A great myth surrounds the idea of self-esteem; it’s a personal one that many hold close to their hearts. It goes like this:
When I feel better about myself, I will finally be able to live my life to the full, do everything I’ve been dreaming of…and it will be easier.
And so to debunking it – let’s cut to the chase:
If you wait for self-esteem to come, so that you are ready, able and confident to lead the life you want to live, you will be waiting a long time.
So, I couldn’t debunk a myth without giving you an alternative.
The secret is, all you need is to make the rational choice that you deserve self-esteem, and then act accordingly. Allow the beliefs to follow, in their own time. That’s it.
But how? Well, let’s take this in steps.
- Make The Rational Choice That You Want To or Deserve to Have Self-Esteem
This can be hard, because deciding that you deserve self-esteem feels like a lie when you don’t believe it. But trust me on this one; all you need is a reason to work on this. It could be that you believe every person is valuable (and therefore that includes you!), or that you have always had a sense of ‘I’m a good person, so why do I feel so bad about myself?’, so a part of you has always wanted it. It could just be that you make the choice that you want to value yourself, because self-acceptance and appreciation is a more joyous and comfortable place to be. Whatever your reason, and no matter how much it feels true for you, you just need to make the choice that you’re going to work on this.
- Fake it Till You Make It
All you need is your rational brain here, combined with gentle disciplined habit-building and a lot of practice. It’s not going to happen overnight, but try to take every choice as a challenge – an opportunity to practice this. So with every option you are faced with, ask yourself, ‘What would I choose if I valued myself?’ This goes for everything. What you wear; what you eat for dinner; whether you go out or stay in; whether you say yes or no to the extra pressure from your boss. And this one’s the killer – if you had the thought, ‘I’m rubbish’, would you choose to believe it if you had high self-esteem?
- Embrace the Discomfort
OK, so I lied. You need more than your rational brain – you need to accept that doing this is going to be difficult, and will bring with it a whole host of anxiety and difficult feelings. And you need to be willing to go through that with the realisation that this may be the only way to take life off hold. Don’t wait for life when life is waiting for you. The discomfort is a sign that you are doing something different – accept that you will feel like a liar or a fraud, with the knowledge that no feeling lasts forever. And go read my post on embracing uncertainty!
- Learn Tools to Help You Make New Choices
This can be anything – there is so much to learn out there! It could be deep breathing or mindfulness to help you keep calm while you put yourself in situations that scare you. It could be having supportive people around you. It could be setting goals for a daily challenge (remember the Sunscreen song: do something each day that scares you). It could just be acceptance of whatever the choices may bring.
- Be Patient
The feelings and beliefs will follow – the ones that say you are genuinely a valuable, worthy human being. Beliefs are a matter of programming – that’s why this works. But it’s also why it takes time; you can’t undo a lifetime’s programming overnight. Let’s mix a metaphor here. The self is like a garden, and if you feel pretty rubbish about yourself, it may well feel like it’s full of weeds. We’re trying to plant flowers, not waste our time weeding, because weeds will always crop-up – and besides, weed-killer is terrible for wildlife! Give them time to grow…who’s going to worry about a few weeds in a garden full of flowers?
- Be Kind to Yourself
This isn’t really step 6 – this applies to every step, including step 0. Even one new choice that matters to you is a step, and in every effort to reprogram the mind, there will always be slip-ups. It’s tough, and it takes repeated gentle reminders to see every new moment as an opportunity to begin afresh. With a mindful attitude, it’s important to allow yourself to let go of mistakes, times that you forget or avoid facing your fears and missed opportunities. You can’t work on growth 100 % of the time – sometimes you need to rest and allow yourself to just be. If you ever get to the point of beating yourself up for slipping up, remember step 2 – is that what someone with self-esteem would do?!