“Everything that happens to you is a reflection of what you believe about yourself. We cannot outperform our level of self-esteem. We cannot draw to ourselves more than we think we are worth.” ~Iyanla Vanzant
You’re smart, funny, and genuinely good at heart.
You have ideas that could solve many of the problems you see around you. You could regale people with interesting stories that crack them up. You could be the perfect partner, parent, or friend.
But you don’t always live up to that potential.
Something holds you back.
Something tells you that your ideas are not worth announcing in public. Something keeps you from sharing your interesting stories. Something stops you from giving all you’ve got and taking all you need from your closest relationships.
Even though you know that you can be so much more, deep down you have a nagging feeling that you are not worthy of greatness, accolade, pure joy, and happiness.
Low self-esteem is keeping you from living your life to the fullest.
Who Suffers More from Low Self Esteem—a Shy Person or a Gregarious One?
I’ve always been gregarious, outspoken, and very extroverted. My husband, on the other hand, is very quiet and introverted.
When I met him, I used to think he was shy and maybe lacked the confidence to speak up, like I did. Fifteen years of being together has shown me how very wrong I was.
While I have always bounced back and forth between lack of confidence and overconfidence, my husband has been very even keeled, almost unnaturally so. He doesn’t get fazed by what people say. His decisions are not dependent on what others think. He has such a deep-seated sense of self-worth that nothing seems to affect him.
Slowly, I’ve come to realize that self-esteem has nothing to do with being gregarious/extroverted or shy/introverted. It comes from a place much deeper, from within yourself.
As a consequence, there are no quick fix solutions or magic pills that can improve self-esteem overnight.
On the other hand, if you consciously commit to conduct yourself right, no matter what the situation is, you can permanently increase your sense of self-worth.
I’ve been putting this theory to test over the past couple of years and have started noticing a much more deep-seated sense of calm within, from which a strong sense of self-worth has emerged.
Here is a list of six simple commitments that have made the biggest difference to me:
1. Stop pretending in an attempt to please other people.
Have you heard the quote “You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all of the time”? Knowing that someday you will be “found out” is what kills the self-esteem.
Hard as it is and vulnerable as you will feel, let go of your pretenses. Just be your authentic self. At first, the fear is crippling, but if you manage to get past the initial fear and take the plunge, it's so liberating. And that freedom to be who you are, without excuses or pretenses, paves the way for a much healthier self-esteem.
2. Learn to say no. Say what you mean and mean what you say.
Often we say yes because of the fear of authority, the fear of hurting someone’s feelings, or worries that we will let someone down. But every time you say a yes that you don’t mean, you’ll end up doing a half-hearted job. And then you are unhappy that you said what you didn’t want to say, and you are unhappy that you did such a lousy job of what you said you would do.
Break out of that habit. Instead, just say what you mean and mean what you say. You don’t have to be rude about it; just be firm and decisive. Developing the ability to speak your mind in a kind but firm manner, and to really deliver on your promises, will go a long way in building lasting self-esteem.
3. Grant yourself the permission to make mistakes, and see them as opportunities for growth.
You can beat yourself up over a failure, or you can give yourself the permission to make mistakes and vow to learn from them. Let’s face it, whichever route you take, you will still make some mistakes in your life. One approach chips away at your self-esteem; the other helps you become a better person. Which sounds like a better choice to you?
4. Take responsibility for your actions.
Again, at some point or the other in your life, intentionally or accidentally, you will let others down. When that happens, quit making excuses and accept them as a consequence of your choices. Quit the regret and focus on repair.
Always be prepared to say “I’m sorry” followed by “How can I fix it?” and make sure you put in genuine effort to fix things in a way that is acceptable to everyone involved. It takes a lot of effort, but a healthy self-esteem is rooted in knowing that you always do the right thing.
5. Help others.
No amount of fortune, fame, success, beauty, intelligence, or strength can give you the same sense of personal gratification or a sense of purpose as a genuine “thank you” from someone you help.
When you stop being so wrapped up in your own worries, sorrows, and melodrama and start being a part of the bigger picture, with a role to play in this universe, your sense of self-worth and self-esteem gets a whole new definition. Give freely. Help whenever you can. You will get more than what you thought you ever needed.
6. Immerse yourself in whatever you decide to do. Quit worrying about your choices.
Either do something or don’t. Stop second-guessing your choices.
For instance, if you want to make some tea, first learn how to make tea. Next gather all the ingredients you need. And then make tea.
Don’t worry about whether it will come out right. Don’t worry if anyone will like it. Don’t worry about whether you are worthy of making tea. Don’t worry about coffee drinkers. Don’t worry if you will ever get to make tea again. Don’t worry about what you will do after you make tea. Just. make. tea. And when you are done, move on.
Constantly worrying about your choice as you make the tea will not do any good to you, the tea, or anyone else around you. Immerse yourself in what you do.
Your self-esteem is a measure of how worthy you think you are. Don’t look outward for affirmations. Set your own expectations of who you should be and then do all you can to live up to those expectations. You have it in you to be the person you can be proud of.
Commit to it and go become that person!