Steps to Build Self-Esteem and Become More Confident
If you are struggling with your self-worth and want to build self-esteem to become more confident through these four manageable steps: stop comparing, replace your negative thoughts, celebrate wins, and self-care. Read on!
One aspect of my new business, The Status Foe, is to be as authentic and transparent as possible, instead of hiding behind the unrealistic perfection of my last company. I received a message this morning from a friend saying I misspelled a word on one of my posts, Tips on How to Avoid Distractions (to create the life you want). She kindly pointed out, “ball your eyes out” instead of the correct spelling of “bawl your eyes out.” I so appreciated my friend’s kind gesture, but the self-limiting beliefs came rushing out like a fresh open can of sparkling water you just dropped on the floor – Ugh, I can’t spell anything. English is not my first language; oh wait, yes, it is. Grammar has never been my strong suit. How the hell can I write an entire book if I can barely spell the correct version of bawling?
The thoughts just came in creating anxiety and making my desire to write anything about the same as my desire to work on my taxes every year – zip, zero, zilch. I started thinking about self-esteem and how much that affects our day to day. Self-esteem determines how you feel about yourself or whatever you think you are worth. And guess what? It’s never consistent. It ebbs and flows from day to day influenced by the world around you – your hormones, events, challenges, the media you consume, and the people you surround yourself with, etc. The great thing is self-esteem comes from within; therefore, with practice and effort, you can learn tools on how to improve your self-confidence and not let outside factors control it. There are many things we can’t control in our lives, and there is a lot we can, and this is something we can control – how we feel about ourselves.
Let’s start with a simple exercise to see where your self-esteem lies with a simple gut check. I want you to ask yourself:
How much do you trust yourself—on a scale of 1-10—to accomplish any goal you set?
Your gut reaction to this question is a simple indicator of your self-confidence. Other indications that you lack confidence include:
- You worry about looking dumb in front of other people.
- You let other people, rather than your heart, dictate what you should do in a given situation.
- You hate going outside your comfort zone and avoid taking risks.
- You compare yourself to others and wonder why you can’t have what they have.
- You judge other people for the way they look or act or for what they have or don’t have.
- When things go wrong, you make excuses or blame other people.
If your initial number was on the lower side or you are saying “yup, that’s me” to the bullet points above, take heart: you can improve your self-confidence. Two years ago, I would have ranked myself a 3-5/10, and I struggled with a lot of the things on that list. Today, I’m a 7-8/10, and my numbers are getting better every day. However, as you read at the beginning of this article, I can go back down to a 2-3 on some days. The difference is, I now have tools in my pocket that help me become aware and overcome those feelings to move forward instead of “bawling my eyes out with a tub of ice cream and Sex and the City on rerun.” It took putting the time and effort into improving how I felt about myself – sounds easy enough? Well, it wasn’t easy, but it sure was worth it. Today, I’m going to show you exactly how you can build self-esteem and become more confident in four manageable steps.
Step 1: Stop Comparing Yourself to Others
To stop comparing yourself isn’t a new concept. However, it’s so essential for your mental health. There will always be someone in the world who is smarter than you or prettier than you or who has more money than you do. What we are all comparing to, in the end, it just an illusion that doesn’t exist.
The other day we went on a hike with a fabulous family whom we adore. The next day, their social profiles were filled with smiles, laughter, and joyful photos of a loving, perfect sunny day. Tons of likes and comments overloaded their feed like “Omg, you guys have the best life!” “Livin’ the dream” and “Your family is so happy.” Although these comments are partially correct, what the post didn’t talk about was the hike was a bit of a nightmare for the family. One kid was crying the whole way, and another kid ran off the trail to find a beautiful little bush of poison ivy waiting patiently for him. The screaming and crying left the exacerbated parents no choice but to cut the hike short and change the plans to go out for dinner that night. Even though Kris and I were incredibly compassionate and flexible, I know the parents felt terrible, looked miserable, and were exhausted. But you know it’s #yolo, #livingyourbestlife, and #funwiththekids.
My beautiful friends are just going through a phase of young kids and a constant test of their patience, but I wanted to use this as an example of why the hell do we do this? Why do we sell perfection over reality? We’re all human beings walking around this earth, acting like we have it figured it out when, in fact, we don’t have it figured out.
Because of this, comparing yourself to the people around you is a losing game. We only see a teeny tiny fraction of what goes on in someone’s life, even when we think we know someone. My mom used to say, “you can see faces, but you can’t see hearts.” So, the first step is to become aware of your thoughts when they start to compare to other’s lives, and the question is this productive? Those thoughts aren’t going to help you in any way, just make you more miserable. Read on to what to do next.
Step 2: Replace Your Negative Thoughts
Negative thoughts go hand-in-hand with comparing yourself to others. Often, a comparison—such as “I wish I were as pretty as she is”–is accompanied by negative thoughts about yourself, such as “I’m so fat” or “I have ugly stretch marks on my tummy.” These negative thoughts serve to undermine your self-confidence and get in the way of working towards your goals. To stop the cycle, you have to consciously pause when you hear yourself having a negative thought and replace it with a positive one instead. Here are three examples to get you started.
- Instead of thinking, “I’m so broke,” make yourself think, “I’m taking positive steps to improve my financial situation.”
- Instead of thinking, “My house isn’t as nice as I’d like it to be,” think “I worked hard for this home, and I’m keeping it as nice as I can right now.”
- Instead of thinking, “I’m not smart enough to do this,” think, “I can choose to study and learn about this if I want to.”
According to Sonia Lyubomirsky, a University of California researcher, “unhappy people spend hours comparing themselves to other people, both above and below themselves on the happiness scale; happy people didn’t compare themselves with anyone. Even if depression runs in your family, you have the capability of improving the way your brain functions, setting up neuronal roadblocks, and diminishing the neuronal patterns linked to negative thinking. You may not be able to eradicate a genetic disposition towards depression, but you can greatly reduce its impact and its reoccurrence.”
You can train your brain to step away from those toxic thoughts and replace them with positive thoughts, which will significantly improve your self-esteem. It takes time and awareness, but every time you do it, it’s one step closer than you were before.
Step 3: Celebrate Wins
Now that you understand you can truly rewire your brain, I want to give you a few tips on how to become more aware of your thoughts. First of all, our brains are wired to focus on the negative; in phycology, this is called negative bias. If you would like to read more, this is an excellent article.
In a nutshell, our impulse to pay attention to the bad versus the good comes is a result of evolution. In early human history, paying attention to the dangerous, harmful threats in the world was a result of life or death. If you were a cavewoman who focused more on the threats to you and your family, you were likely able to fight or run from them to survive. This was a survival tactic to keep us safe. So, we’re all doomed to be negative nancies moping around in fight or flight for the rest of our lives? Ha, see what your brain just did there – it went right to the negative. There is hope, my friend, a hope as strong at the Jedi in defeating the empire.
Since it takes more effort to focus on the positive, you are going to have to put more effort if you want to truly see and feel a change in your life. Like I always say, this isn’t going to be easy, but it will be worth it. When something good or great happens, really focus on it. Have gratitude for it, relish in how you felt, and think about how your body felt and even the environment while you were at this moment. Replay that moment several times in your mind, look back at old photos of it, or, more importantly, write it down detail for detail so you can go back and read it.
Taking time to acknowledge your positive moments and to celebrate them solidifies them in your head. Then, later, when you’re feeling low, you can drawback on those successes as proof that you’re able to achieve what you put your mind towards achieving.
Step 4: Take Care of Yourself
Self-care is such an overused term right now that I believe it is losing its original luster, so hear me out if you are starting to glaze over this section. It has turned from very well-intentioned to take care of yo-self to take a bath bomb and eat a pound of organic chocolate, and your problems will disappear. To me, self-care isn’t all about pedicures or bubble baths, but it is about creating a life you don’t need to regularly escape from. It’s a lifestyle change you make every day, not just once a week or when you are about to collapse.
I believe taking care of yourself by practicing good hygiene, eating ice cream for dinner (once in a while), and wearing clean clothes that fit goes a long way towards making you feel good about yourself. But self-care so much more than that – it’s about loving and knowing yourself so well you know what is right and wrong for you. This is VERY different for every person. It can be learning to say no to the things that may have been a part of your past, but it doesn’t serve you anymore. It’s learning a new skill or reading a book, so you see the world a bit differently. It’s also going to bed early instead of scrolling through your phone until midnight (Guilty! I used to do this) to get enough sleep. It’s about retreating from the culture of “go-go-go” to press the reset button when you need it. Again every person is different, and it’s up to you to determine what your needs are.
Check out one of my favorite blogs on more actionable self-care tips. I like how Catherine breaks it down into five different self-care areas.
Improving self-confidence takes work, but it’s something that anyone can do. Putting these four steps into practice will help you build self-esteem and become more confident and, ultimately, help boost your self-worth so you can begin living instead of surviving.
Which one of these steps spoke to you the most, and why?
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