“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
Aren’t you tired of it?
You know, that sneaking suspicion you aren’t enough.
That inner commentary about where you fall short all the time. The mean internal remarks about your ability to handle life and how you just don’t measure up.
And aren’t you fed up with how it’s been holding you back from pursuing what you truly desire?
A better relationship or more meaningful work. That dream you’ve never told anyone because it just seems impossible when you think about going for it.
Listen, I’ve been there too.
My self-esteem was so low that I was eventually overcome by a terrible apathy, which turned into bouts of debilitating depression, which led to even lower self-esteem.
It was a vicious cycle that started when, as a young child, I somehow disengaged from my true self and my higher power. This disconnection led to many irresponsible choices.
The worst one was getting pregnant at sixteen and giving my baby up for adoption. It was the right thing to do given my situation, but I was consumed with grief and guilt for years.
Then there were the addictions I created to cigarettes, overspending, anxiety medication, and alcohol.
For years, I unconsciously went from one self-destructive behavior to another, rather than connect with and develop myself.
As you can imagine, all this didn’t exactly build my sense of self-worth.
Thankfully, I eventually found the courage to let go of the patterns that held me back, reclaim my true self, and recognize talents I never knew I had.
Step by step, I was able to heal, rebuild my self-respect, and become who I am today—someone who never doubts that she is worthy of love, belonging, and all of life’s riches.
How I Raised My Self-Esteem and How You Can Too
1. Take a risk.
We're often afraid to show the messy, flawed, and vulnerable part of ourselves to others. But it’s a tremendous relief when you do and someone accepts you just as you are.
When I finally shared my teen pregnancy and adoption story with a friend, I was so surprised when she told me the same had happened to her, only she had decided on an abortion. In that moment, our connection deepened, and my emotional wounds healed a little bit more.
Shame vanishes when you receive support and understanding from others. We must stop trying to appear perfect by keeping our perceived flaws a secret and going it alone.
2. Don't get stuck in regret.
Accept the reality that we all make mistakes, and choose not to get stuck in regret.
Mourn your slip-ups fully, learn from them, and make amends where possible. Then forgive yourself, and let go of the past so that you can move forward, knowing you’ve done your best.
Try to view difficult circumstances as opportunities to grow in awareness rather than as blows to knock you down. Accept the things you can’t change, change the things that are under your control, and keep heading in a positive direction. Strive to go forward and deeper within as well.
3. Refocus your attention.
Rather than focusing on your flaws, pay attention to everything that’s good about you and makes you unique.
Come up with an actual list, and refer to it often to remind yourself of your strengths. This might include your natural talents, your learned skills, your achievements, your dreams, and even your healthy relationships.
Cultivate extra self-confidence by choosing one item from your list and honing it further until it turns into something you can be even more proud of.
You can actively direct your attention to creating the kind of experiences you want in life and becoming the person you want to be.
4. Strive for integrity.
Live in accord with life-affirming values such as truth and kindness. You feel proud of yourself when you seek the truth and do the right thing—the thing that gives you a sense of integrity and wholeness.
Take time to identify what matters most to you. Then measure all your choices and actions against these core values, making sure you’re in alignment.
Living this way simplifies decision-making and leads to genuine integrity.
For example, loving-kindness is currently my highest core value. It’s important to me to treat myself, other people, Earth, and all living things with love and compassion. So when I have a choice to make or face a challenge, I often ask myself, “What would love do?”
5. Develop your self-trust.
Self-esteem rises when you know you can trust yourself, when you trust your own instincts and intuition over the ideas of others, and when you’ve proven to yourself that you can face disappointment and frustration without becoming destabilized.
The more you can handle stress by self-soothing and finding strength within rather than escaping into self-destructive behaviors, the more you will trust yourself.
And the more you honor your core values when facing life’s inevitable challenges, the better your outcomes will be, leading to more self-trust.
In this way, you can build a sense of security and self-contained confidence that is not based on the approval of others.
6. Be of service.
Look around for how you can connect with and help others in your everyday life. Even a smile or a kind word can make a difference to someone else and instantly increase your sense of self-worth.
Consider volunteering for a cause you care about that needs your particular skills. One of the best things I ever did was volunteer as a head coach in my local Girls On the Run after-school program.
Empowering young girls to be joyful, healthy, and confident lifted my spirits and boosted my self-confidence. There’s no better feeling than knowing you truly helped someone.
7. Never, ever give up.
You must not allow negative thoughts to overwhelm you. Stand up for yourself no matter what. When you choose to be positive, you know you're doing your best and can feel good about yourself, despite unfavorable circumstances.
No matter what difficulties show up in your life—even if things seem hopeless—don’t ever give up on yourself. Always choose to channel your energy in a positive, productive direction.
“Most of the important things in the world,” said personal development teacher Dale Carnegie, “have been accomplished by people who have kept on trying when there seemed to be no hope at all.”
You: Necessary, Valuable, and Worthy of Reverence
The truth is, healthy self-esteem requires ongoing vigilance and upkeep. It calls for self-understanding, acceptance, and forgiveness, plus large doses of self-compassion.
It’s a tall order, but it’s worth the effort.
We’ve all made excruciating mistakes, encountered harsh criticism, and experienced crushing disappointment. We’ve all taken a hit to our self-worth at one time or another.
But you are just as entitled to good relationships, fulfilling work, and having your dreams come true as anyone else.
After all, your being born a human here on Earth was, in itself, a miraculous event. It means that your uniqueness is necessary, valuable, and worthy of reverence.
So don’t cheat us of your gifts by getting stuck in low self-esteem. We need you out here in the world.
In the words of spiritual teacher Eckhart Tolle, “You are here to enable the divine purpose of the universe to unfold. That is how important you are!”