By Miranda Murray
Self-esteem seems to be a fluid concept depending on who you ask. Some people think self-esteem depends on the validation of friends, family and strangers. Other people think self-esteem is something you can earn by working hard, training hard, being the best parent in the world or actually conceiving a baby in the first place. In fact, self-esteem is simply the idea that you appreciate yourself for who you are – flaws and all!
Through my experience coaching and training women to improve their lives and thrive through challenges, I have compiled six secret ingredients for building self-esteem and holding onto it forever:
1 // No more comparing our lives to everyone else’s
Everyone has a different idea of success and different ways to measure it. In today’s day and age, so many of us seem to be the masters of playing the comparison game. With technology at our fingertips, it’s very easy to compare ourselves with the lives and successes of other people.
Because there is no ‘rule book’ for life, you shouldn’t be concerned with what other people are doing with their lives in regards to how it compares to your own. Nobody else has walked in your shoes or knows better than you do what is best for you and your current situation. Being the best you is the ultimate measurement in life, not someone else’s goals and achievements. As long as you are living authentically, who cares whether it matches up to anyone else’s idea of how life should be!
2 // Take baby steps, learn to crawl before you walk
You might not be able to jump from the idea of “I am unworthy” to “I am a rockstar” overnight. Instead, try starting with baby steps. You might decide that you can adopt a more neutral idea, such as, “today, I am OK” or a small positive reframe such as “today, I am one step closer to my goals than I was yesterday”. The aim here is to not stay immobile or stuck in a place of negative self talk, but instead, make gradual and steady progress towards building your self esteem up over time.
I encourage my clients to be mindful of the words they say to themselves in their quiet moments when no one else is around. Practice speaking to yourself as if you were speaking about a friend. If you find yourself shying away from the language that you are using because it would be too mean to use on a friend, then it’s a clear indication that you need to curb that language and be kinder to yourself. And remember – it’s a work in progress, over time the negative self talk will be gone and feeling good about yourself will come more naturally.
3 // Set aside perfection
Many of us hold back our ideas or become paralysed with anxiety at the thought that we haven’t made it ‘perfect’ yet; when, in fact, perfection is the biggest myth in the Universe. There is no universal standard of perfection, which means that the idea that something is perfect varies person-to-person, based on their own perceptions.
I always encourage and challenge the perfection-obsessed women I work with to produce ‘average’ work. Rather than striving for perfection and hesitating to put themselves out there, I encourage women to act bravely instead. If you can produce something average into the world, it can be improved upon in the second draft but at least you can be proud that you’re in the game and not watching from the cheap seats wondering “what if?”. The more you do this, the easier it will become and the more you will learn to trust your own abilities.
4 // Fill your social media newsfeeds with positive, inspiring images
Instead of filling our brains with ‘perfect’ looking women living their ‘perfect’ lives, fill your newsfeed with positive images and inspiration. Find the things that bring you joy to look at, whether that’s beautiful travel destinations, messaging from your favourite personal development speakers and coaches, music downloads that make your heart sing, a gorgeous florist or simply some funny cat videos that make you chuckle. Stop torturing yourself with the vision of someone else’s happiness and create your own that aligns with your values and makes you feel good. If the temptation to scroll is too strong and you find yourself deflated and down on yourself, cut down the time you spend on social media and focus your attention on something else that brings you joy. Go for a walk in the sunshine sans phone. Trust me the world won’t stop revolving but the upside is that your spirits will be lifted.
5 // Start your day with the “I Am” exercise
This is a coaching tool that I bring into my sessions with my clients and one I learnt from my own coach years ago that really resonated with me.
Write “I am…” in the centre of a blank piece of paper and then anywhere around that on the page write down all the things that you are. For example, it could be ‘a good listener”, ‘generous with my friends’, ‘grateful to have a roof over my head’… etc. There are no limits to what you can write, it’s really an exercise in creating positive affirmations, using your imagination and creating awareness. These affirmations become documented on the written page for you to refer back to, positive things that you might normally take for granted about yourself. Read these back to yourself every day to start your morning on the right foot. You can come back to your page and add statements to it as you think of them and if you’re anything like me, let your creativity run free and add some drawings. The beauty of this exercise is that there is no right or wrong, it’s uniquely yours.
6 // Chat with an expert
Sometimes we are in a phase of life that makes sense to seek out extra support. It is such a relief to chat with someone who has been there before or someone who is skilled in empathising with what you are going through, and can even offer some strategies to move forward. If you are struggling with self-esteem, speak your thoughts and fears out loud to someone who will listen without judgment, provide you a safe space to discuss your concerns and help you make a plan that is tailored specifically for you. It’s time to minimise your limited self-beliefs to build your happiness to a place where you step back into life with more confidence and self acceptance. Never be ashamed to ask for help.
Miranda has personally undergone 10 unsuccessful IVF treatments, resulting in a life-changing divorce and complete re-evaluation of her purpose in the world. Learn more at mirandamurray.com.