A negative self-image is a major happiness hurdle.
It is almost impossible to lose yourself in the throes of joy when your inner critic serves as a steady reminder of how you aren’t enough and don’t deserve the life you crave.
A damaging flood of continuous thought can overwhelm you and convince you that your mind speaks only the truth.
Just because you think it, doesn’t make it true.
Even folks with healthy levels of self-esteem and self-worth struggle with navigating through the difficult days.
It is hard out there and you are regularly bombarded with real-life examples that force you to question yourself:
You produced a less than stellar performance at work.
You did something to someone that you are not proud of and you are pretty certain that if your mother found out, she would be disappointed.
You took 20 huge steps towards becoming slow to anger, annoy, and irritate then it takes less than five seconds for the cashier at Target to tick you off.
In an instant, you seemed to have forgotten the lessons revealed during the meditation practice, the podcast, the book, or the therapy session you had earlier that day.
As long as you live, things will happen and you will be tested (it kinda keeps things interesting).
However, there are things that we can do to reduce the negative feelings associated with our unfavorable actions as well as minimize the recovery time between incidents.
The reality is that nothing is accomplished when you are constantly beating yourself up with self-esteem reducing insults on instant replay. It makes you feel horrible, the situation doesn’t improve, it stunts your growth and it creates a barrier to healing and moving on.
There are so many factors that impact how we feel about ourselves (self-esteem) and what we believe that we deserve (self-worth).
Your self-worth keeps your self-esteem in check. You must believe you are worthy and deserving. When you finally accept this you will learn to quickly abandon your darkest thoughts and protect the precious real estate between your ears from a bunch of ridiculousness.
If you believe that you are worthy you will carefully curate your thoughts, your affirmations, your environment, your standards, and your expectations of others.
If you believe that you are worthy you will show yourself grace and forgiveness when you inevitably screw up. You will spend less time fixated on the thing you did and more energy on creating a strategy for preventing repeat offenses.
A person who believes they are worthy knows that at any time they can choose to be better than their last transgression. They also believe that their contribution to this world is so important that it is socially irresponsible to live a life doing anything less than reaching for the highest version of themselves.
So why do we waste so much time being unreasonably cruel to ourselves?
- Copouts are comfortable. “Doing nothing” is easy and you know exactly what the outcome will be: pretty much nothing. There are no surprises. It is easier to believe that you can’t do something than to own the fact that you have the power to eliminate the things that bring your happiness and progress to a halt. Making excuses keeps you safely doing the same old thing all the time with zero risk of the unexpected outcomes that result from “trying.” If you keep telling yourself that you can’t do something, you remove all expectations and accountability.
- You think fear prevents failing. Look, no one wants to pour their heart and soul into a passion project and then fall flat on their face. Also, there are no guarantees that you won’t stumble and tumble a few times. This fear is easily squelched with a mindset shift. Adopt the belief that no experience is wasted and that every single action gets you closer to where you are supposed to be.
- Success sounds scary. This is especially true if you were raised to believe that success was only for “other people.” Maybe you were constantly inundated with ideas that suggested that you come from a family or place that only produces the “unlucky.” First of all, don’t blame them. People give you what they know and believe to be true and most of the time they believe they are gifting you with something that will make your life more bearable. Secondly, it is important to remember that people tend to project their own fears and insecurities. What happens when you push up against the advice given to you by someone you love and admire? What if by doing that you achieve a level of success that single-handedly proves that everything you were taught to believe is just flat wrong? Honestly, it feels a little uneasy and slightly disrespectful. BUT…What if you break a generational cycle of disbelief? What if you inspire others to believe that they are the type of person that can obtain the things they want with a little finesse and elbow grease? What if by simply taking the first step you become a model and an inspiration for your friends, your family, or your community; thereby, changing the trajectory of their lives?
- You can’t say “no” to a good pity party. So, maybe this all started when you first fell off your bike. Someone ran over to you with concern in their eyes, scooped you up, wiped your tears, kissed your boo-boo, and then offered to buy you some ice cream. Maybe you learned in that moment that certain behaviors caused others to give you attention and affection. You are human so you are pretty much wired to crave connection. But, you have to be careful that you aren’t trying to manipulate people or situations to get what you want. The difference really lies in your intentions. The ability to openly and honestly communicate your feelings and your needs is a strength. Avoid acting negatively or responding poorly to situations because you need someone to rescue you or feel sorry for you. If you need support, say so and your true friends will be happy to comply. Adopting a healthy self-esteem, while doesn’t make you immune to feeling insecure, helps you to understand that you are worthy of genuine love, attention, affection, and support and you do not have to put on a dramatic display to get it.
- You know deep down that you could be doing better. Sometimes we feel bad about ourselves, our situation, and our work because we know we aren’t giving it our all. While it is never a good idea to tie your self-esteem and self-worth to other people, they can often offer insight into an area of your life that might require some serious improvement. Being called out on your stuff, is brutal. Especially if someone identifies a deep-seated insecurity that you are hiding and that you spend most of your days hoping it will remain unnoticed. Pay close attention when your response to a “call-out” is immediate anger and frustration. Fear combined with disappointment and the slight panic you feel from being “discovered” can manifest itself in some strange ways. Do you become completely unraveled when someone offers up a little constructive criticism? You might want to pay attention to that too. Don’t fall into the trap of believing that everyone that provides you with a little uncomfortable insight is jealous or out to get you. I will admit that it can be tricky recognizing the difference between a hater and someone who is genuinely trying to help you grow. The point is you must develop a sense of awareness that allows you to be receptive to life’s little messages designed to encourage you to be a better version of yourself and avoid spiraling into the self-deprecating abyss.
- You care too much about being better than your neighbor. These days, everyone is talking about living their truth. Finally, we understand that when we aren’t honest about who we are and what we need, life is just too painful. Knowing who you are is an essential component to achieving and maintaining healthy levels of self-esteem and self-worth. You have to figure this out because this will earn you a ticket to some hardcore freedom. What kind of human being do you want to be and what do you want to contribute during your time here? Are you living in a way that reflects your values and aspirations? Imagine what it would be like to be so in love with your own life, that it never even occurs to you to compare yourself or your situation to others. Put your energies towards identifying and defining your version of success and joy and less time wondering how someone else can afford a new car.
- You need to revise your definition of beauty. Okay, so beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but beauty also lies in deep crevices beyond what the eye can see. You get to decide what is beautiful to you. You get to define it and set the parameters. You get to decide that beauty lives inside your experiences and inside of you. Your bruises, your cuts, the amount of days you have lived on this earth, your sagging skin, and your imperfect smile are all beautiful expressions of what you have survived. To me, a beautiful person makes you laugh, warms your heart, inspires you, contributes, is selfless, and makes life easier or more enjoyable in some way. I think a beautiful person cries when they see other’s in pain, says hello to strangers, and does a favor for a tired, overworked friend. These are the things that matter, make us human, and connect us to others. I believe it’s less about the vessel and more about the fuel inside. If you think about it this way, you will have complete autonomy of your beauty and control over how much of it you want the world to see.
We are all a little too hard on ourselves. However, you can easily free yourself by recognizing that you are holding yourself to a ridiculously high standard (that probably isn’t even yours). Stop saying “I am not perfect” while secretly believing you are or wishing you were the person that other people wanted to be.
Make the choice to unburden yourself by accepting where you are on your journey, choosing to care for yourself, and worrying way, way less about what people are saying about you.
Stop being so hard on you and as an unintended advantage, you might stop being so hard on others. Which in turn, will assist you with eliminating the number of accusations you hurl at people because you think it is someone else’s fault that your life is hard. Which in turn, begins a pity party that makes you feel defeated, confused, and uninspired.
- Build a life on your terms. When you figure out what truly makes you happy and you know in your heart that you are doing all that you can to make it happen, you simply can’t be bothered with comparing yourself to others (read more on that here.
- Learn to embrace the terrain. It might not be a smooth ride, but you can choose to have unrelenting faith that you will always reach the destination. Don’t beat yourself up when you fall short or when life hands you an undesirable outcome. Believe that it is part of the process, figure out what the lesson is, move on, and make the choice to learn and grow from it.
- Find something else to care about. There are just times in life when you need a thing to distract you. Release all that uncertain and gloomy energy by helping someone else, working on an important project, or being creative. This will help you to press the pause button on those thoughts that just don’t serve you.
- Learn how to protect your confidence. Surround yourself with people who bring out the best in you. Watch, read, or listen to something uplifting. Feed your mind and heart with healthy and inspiring images that disrupt your negative thought patterns and allow you to move forward.
- Remember that you are not responsible for anyone else’s journey and “you don’t have to set yourself on fire to keep someone else warm.”
- Conduct yourself in a way that makes you proud. You can’t feel good about yourself if you are doing things that don’t make you feel good. Get the help you need to stop any behaviors that you know in your heart are negatively impacting your life.
- Don’t get in your own way. Stop making excuses and quitting before you start. The act of doing and trying will build your confidence in ways you can’t imagine.
- Purposefully seek out the beauty in life’s imperfections.
- Be thankful! Like I always say, believe it or not you are living someone’s dream.
It is not an impossible journey.
You are the only one that is responsible for taking care of you. If you believe you deserve more you will find the strength to surround yourself with the right things and the right people. You will expect others to treat you with kindness, dignity and respect.
But most importantly, you will treat yourself and others in a way that makes you proud, increases your confidence, and helps you to understand your worth.