While researching ways to increase confidence and self-esteem I ran across a few different articles that at first really blew me away. They suggested ways to increase self-esteem that seemed really ultimately counterproductive if done individually for people who really need an overhaul in this area. I’ll give some background here before jumping into everything.
Being raised in a dysfunctional family heavily affected by alcoholism, I didn’t have much of a shot to initially develop self-esteem. Quite the opposite really- I tried to survive and face many negative statements constantly being thrown at me. Consequently I developed a very low sense of self-esteem and once I reached near adulthood I decided I had to change that. I feel really passionate about this issue because the quality of life is directly impacted by the level of my self-esteem.
Back to the articles which I’m assuming were written for people who perhaps struggle with only a slight bump in the road when it comes to building self-esteem. These articles talked basically about very surface ways to increase self-esteem and perhaps very Western ways. They focused on targeting young women and gave examples to improve such as ‘drinking coffee because caffeine has been linked to increasing confidence’ or ‘flirting to increase laughter and smiles’, etc. Almost all of the examples given in these articles focused on developing confidence and esteem through acts that were outside of oneself.
I know here in the West we are highly focused on achieving and how we look and action, action, action. While that can be valuable I argue that true and sustainable self-esteem is not developed by wearing awesome smelling perfume or temporarily increasing endorphins through flirting. Rather true self-esteem comes from being built within and having a loving relationship with ourselves.
First, I will say that I know studies have probably shown positive correlations between some of these actions mentioned in the articles to which I have been referring. I’m not knocking that or saying those aren’t true. I am however arguing that those may only increase self-esteem temporarily and are not the most effective method for those who need to build it sustainably.
So then, what does developing a high self-esteem from the inside out really look like? I mentioned developing a loving relationship with oneself but how the heck do we do that? Sounds nice and fluffy in theory, right?
My own experience plus research and the experience of countless people I know show that high self-esteem is developed over time by treating oneself kindly in thought and deed. This can range from saying positive affirmations about oneself to taking care of hygiene on a regular basis to developing hobbies. There are so many ways to work on this but it’s best to be as well-rounded as possible and take care of oneself physically, emotionally, mentally/intellectually and spiritually.
Personally, I first started my healing process by working on my emotional and spiritual states and the physical and intellectual states came later. Some people are the opposite and no one has to master anything right away or all at one time. In fact, it’s a growing process so mastery is unlikely to occur. Progress will occur though and instead of getting an instant buzz from flirting we will start feeling good about ourselves for who we truly are.
Here are some ways to build self-esteem from the inside out:
- Make a list of your strengths- we all have both these and weaknesses. While we probably have dwelled too much on weaknesses, it’s time to pay attention to the assets as well.
- Say a couple daily affirmations like “I am valuable” and “I deserve to be happy” even if you are faking it until you make it. It probably will feel weird at first but the feeling will pass.
- Take a look at your spiritual beliefs- if you believe in a Higher Power, develop the relationship by making it a goal to say an extra prayer each day. If you are agnostic perhaps seek different solutions- investigate and research. If you are atheist, try to get in touch with the truth within yourself (not just in your head but also in your heart).
- Set your alarm clock early for the week and go for a quick jog or do some strengthening exercises. You are worth it and you can do it!
- Watch the news before work or read some articles online. Think about your own beliefs about what you read and what opposing beliefs exist and why.
- Hang out with some people who inspire you- if you don’t know any, look for some new people somewhere.
Thoughts to keep in mind include this not being a process of instant gratification. Sustainability takes time, practice and perseverance. Also- you won’t be perfect and that’s okay. Give yourself a break and some room to grow. Most importantly, don’t give up. Time takes time.
All-in-all, if you need to do some serious self-esteem work from the inside out, practice some of these things. They will build you up more than a cup of coffee with a cute date (because once that’s over, you’re left with yourself).