On a daily basis, we are flooded with articles, tips, podcasts, books, etc…about how to build more self - (fill in the blank). Self-help has always been a big component in our society. And it continues to grow into a focal point as we learn more about how having healthier individuals provides a healthier, more sustainable society. Instinctively, humans want to evolve to be bigger, better, stronger, smarter, faster...you get the point. It’s in our DNA. It’s how we, and any species for that matter, continues to survive and thrive. In fact, the Japanese have a word for this, which is “kaizen”. It means to “continuously improve”. And it’s the learnings of kaizen, which I personally feel deeply connected to, that fuel me every day. If you haven’t read my post on “kaizen”, read it here.
The focus on the “self” has become so prominent for the simple fact that it makes us feel good. We’re not put on this Earth to just suffer through it, even though at times it can feel that way. We want to be and FEEL like a valued member of society. And with as many years as we’ve all placed our families, friends, and career’s at the top of the priority list, it’s now socially acceptable to just do us for awhile without being called selfish. It doesn’t take a genius to know that when you feel secure in who you are, your life improves dramatically in all areas. We’re finally beginning to realize that we need to become our #1 priority before all else. If we’re not healthy, we certainly can’t provide or help anything or anyone else in our lives. So I commend you for taking any step, whether its reading books, blogs, listening to podcasts, etc...to exploring your inner self. Because at the end of the day when everything is said and done and we’re taking our last breath on this earth, we want to be remembered as a respected and valued person. No one will remember your material wealth or possessions. But they will remember the impact you had on them. Make it a good one as you don’t get a do-over. That starts with you and it starts right now.
“But Kira, which ‘self’ do I work on first? There’s self-confidence, self-worth, self-love, self-acceptance, and self-esteem. Are they all the same, or do I work on one at a time?”
Envision yourself building a house. Laying a strong foundation is a central part to any long-lasting home. If the foundation has cracks or is poured incorrectly, nothing else in the rest of the home can be secure. When it comes to the “self”, that foundation is self-esteem. Once that’s complete, the walls of your “self” are made up of self-confidence, self-love, self-worth, self-acceptance. They’re all incredibly vital to making up a strong YOU. But we have to start at the foundation, which is self-esteem.
Time and time again, I hear from individuals that they’re working on regaining their self-esteem. They’ll tell me that they don’t have the best image of themselves and they know it’s holding them back from so many opportunities in life. There’s always a back story as to why the esteem has diminished, which any therapist LOVES to analyze at nauseam, dissecting childhood traumas and experiences. Which for a lot of men, this is the exact reason why they don’t want to see a therapist in the first place. I mean who really wants to talk about their father who didn’t love them enough? Take a number. That line goes down the block and then some.
I like to take a different approach, more along the lines of Carl Jung and his teachings. I believe it’s important to understand the past in terms for context on how it might be effecting the present. But the past is not a place I like linger in for too long. The past is just that, the past. And though, yes, it can effect our present, that is a choice we make in allowing it to continue to come into our current reality. By examining every detail of the past over and over again, all we’re doing is continuing to reinforce those past hurts, creating stronger and more powerful synapses in our brains that make it that much harder to move on from. And honestly, who the hell wants to feel that pain again?
Speaking of the present, do any of these register for you to where you say, “Ugh, yeah. That sounds like me.”?
- Focusing on or creating negative opinions about yourself
- Comparing yourself to others, in turn making yourself feel inadequate
- Feeling as though you’re a failure or that you can’t seem to do anything right
- Ignoring or not having any boundaries with how others treat you
- Feeling like a victim and that everyone seems to want to attack you
- Struggling to stay present and leave the past in the past
- Being hard on yourself or very self-critical
- Drinking/smoking/eating too much to dull the emotional pain you feel about yourself
- Never feeling like you’re getting enough from your partner
- Having a hard time seeing the positive attributes in yourself
- Feeling judged by others and allowing it to affect your own self-image
- And the very big one being: putting everyone and everything before yourself on the priority list
Maybe the question should be, who hasn’t felt some of these?! The point being, you’re not alone even though it might feel that way sometimes. Every person has had low self-esteem at some point in their lives. It comes and goes, depending upon your life situation at a given time. It’s nothing to be ashamed of. Often times, it’s the ones who look like they have the perfect life, are the ones who are struggling the most. So avoid making judgments on how “perfect and wonderful” someone else’s life appears to be. There’s lot of moving parts to all of our lives. You just need some tools in your arsenal to help you feel good about yourself again so you can progress through life with a solid, strong foundation.
Have you ever looked at yourself in the mirror and said one thing you like about yourself? It can be one of the most uncomfortable, most vulnerable thing you do. For some of us, tears swell up in our eyes as we struggle to find something to say. The realization that we struggle to find one thing we like about ourselves becomes all too real as we literally face ourselves. There are countless books written about self-esteem and ways to reach a higher level. Ultimately, it boils down to you. You can read all the materials in the world, but it comes down to pushing yourself to uncomfortable zones in order to grow and learn more about yourself through the process. The caterpillar doesn’t turn into a butterfly by staying inside the cocoon where it’s warm and safe.
“Self-esteem” is thrown around so much that it’s lost its true meaning. The definition of self-esteem is having confidence in one's own worth or abilities; self-respect. You may be wondering then how is this different than having self-confidence? It is possible to have high self-confidence and low self-esteem, unfortunately as seen with actors and actresses who can command the stage for thousands, yet damage or even kill themselves with drugs/alcohol. The word “esteem” is derived from the Latin aestimare, meaning "to appraise, value, rate, weigh, estimate,". So essentially self-esteem is how we evaluate our own worth. Even more than that, the outcome of our own self-appraisal determines how we act and feel to others and to the world at large. Self-esteem has a direct relationship with our overall well-being, which is why there are countless books and blogs on this very subject.
Do you remember learning about Abraham Maslow in school? He developed the Hierarchy of Needs. Vaguely? See below for a refresher. And if you want a bit more information on it, check out this great article that gives you a wealth of information on the Hierarchy of Needs.
You’ll see that self-esteem is one of the basic human needs in order to survive and thrive. Because of its importance in our lives, self-esteem is our foundation to our “Self” house. It’s vital to how we perceive ourselves in the world. It’s your personal opinion about yourself, which in turn reflects outwardly and affects every relationship you have.
What does a healthy level of self-esteem look like?
- You live 100% authentic to who you are, not fearing judgements from others. (Don’t try to be anyone, BUT yourself.)
- You realize the importance of all emotions and how you can express and grow from them.
- You stand on your own two feet without feeling as though you need to be a follower.
- You refuse to allow the past to affect your present.
- You see the human that you are, one with amazing qualities for the world to enjoy. You also see your faults, but do not set ideals of perfection of yourself. You learn to grow from the faults you have and do not play the victim card.
- You respect and appreciate your body inside and out.
- You avoid self-criticism and self-blaming, knowing that it only leads to destructive mental anguish.
- You avoid comparing yourself to others. You realize that you are unique and have gifts no one else has.
- You have no desire to place your own insecurities onto others because you hold yourself to a higher standard.
- You don’t seek validation from others and feel comfortable and confident in yourself.
- You respect and value those around you, knowing that no one is perfect. You will make tons of mistakes and so will others and you accept that. However, you hold yourself accountable for your actions without blaming others for them.
Sounds like a nice, peaceful existence, huh? And it’s 100% doable. People do live in peace with themselves, and I’m not talking about just Buddist monks. We all go through times in our lives when we don’t feel great about ourselves or that we’re not good enough. However, when we have a low self-esteem for a long period of time, it can have harmful effects on our mental health, leading to depression, anxiety, etc... When we have a healthy self-esteem, we feel positive about ourselves and life direction in general. And we’re mentally and emotionally better equipped to tackle the ups and downs that come about on the life roller coaster.
Ways To Help Boost Your Self-Esteem And Keep It There!
- Drinking enough water, working out, eating healthy, getting enough sleep. (I got the more annoying ones out of the way first.)
Yes, yes, I know. I roll my eyes as well when I read advice of taking care of the body. However, it’s not wrong. In fact, it’s a MAJOR part of your own mental and emotional well-being. For example, did you know that your stomach releases more serotonin than your brain?! Crazy, right? So if you have GI issues, guess what? It’s very likely that it’s affecting your mood, sex drive, emotions, all of which directly link to your self-esteem.
- Low Testosterone
Guys, when was the last time you had your levels checked? Never? Yeah, you need to go for a doctors appointment anyways as I can only guess that last time you’ve gone. And when the doctor asks you how you’ve been feeling lately, you TELL HIM the truth. Too many times the answer is always the canned response of “I’m fine”, when things might not be fine. He’s a doctor. He’s there for YOUR health. If you’re feeling a bit off, let him know and ask if they can check your testosterone levels. Low levels can absolutely cause mood swings, anger, anxiety, etc…
I realize how this word has reached cliche status. But if you take the time to truly understand what it means, it will be a gamer changer in your life. Mindfulness is about paying attention to yourself. We are way too consumed with what everyone else is doing that we don’t stop to really examine our own thoughts and behaviors. Your brain doesn’t work independently from you. It’s a computer and you give it the programs to run. If you say, “Well I’m not good at this” or “Life sucks because…”, the brain will not stop you from going down the negative rabbit hole. It’ll just do it whatever you tell it to do. One negative thought attaches itself to another negative thought, and so on. And before you even know what’s going on, life is miserable! Your thoughts are so incredibly powerful that they create your reality. Pay attention to the thoughts you CHOOSE to have. The minute a negative thought comes into your brain, say “No!” and change it immediately to something positive. This takes being MINDFUL of what you think and say all the time. This will change your life when you master it.
I know this is tough one but here me out. If you have a friend, relative or significant other who says, “I’m concerned about you”. Listen to them. They are able to see what you can not. We have the unique ability to trick ourselves even though we think we’re in charge and all knowing. Please allow others in when they share their concerns about you. Avoid putting up the walls and deflecting it back on them. The minute you do that, that should signal to you that it’s the ego talking. No one is out to get you so stop with that “need to protect the ego” bullshit. People deeply care about your well-being and want nothing but the best for you. If they’re concerned, listen and take their advice/help. Trust me on this.
What is the one thing all 4 of these tips have in common? YOU. The most concerning thing for me when it comes to relationships is when a man puts everything above himself. We live in a society where it’s socially acceptable and almost expected that the man places his career, money, relationships, family all at the top of the priority list. And he puts himself towards the bottom of that list or possibly not even on it. That is a huge red flag as he’s giving too much of himself to everything else and expecting it to come back to him from others. And when it doesn’t, he feels devalued and unloved. I’m here to tell you that’s 100% on YOU because you did not put yourself first on the priority list. You’re expecting to get all the energy you gave out to come back to you and then you get disappointed when it doesn’t. I challenge you to think differently and to expect more out of yourself. It’s your job to take care of YOU. If you feel you’re lacking something in life or from a partner, look at yourself first! That’s your job, not theirs.
Ladies, how do you love a man with low self-esteem? This can be the ultimate test of a relationship, especially if his ego is on guard and overactive. Check out this article on things to keep in mind. One important note that Paul makes a point to make is that it is possible for you to get through it with your partner. However, know when to say “WHEN”. Some men may not be ready to look in the mirror and will continue to push you away no matter how much you try to help them. Know when it’s time to walk away for your own mental health.