My grandfather once told me “the most beautiful woman in the room is the tallest woman in the room and it has nothing to do with her height”
That was great news to me because at five feet tall it wasn’t looking like I was going to be very beautiful. It took me twenty years to figure out what he meant and another ten years to believe it. Like most women, my self-esteem relied pretty heavily on the value I placed on myself by way of my physical appearance. My outward confidence was a stark contrast to the internal dialogue I was having with myself. My torso was too short, my legs weren’t long enough, my hair wasn’t thick enough and a thigh gap? I hadn’t seen one of those since I was eight. I measured my worth based on how physically attractive I was to other people and it gave me very superficial and even more temporary feelings of self-worth.
To correct this I had to discover some things about what shaped the definition of my self esteem and more importantly how I could get some.
By definition alone self esteem is confidence in one’s own worth or abilities; self-respect.
Read that definition again. Confidence in oneself. It doesn’t say anything about a number on the scale, how contoured your cheeks are or how flat your stomach is. Nothing about the definition of self esteem has to do with appearance yet we wrap all of our worth up into how we are perceived by others.
So how are we supposed to gain confidence in our own abilities or worth? By what standard are we measuring success and where would you even begin?
Here are some tips to get you started.
I knew I would have to get honest with myself and the only way to do that was to take inventory of all the things I knew I was good at or capable of and all the areas I felt I fell short. I sat with a piece of paper and in traditional good vs bad fashion I drew a line down the center and began listing all of my faults and flaws and for every negative thing I listed I wrote down two positives that directly related to the bad quality, ensuring that the good would always outweigh the bad. For example, in the bad category I wrote “procrastinates too much”; in the good category I wrote “completes tasks generally without error” and “never misses a deadline“.
By admitting that I do in fact procrastinate I was acknowledging a shortcoming. By adding that I complete tasks on time and without error (for the most part) I was giving myself credit and value for the things I was able to do despite being a life long procrastinator.
I also knew that I would have to set goals I could accomplish or strive for. What happens when we set a goal and we accomplish that goal is that it increases our belief that we a capable. But the goals have to be within reason. To say “I’m going to lose 20 lbs by next month” is a lofty goal. That’s not to say its impossible, certainly not probable and definitely not healthy. A more reasonable goal to set is “I’m going to eat healthy and increase my exercise for the next month”
Setting realistic goals allows you a sense of accomplishment and being able to accomplish your goals leads to positive reinforcement and the feedback our brains remember, the reward we get is getting us closer to our goal and it changes the way we speak to ourselves. Our internal dialogue switches from “I can’t believe I didn’t lose the 20 lbs, I’m such a loser, I’m just going to eat whatever I want anyway” to “yes progress!!, down 5 lbs only 15 more to go and I feel great!” Thus inspiring you to keep going, setting new goals as you progress and every time we achieve our goals no matter how small, we gain confidence.
We all get caught up in it. It is impossible to escape the barrage of beautiful images that flood our social media accounts. If those images are taken at face value, which is a very dangerous practice, we ignore the fact that those images are controlled by people who want to appear as though they are living their best lives. If we’re constantly comparing our lives to the lives of media personalities or celebrities we inadvertently devalue our own. I mean who can compete with sailing around on a yacht off the coast of France, sipping on five hundred dollar bottles of champagne while listening to your number one music hit on surround sound with twenty of your closest friends, having your every whim catered too?
Our self-esteem suffers when we make unparalleled comparisons. We forget that those images are often heavily photo-shopped and staged. We project our assumptions of what celebrity life must be like forgetting that before they were celebrities, they were mere humans like the rest of us. They have bad days. They have heart-break. They have failures. Hell, they even have cellulite and stretch marks.
We have to learn to accept that our own individual value has nothing to do with how we compare to others and everything to do with the confidence and value we place in ourselves. Our greatest gift is that we are capable of evolution and adaptation. When we stop measuring ourselves against others we learn to assign value to our own abilities.
You will never gain confidence, self-esteem or superiority by criticizing others. It is by far, the ugliest trait and the easiest to correct. How many times have you thought or said aloud “she has no business wearing that!” or “there are some women who just shouldn’t wear yoga pants” or any other variation of those types of comments?
I’ve been guilty of this too. I’ve thought things and said things in my past that I would not repeat at this stage in my life because I now realize that pointing out flaws in someone else only highlights the flaws within me. Negative commentary towards another human being says more about your own character than it ever will about the subject of your comments. As women we should be focused on building each other up. Treating one another with respect, pitching in to alleviate the societal pressures we face and standing as one uniformed force for equality.
The tools to increasing your confidence and self esteem are within you. Start small, measure your success in increments, take stock of your mistakes and learn from them. These small steps will help you achieve balance, increased self-esteem and the confidence to move empowered into your future without bringing the itinerary from your past.