Self-esteem can be thought of like a lens on a camera. If we have enough of it, we have no problem seeing things around us with clarity and making decisions that feel good to us. When we don’t have enough self-esteem however, our mental and emotional lenses become distorted. We are susceptible to making poor decisions and likely blaming ourselves as a result.
This can create a nasty vicious cycle of bad thoughts and feelings leading to less than helpful behaviors which leads to even worse thoughts and feelings etc.
It should be no surprise then that counselors such as myself see clients every day who have poor self-esteem and symptoms consistent with a wide range of clinically diagnosable disorders.
A 2008 report on self-esteem commissioned by Dove® revealed a staggering 7 out of 10 young women believe “they are not good enough or do not measure up in some way, including their looks, performance in school and relationships with friends and family members.” Women who carry this internal narrative into the workforce and interactions with lovers are not likely to trust their intuition nor are they as likely to succeed.
Why we NEED healthy doses of self-esteem
Psychological research connects confidence in one’s own worth or abilities to the internal motivation needed to go after our goals in life, and even more so, to withstand any pushback from the outside world.
This may likely be one of the biggest reasons besides cultural gender norms that women still only occupy 3% of CEO positions in Fortune 500 Companies, 3% of “clout positions” in mainstream media, and 3% of creative director positions in ad agencies.
Furthermore, an astonishing 89 countries have more women in national legislatures than the US!
What positive self-esteem does for us
Healthy doses of self-esteem allow women to:
- Believe in and hold firm to values that are meaningful to her and to defend them if need be
- Make choices and trust those choices without feeling guilty
- Not worry as much about the “what if’s” but rather staying grounded in the here and now
- Be flexible and compassionate to the needs of those around her because she views herself on equal footing with him/her.
How to nurture self-esteem
If after reading that list, you found yourself wondering if you could use a little more self-esteem I invite you to try a couple things.
The first of which is the most important of them all – BE AUTHENTIC. In everything. The comparison game is cancer to self-worth. There is only one YOU in all of the universe. So whether you are deciding what to wear today or if you want to ask that guy from marketing out, do it in a way that feels good to YOU.
Don’t worry about if someone else would do it or how she would do it. Your psyche needs to feel validated by you first.
Authenticity in everything
My other suggestions revolve around your authenticity – surround yourself with people who get you and who will build you up on a consistent basis. If you haven’t found your tribe yet, don’t fret; they’re out there! Try meet-ups, classes, interest groups online or in person.
Also, rather than focus on what you don’t like about yourself and trying to change that, focus on what you do! Is it your eyes? Smile? Love of Sci-Fi? Whenever you start to feel down about yourself, remind yourself about THOSE things.
Next, keep an “evidence that I am bad ass” journal. Each day, collect “evidence” of at least one thing that made you feel good about being you. Maybe it’s a stranger’s smile or a compliment from another woman, or holding that yoga pose for 3 more seconds than you could yesterday, totally counts! As the evidence starts to stack up, it’ll be harder and harder not to believe in yourself.
Finally, seek to build others up. Research shows that when we get out of our own heads sometimes and into service of others, everyone wins. You’ll feel better about yourself and the recipients(s) of your kindness will too. Sprinkle that self-worth everywhere you go and watch the ripple effects!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Tamara Powell, LMHC is a licensed therapist, university psychology instructor, and empowerment coach who believes life should be lived as a journey that is “anything but ordinary.”
Her work is specialized to help individuals break free from toxic cycles of distress, dysfunction, and dissatisfaction with life that are created when trying to live according to someone else’s rules. Only by living what she calls radical autonomy, can one obtain soul nourishing relationships and a sense of true life purpose and inner peace.
If you’re interested in working with her, either in person or online, you can learn more about her services here.
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