to happiness. Many successful, witty, attractive people who by society's standards "have it all" lack inner self-confidence and self-esteem, though. Losing weight, getting fit, earning a promotion or finding a mate are all great, but they do not ensure anything more than a temporary high if a nagging sense of low self-esteem still lurks from within.
This is not to say that having goals are not good for us because they are! The trick is not to be fooled that these achievements alone will help you achieve a sense of happiness and wellbeing. Inner happiness will only come from truly embracing your greatness and enjoying the journey of reaching for goals—not by measuring your worth only once you "get there." You deserve to love yourself starting right now, and, with these tips, you'll be well on your way.
10 Self-Esteem Boosters
1. Make Self-Esteem Unconditional: There are no pre-conditions to your self-worth. You are beautiful and worthy no matter what. Your worth as a person does not depend on you losing those nagging 15 pounds, getting into your top choice school or find the love of your life. While each is a worthwhile pursuit, you are just as worthy on the journey as you are if and when you reach the destination.
2. Quell Your Inner Critic: Talk to yourself as you would a best friend. Too often we say things to ourselves we would never dream of saying to anyone else. Beating yourself up when you fall short or feel down will only cause anxiety and degrade your sense of self-worth. Instead of immediately resorting to negativity, focus on unleashing your inner nurturer instead of your inner critic.
3. Think Rationally: The quality of your thoughts reflects the quality of your life; as such, healthy thoughts underlie healthy feelings. Thinking in black and white, all-or-nothing ways, such as "I'm stupid" or "He's a jerk" will make your thoughts distorted and extreme, often leading to anxiety and depression over time. Sticking to the facts rather than your interpretations will help you to think straight to feel great!
4. Give Up the "If Only" Excuses: There is one thing for sure in this life: The past never changes. Excessive regret is a self-esteem robber, and focusing on what could have been, should have been or how things would have been if you made different choices is pointless and destructive. Instead of reworking the past, focus on what's next with the lessons learned from abandoned goals and past behaviors. Forgive yourself for not having the foresight to know that which is now so obvious in hindsight and you'll find that moving forward and growing will be that much easier.
5. Embrace Self-Compassion: When you are self-compassionate, you choose self-kindness over beating yourself up. No success in the world will make you feel better about yourself than being kind and self-loving.
6. Cultivate Mindfulness: While many equate it to meditating and isolation, mindfulness is actually the art of being present with non-judgmental awareness. It is the art of accepting what cannot be changed and working to cultivate a "beginner's mind." Noticing the beauty around you rather than getting lost in the recesses of your critical head will help you see the world mindfully.
7. Take Care of Yourself: All too often we spend so much time caring for others that we neglect our own needs. Refusing to sacrifice our needs for self-care and making ourselves a priority will make us healthier and happier in the long run. Don't forget to take a few minutes every day to do something beneficial for your mind or body.
8. Assert Yourself: Speaking your mind and finding your voice is vital to self-esteem. Fear of expressing thoughts and feelings over concern about what others think will slowly rob you of your confidence. To practice reinforcing your sense of self-worth, practice using "I" statements to express your thoughts and feelings rather than keeping quiet in fear of criticism and rejection.
9. Develop Strong Connections: The quality of our support system often correlates with how we feel about ourselves. While no one can give us self-esteem, having strong, supportive familial and friendly bonds help us feel good about ourselves. The best way to grow is not in isolation, but through positive relationships that challenge and change you.
10. Have an Attitude of Gratitude: Grateful people tend to be more self-loving and confident. Those who look for the roses instead of focusing on the thorns will be more likely to focus on what they have rather than what they lack. Make a point to find three new things you are grateful for each day, and write those thoughts in a gratitude journal. You will be more likely to feel whole when you do not focus on the perceived frustrations or disappointments in your life.
Improving your self-esteem and embracing your greatness will help you truly love yourself and love your life. While it may not come natural to all, focusing on self-care and positive self-talk will allow you to recognize all that your body and mind can achieve and will help you slowly improve how you view yourself. After all, don't you deserve to be happy, to love yourself and appreciate yourself as you are right now? We think you do.
About the Author Judith Belmont, M.S., L.P.C., is an online mental health coach and offers motivational interactive presentations. She is the author of seven books, including "Embrace Your Greatness: 50 Ways to Build Unshakeable Self-Esteem" and the Anxiety and Stress Solution Card Deck. Her website, Belmont Wellness, offers free self-help handouts and worksheets.
What is your best tip for developing unshakeable self-esteem? Share your strategies with other members in the comments below!
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