Guest post by Jae Song
People with high self-esteem are the most desired, and desirable people in society. Brian Tracy
Can you recall the last time you were in an emotional slump, such that your beliefs in yourself and your abilities were slipping away? How can we maintain the beliefs we have in ourselves, such that we can live with less anxiety and more joy?
Just imagine the things we would accomplish if we had the belief that we could do absolutely anything, especially if we could maintain a level of self-esteem that no circumstance could shake. What would you be doing?
Self-esteem comes from positive self-imaging, and it is something that we proactively build for ourselves. Self-esteem doesn’t happen while we wait passively. When we leave it up to external factors, we build our self-esteem on sandy ground. What we want is a rock-solid foundation, and this only comes from building it within.
Throughout our daily routines, our minds are very good at picking up all the things we’ve done wrong, and it makes sure we are aware of them. With such a counter-productive force at work, we can benefit greatly by regularly working towards establishing and building our own self-image.
I’ve learned that the way we view ourselves directly affects everything we do. People with high self-esteem get along easily with others, rarely get sick, and seem to have high energy reserves. Also, their high level of self-esteem corresponds with their high level of productivity, capacity of happiness and state of well-being.
A Personal Story…
As a style coach, I (Jae) am my own boss – which is a blessing and a curse. Without a manager to report to, deadlines, or set schedules, I am responsible for enforcing these on myself – intrinsically. I must do these things if I want to achieve my professional goals, even though it can feel like a burden at times.
Last month, after several previous hectic months of intense work, I had fallen into a lull. Maybe you can relate with me… It started with a few missed to-do items, then failure to deliver on a few commitments. I could feel the self-disappointment building inside. I felt stressed.
I woke up each morning with the thought of making up for the previous day’s failures, only to find myself failing once again. In this vicious cycle my work started to accumulate, and for days I needed to push back on obligations and commitments.
I felt the grip on my self-esteem slipping, and was now scrambling to hang on to the remaining scraps of what was left of it. I kept making excuses and rationalizations for why I wasn’t getting stuff done, and as my integrity waned, I started to lose faith in myself and procrastinate even more.
This was me a month ago.
It has been a beautiful learning experience being able to observe myself in this state of mind, and ultimately learning how I overcame it.
A Closer Look
Self-esteem = how much we like ourselves.
How much we like ourselves = level of self-dominion.
What is self-dominion? It is our ability to get ourselves to actually do, what we want ourselves to do; in other words, self-discipline and self-trust.
A person who has dominion over themselves has self-integrity – staying true to their words and commitments.
Every time we fail to listen to our inner voice, and do not take action in something that we need to, we lose trust with ourselves and our abilities. This lack of self-faith continues to spiral downwardly as we flounder to fulfill more commitments.
Turning Point: How to Start Building Self-Esteem
Most of us are familiar with the concept of momentum. When we do something well, regardless of how small the task, we build positive energy and momentum, which can fuel other tasks on our list.
For example, if you have just washed all the dishes, mowed the lawn, and made calls to all of your clients, it will be easier for you – psychologically – to quickly move on to and complete the next task. You will have built the momentum necessary to getting things done, and you are simply riding on that energy and building on previous successes.
On the flip side, when we put off what we want to do or know we should do, we lose momentum, and more importantly, we lose trust in ourselves.
Another way to view this is to pretend we have a personal assistant. The better they perform on the tasks assigned to them, the more confident we will feel towards their abilities to handle responsibility. Gradually, we will assign more important tasks to them as trust is established. We now have faith in their abilities to follow through. We trust them.
Conversely, if our assistant procrastinates and misses deadlines regularly, we will lose faith in their abilities to follow through. We stop trusting them. We stop giving them tasks (at least the important ones), and we start to look for a replacement assistant.
Now, think of ourselves as our own assistant. The more we follow through with actions, the more confidence and trust we’ll establish with ourselves. We will then gain faith in our ability to take on more tasks.
The small wins with ourselves, directly affect how much we like ourselves. Each time we successfully follow through, the experience becomes a building block towards a more positive self-image.
13 Tips to Building Self-Esteem
In order to build your self-esteem, you must establish yourself as the master of your own life. Every single minute of your life is a moment you can change for the better.
If you’ve been delaying some action for half the day, don’t dwell on it or beat yourself up for it, shift your focus to the present moment and what you can do right now.
The following are tips to help build continuous upward momentum towards higher self-esteem.
- Start Small
Start with something you can do immediately and easily. When we start with small successes, we build momentum to gain more confidence in our abilities. Each completed task, regardless of how small, is a building block towards a more confident you. What are some small actions you can take immediately to demonstrate that you are capable of achieving goals you’ve set for yourself? For example, clean your desk, organize your papers, or pay all your bills.
- Create a Compelling Vision
Use the power of your imagination. Create an image of yourself as the confident and self-assured person you aspire to become. When you are this person, how will you feel? How will others perceive you? What does your body language look like? How will you talk? See these clearly in your mind’s eye, with your eyes closed. Feel the feelings, experience being and seeing things from that person’s perspective. Practice doing this for 10 minutes every morning. Put on music in the background that either relaxes you, or excites you. When you are done, write a description of this person and all the attributes you’ve observed.
Get out of the house or setup a lunch date with a friend. Socializing with others will give us opportunities to connect with other people, and practice our communication and interpersonal skills.
As with all skills, we get better with practice and repetition. The more often we proactively do things that scare us, the less scary these situations will seem, and eventually will be rid of that fear.
- Do Something You Are Good At
What are you especially good at or enjoy doing? Regularly doing things that you are good at reinforces your belief in your abilities and strengths. I (Tina) can be very efficient with completing errands or administrative work. Whenever I have a few hours filled with ways in which I’ve maximized my time, I feel highly productive and this boosts the confidence have in my abilities as an organized and efficient person.
- Set Goals
According to a study done at Virginia Tech, 80% of Americans say they don’t have goals. And the people who regularly write down their goals earn nine times as much over their lifetime as people who don’t. By setting goals that are clear and actionable, you have a clear target of where you want to be. When you take action towards that goal, you’ll build more confidence and self-esteem in your abilities to follow through.
- Help Others Feel Good About Themselves
Help somebody or teach them something. When you help other people feel better about themselves and like themselves more, it will make you feel good about yourself. See what you can do to make others feel good or trigger them to smile. Maybe giving them a genuine compliment, helping them with something or telling them what you admire about them.
- Get Clarity on Life Areas
Get clarity on the life area that needs the most attention. Your self-esteem is the average of your self-concept in all the major areas of your life. Write down all the major categories of your life, e.g., health, relationships, finance, etc. Then rate yourself on a scale of 1-10 in each area. Work on the lowest numbered category first, unless they are all even. Each area affects the other areas. The more you build up each area of your life, the higher your overall self-esteem.
- Create a Plan
Having a goal alone won’t do much. Get clarity on your action items. One of the biggest reasons people get lazy is because they don’t have a plan to achieve their goals. They don’t know what the next step is and start to wander off randomly. When you’re baking a cake, it’s a lot easier to follow a set of clear instructions, than randomly throwing ingredients together.
- Get Motivated
Read something inspirational, listen to something empowering, talk to someone who can uplift our spirits, who can motivate us to become a better person, to live more consciously, and to take proactive steps towards creating a better life for ourselves and our families.
- Get External Compliments
As funny as this point suggests, go find a friend or family member and ask them “What do you like about me?” “What are my strengths?” or “What do you love about me?” We will often value other people’s opinions more than our own. We are the best at beating ourselves up for things not done well, and we are the worst at recognizing what we’ve done well in. Hearing from another person our strengths and positive qualities helps to build a more positive image of ourselves.
- Affirmations & Introspection
Use affirmations, but in the right way. Some people think that when they’re in a slump, using positive affirmations will help them get out of it. I love affirmations, but I’ve realized you have to use them in the right way. Sitting on your couch and saying “I am highly motivated and productive” does nothing. Say something like “I am sitting here being very unproductive right now, is this the ideal me? What would be my best self?” Your affirmations have to be the TRUTH. Once you’re honest, take the first step towards doing the thing, no matter how small.
- No More Comparisons
Stop comparing yourself to other people. Low self-esteem stems from the feeling of being inferior. For example, if you were the only person in the world, do you think you could have low self-esteem? Self-esteem only comes into the picture when there are other people around us and we perceive that we are inferior. Don’t worry about what your neighbor is doing. Accept that it’ll serve you more to just go down your own path at your own pace rather than to compare yourself. Pretend you’re starting over and begin immediately with the smallest step forward.
Self-esteem comes from self-dominion. The more power you have in getting yourself to take the right actions, the more self-esteem you will have. Your level of self-esteem affects your happiness and everything you do.