Low self-esteem is like driving through life with your hand-break on. ~ Maxwell Maltz Click To Tweet
We often treat other people better than we treat ourselves. Think about it. When a friend comes to you in a bad mood, don’t you tell them how amazing they are? That it isn’t the end of the world and that they’ll only learn from whatever experience they’re venting about, to become an even better person? Now think about what you tell yourself when you fail at something: I’m an idiot. Not again! Can’t I do anything right!? Why am I so stupid?
Self doubt is sometimes instinctual, but it’s important to cut it out and treat yourself the same way you did that friend. We’re all on a lifelong journey to be better, so why not start now with these three things that, if you really loved yourself (and you definitely should!), you wouldn’t be doing.
1) Depending On Others For Happiness
This one definitely requires balance and hard work. We live in a world where we spend most our lives seeking the approval of others. Parents, teachers, coaches, significant others, bosses—the list is a mile long. We want to make others happy and proud of us. Sometimes it just feels good to know someone is rooting for you, or to get a pat on the back for a job well done.
But that external feeling shouldn’t be the defining factor in how you feel about yourself.
Friends fight, bosses get angry significant others have moods and need space. Then what? What happens to your self esteem when the very people you depend on to build it up are not around? So try to put more stock in how you feel about yourself. Here’s a few ways to go about that:
Find a project you’ve always meant to tackle, complete it by yourself and don’t look for praise. There’s nothing wrong with sharing your successes but aim to keep some things to yourself. The satisfaction of finally accomplishing a goal should be enough (and if it’s not the first time around, keep trying! It will be eventually).
Have a problem that needs solving? Write it down and try to work it out by yourself. The next time you come across a problem you may not even need anyone else to help.
Feeling stressed? Find an activity you can do alone that you find soothing, maybe go to a spa, take a walk, go for a swim or a bike ride. The more you focus inwards, the easier it will be, when things don’t go your way. When your happiness doesn’t only stem from the people around you, you’ll become self sufficient and you’ll depend less and less on others for your happiness.
2) Making Commitments You Know You Shouldn’t
Have you ever said ‘yes’ when you really want to say no? I know I have—and still do. The need to say yes to others, even when it puts you in an uncomfortable position or creates more work is a habit that should be broken. If you’re asked to attend an engagement and you can’t make it just say no. Busy, but someone needs help with their own work? Say no (but do it diplomatically, of course). Piling things onto your already full plate is no way to live.
For example, perhaps you have a work presentation that needs to be ready by morning and a friend asks you to come out after work for drinks in the evening. You really should go home to work. Not wanting to disappoint your friend, you go, and end up having to stay up all night and into the morning to complete the project. It could have all been avoided if you said no. Now you’re stressed, tired and that presentation may not go as smoothly as it could have if you had just done what was best for you.
Yes, it’s hard to say no, but it’s a skill so many of us need to learn. You’ll be the one to pay for stretching yourself too thin if you don’t. So the next time you are asked to make a commitment you know you wont be able to follow through with, be honest. You might want to take a note from the book of Oprah :
3) Feeling Bad About Taking Personal Time
Of course, sometimes you aren’t busy. You have no prior commitments, but you’d just rather spend some time alone—if that’s the case, do it. Don’t feel obligated to go to every engagement you’re invited to. You can’t spent your entire life pleasing others—take the time to focus on yourself. We all feel like this, so don’t be afraid to tell the person you’re “blowing off” the honest truth : “I’d love to come, but honestly that evening I’ll be taking some long overdue me-time.” The hustle and bustle of everyday life can take a toll mentally and physically on our well-being and we all need time to recuperate.
Yes, it can be very hard to find these moments—we live in a society where overworking is worn by many as a badge of honour (so much so that there’s an actual word for it in Japanese, Karōshi: “death from overwork” or “occupational sudden death”), so pushing past the guilt of taking personal time is the first step.
Life isn’t supposed to be ‘go, go, go’ all the time! If you live that way by the time you slow down and look around it will have passed you by. When you find the opportunity to, use your vacation days. If you can afford a trip out of town/country take one, if not, have a staycation and use the time off to unplug, reflect and restart at home. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with having ambition, but don’t forget to take the time to take care of you.
The journey to self love is an arduous one. But set goals, be consistent and believe you’re worth the effort.