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Ten Steps to Improved Self-Esteem
“Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.” –Dr. Seuss
It’s not vain to think well of yourself – it’s called confidence. And let’s face it — confident people are more attractive. There’s an aura around a person with confidence that suggests glowing colors and bright sunshine on the rainiest day. Who wouldn’t rather spend time with a relaxed and happy person than with that tense person glowering in the corner? People with high self-esteem look happier, healthier and more vibrant.
Gaining self-esteem is not as hard as you think, so why not start doing something about it right now? All steps, big and small, towards gaining self-esteem fall into two main categories: A) Avoid the negative and B) Accentuate the positive! Need more details? Just follow these 10 steps, and you’ll find yourself feeling better about who you are in no time!
AVOID THE NEGATIVE:
Tell the critical voices of those friends and family shouting in your head to shut up! Actually, say, “Stop!” and replace the critical thought with a kind, positive thought. Don’t let those critics be your mirror. Those ‘friends’ can be like fun-house mirrors given the chance! Before you know it, you’re too tall, too short, too fat or too thin – depending on which voice is loudest. Nip those inner voices in the bud – don’t let anyone, including yourself, put you down. Cross the street if necessary to avoid people who are disparaging, faultfinding and doubting and you won’t have to expend all that energy trying to dislodge negative words. After all, if you clog your ears with useless nonsense, how are you going to hear the compliments? Listening to only the negative is deliberately putting yourself into a nightmare! Wake up already!
Don’t compare yourself to others. Why depress yourself by using a friend, acquaintance or movie star as a measuring stick that leaves you short? You don’t have to beat yourself up because you’re not as rich, famous or thin as what’s her name. That’s a recipe that can leave the most envied person in the world feeling totally miserable. Trust me, anyone -no matter how seemingly perfect – who is focused on how much more fabulous someone else must be, will not be happy! So try something different – look for ways to use the people you admire as your inspiration to help you towards your own goals. What habits does this person have that could work for you and help your own personality to shine? Emulate an exercise regimen, a work ethic or just smile more often!
Start saying no. Chances are “no” was one of the first words you ever said. At one time, it may even have been your favorite. USE IT! Don’t say yes to things you don’t want to do – especially when you feel you’re being taken advantage of! Practice drawing your boundaries. Start with easy people, if necessary – like a good friend – before tackling your boss or your mother. And remember, if you can’t say no, at least don’t say yes – say maybe. Maybe works, it gives you a chance to think. You can always call and say no later!
Don’t try to change others. If you’re trying to change anyone, stop right now! That’s exhausting – mainly because it doesn’t work! All that trying and trying, the constant vigilance with lots of failure and maybe a little change, a little hope and then a lot of sliding back – I’m exhausted just writing about it! No one can change unless they want to – so stop working so hard! The sense of failure that results when trying to change someone never leads to feeling good about yourself. Be supportive if someone is going through a hard time – but remember, the work is theirs, not yours! The only person you can change is yourself. Accepting that isn’t easy, but once you get to that point, the only change you’ll be watching will be your self-esteem going through the roof!
ACCENTUATE THE POSITIVE
Make a list of your achievements. If you think you don’t have any, consider some things about yourself that you take for granted. Can you cook, read, or ride a bicycle? Are you the organized one who keeps the family files, pays the bills, or gets the kids to school? We all have achieved. It can be as simple as learning how to walk and talk, to learning how to program a VCR, to graduating from high school, to getting a job or to being a good friend. It’s easy to forget all we have achieved in our lifetime. Remember that struggle of learning to swim, jump rope or drive and take the time to be proud of your achievements!
Make a list of your positive inner qualities. Another list – but then, you must like lists – you’re reading this one! Lists are great, especially when they’re lists about how wonderful you are! Are you nice? Thoughtful? Patient? Smart? Funny? Reliable? Caring? Go ahead, this is for you! You don’t have to show anyone else and you certainly don’t need to worry that anyone might think you think well of yourself! Keep your list handy and review it whenever you feel down. You’re special – celebrate your unique qualities – appreciate yourself!
Look good. Wear your favorite outfit. Polish your nails, put on a new shade of lipstick or do something different with your hair. Buy a new tie or shirt. And then, feel free to smile at yourself in the mirror before sharing that smile with the rest of the world! It’s the fastest fix there is. You can’t help but feel good about yourself when you’re looking your best. You may even get better service in stores and restaurants! Hold your head up, shoulders back and walk down the street with confidence!
Exercise – the cure-all of the 90’s! But really, it’s true! It’s hard to feel negative when all those endorphins get flowing! Plus, anytime you feel as though you are doing something positive for yourself; you strengthen your self-esteem. Not into exercise? Use the same principle! Do something positive for yourself! Encourage and enlighten your mind, spirit or body. Read a self-help book, try a 12-step meeting, or take up yoga. Sign up for a class that interests you. It’s hard to think badly of someone who is constantly expanding herself – even when that someone is you!
Seek out people who make you feel good. Remember – you get to choose your friends – so why not choose people who think you’re great? Stop dismissing those compliments and please – stop arguing with people who think you’re fabulous! Modesty is all well and good but saying thank you to a compliment doesn’t turn you into an egomaniac! Also, examine your schedule – how much time do you spend with people who make you feel good? Find a way to make time for the special people in your life. Don’t fall into the time trap of continually putting off the most important people in your life because you’re too busy. Stay in touch – drop them an e-mail or leave a message to let them know you’re thinking about them at those times when things truly are impossible. Make the people you love and the people who love you a priority every day!
Be your own best friend. You’re great to all your friends – why not be great to yourself? When you’re busy getting down on yourself, stop for a moment. Would you kick your best friend if she were having a bad day? Of course not! So what if you were your own friend? Think about it. Would you be kinder? More understanding and forgiving? Would you give yourself encouragement? Why not be that warm, wonderful, supportive person for yourself! Go ahead! Stop working against your own well-being and be good to yourself! So take one step at a time and you’ll be on your way! As your self-esteem soars, you’ll find that you feel happier with yourself and the world around you. Chances are your health will improve. You’ll have more time and energy for the things you love to do as well as the people you love. All of this is the natural result of possessing high self-esteem. Remember, with a little effort, anyone can have high self-esteem. It’s not an inherited trait; it’s a learned skill! Now that you have the tools to start you off, those negative thoughts don’t stand a chance! Should they try creeping in, you can just whip out your positive inner quality list and remind yourself of how wonderful you really are!
“Life in itself is an empty canvas, it becomes whatsoever you paint on it. You can paint misery, you can paint bliss. This freedom is your glory” –Osho
Mark Sichel is a psychotherapist, consultant, and speaker on a broad range of issues related to family, mental health, and interpersonal problems, and author of Healing From Family Rifts.