Many of us recognise the value of improving our feelings of self-worth. When our self-esteem is higher, we not only feel better about ourselves, we are more resilient as well.
Brain scan studies demonstrate that when our self-esteem is higher, we are likely to experience emotional wounds such as rejection and failure less painfully and bounce back from them quicker.
As superpowers go, self-esteem (a positive opinion of oneself) is the power that gives us courage but also the grit to keep going when the entire world feels a little uncertain.
People with high self-esteem have these advantages and more, so how can we nurture this elusive power?
The foundations of self-esteem are developed in early childhood, from our experiences with our parental figures. However, this doesn’t mean that you can’t cultivate it as an adult. We have to nurture this power, as we would care for a plant by exposing it to the elements, watering and fertilising it. It is important we show the world our most authentic self and not follow the pack and try to be like everyone else.
As we grow older we need to challenge ourselves beyond our comfort zone to a space where we can prove our worth, not to others, but to ourselves. Self esteem isn’t earned, it is created. We can change it because our self esteem is made by our thoughts, thoughts that over time we have accepted, good and bad, we live with them. So, now is the time we accept new thoughts about ourselves, positive thoughts, thoughts that can bring back our super power.
I am not just talking about affirmations as those alone don’t work. We can’t just say “I am so amazing, super smart and successful” (even though we are) over and over and have a shiny new self image. Why not? Because, if you are feeling bad about yourself, your brain is just going to disregard it. The key here is to focus on the strengths and abilities that we know we have and we need reminding of.
On top of this we need to treat ourselves with kindness and respect. Healthy relationships are built on trust and respect and people talking kindly to us, not on being negative and disrespectful. So we need to spin this round and treat ourselves with the same amount of kindness and respect to cultivate a healthy relationship with ourselves. If we were to sit around saying we are going to do something and then not do it, continually breaking promises to ourselves, how is this going to affect our opinion of ourselves? Saying “It’s ok no one is watching” but our brain is watching and we should remind ourselves of that.
Thinking with intention, being responsible and compassionate to ourselves is the key. It may be impossible to turn off negative thoughts completely but we can choose not to listen to them. Each time these thoughts rise, just take a minute, breathe it all in and love it all out.
Start to question the validity of what we are saying to ourselves and keep an inventory of our positive attributes. It would be unrealistic to be all things positive all the time because perfectionism really is the enemy of high self-esteem.
Self-compassion and self-acceptance are far more helpful. So, don’t be hung up on targets and success all the time, we have very little control over the outcome and it can be exhausting if things turn out differently. However, we can control our intention and how we move through our daily experiences.
It is important we remind ourselves that we have been through difficult times before but we kept showing up! Sometimes we might lose our cool, or, sometimes we might even procrastinate? So an important step here is to take a deep breath and move forward in a positive way and remind ourselves that “I am ok with all that is happening right now”. Then we may even start to feel pretty good about ourselves.
One way to nurture self-esteem is to pull back on time spent scrolling through social media. Even those who are very resilient will be affected by the tsunami of filtered images. Social judgement has always been around, even pre social media. We may have encountered these situations at a social reunion where a story resurfaces from the past but now these judgements can go viral in minutes. Social media may have its pros but it definitely has its cons. It can feel impossible to switch off and really we don't need to feel more anxious.
So, maybe it is time to consider who you follow on social media? Make space for time where you just put your phone down and find something positive to do instead.
As we age we deal with the acceptance of how our bodies change. This can be a difficult time to navigate but again, try looking at what your body has managed for you all these years? I am sure there is plenty to be grateful for. Ageing is a privilege not everyone gets, so try to be joyous about getting older and share all the wisdom that comes with it.
Doing something for someone else and finding time to listen will make us feel like nicer people. The inner glow of self-confidence will do more for the way we are perceived than any highlights or extensions. We all place so much emphasis on our good and bad hair days but in this brutal world the most important thing is kindness. Above all to ourselves.
Remember you always had the power, you just need to remember how to use it.