This week has been a tough week. As I have met with clients, I have felt their heartbreak as they have been judged and rejected for who they are or how they look. We all go through that, but there seems to be an overabundance of critics out there who are hitting below the belt.
As I was growing up, physical beauty was an important quality to possess. In our home, when my Dad came home from work, my Mom was expected to have her hair done, makeup on and be dressed in heels. That image helped mold my ideas surrounding beauty.
My parents were weight conscious and we didn’t eat sugars, carbs or fatty foods as a rule. A baked potato with butter and sour cream was a welcome treat. It was a rare occasion that we had desserts in our home.
Among our friends and family, I was referred to as “chubby” or “husky,” then be compared to a thinner, taller cousin. It was as if shaming me would somehow magically make me thinner or taller.
After years of programming, I began to believe I was unworthy of being loved or accepted for who I was and how I looked. I took on people pleasing and perfectionism to be accepted by my parents and peers. I felt like I had to perform to earn love because it wasn’t enough to just be me.
The summer before 9th grade, I remember my Dad tell me if I would just lose 10 pounds I would be beautiful. That summer I existed on a container of Yoplait yogurt and a slice of toast with a tablespoon of peanut butter daily. No matter how thin I was, there was always that conditional 10 pounds standing in the way of beauty.
I’m so glad I didn’t grow up in the age of the internet. It was hard enough comparing my body type with the models on the cover of Cosmo magazine. Magazines played a significant role in defining beauty for my friends and me. It was essential to wear the right makeup, have the right clothes and have a sparkling white smile.
As an adult, I struggled with self-image and self-esteem. It has only been in the last couple of years that I have come to grips with what loving myself unconditionally really means. I can now accept who I am inside and out and not feel “less than” based on my appearance.
Here are some of the tips I’ve applied to my life to build my self-esteem and completely fall in love with the woman I have become:
Apply the 80/20 rule: I used to get caught up in the lie that I had to be perfect to be accepted. I would work tirelessly and never leave a task unfinished. I felt like I had to work harder than my classmates or workmates. Being good wasn’t good enough, I had to be the best at everything. Life was a competition to get the most accolades, collect the most awards and outperform all of my rivals.
Learning to delegate and apply the 80/20 rule helped me accept that things don’t have to be perfect to be acceptable. If someone can do the task 80% as well as I can that would be sufficient. At first, it was hard to let go and not go back and fix things. But, I have come to experience the freedom that comes from setting healthy boundaries and letting “good” be good enough.
Fail forward: Failure was like a four letter word when I was growing up. I would beat myself up and berate myself for not being perfect, for forgetting something or not meeting my parents’ expectations. No one could be more harsh to me than my own self-talk.
I have learned that we all fail when we try new things, it’s a part of the growth process. If we aren’t failing, we aren’t really living. We are playing it safe and that keeps us small. If we truly want to make an impact in the world, we must have the courage to fail; only then can we apply those lessons to build on future successes.
Change your self-talk: We all have an inner gremlin that holds us accountable for our shortcomings. That gremlin can tell us lies by making us believe he is acting in our best interest. We just need a little tough love to keep us motivated.
Negative self-talk erodes our belief in self and causes us to feel “less than”. The voice causes us to question our value to ourselves and others. When we hear that voice we need to learn to shut it off and denounce the lies it is telling then breathe truth into our self-talk messaging.
100 Things: Create a list of 100 positive words to describe yourself. You can even expand and make it a list of 100 things you love about yourself. This exercise can be difficult, especially if you’ve been listening to that gremlin for years.
Sit down and brainstorm, write everything down. There is no right or wrong answer for this list. If you get stuck, put it away and go back to it until you reach 100 things. You’d be amazed at how good it will feel to see how many positive qualities you possess. Pull out the list and reread it when you experience self-doubt.
Self-Compassion: Practice self-compassion when you fall short. Act as if you were speaking to a small child. Notice the difference in your tone and word choice. You should always talk to yourself like you’re talking to someone you love. Our words and our tone are important. Everyone deserves compassion.
If we can’t show ourselves compassion, we can’t receive compassion from others. Learning to let others show us compassion can be humbling. At first, it can feel awkward because we expect everyone to be as critical of us as we are. Keep practicing until it feels comfortable.
Get out of your comfort zone: Try something new. Learning a new skill or practicing a new hobby can change our opinion of ourselves. It takes us at least three times to decide if we like this new activity. Give yourself permission to do poorly as you expand your horizons. The more you try something new, the more your self-view will improve.
Stop comparing yourself: Comparison is the killer of dreams. Comparisons are never fair. There is no way to know someone else’s full story. If they are better than you at an activity, you may be a beginner and they may have been at it for decades. If their life looks perfect, you don’t know what goes on behind closed doors. So just stop.
If you’re going to compare, compare who you were yesterday or last week to where you are today. Check out your progress and see how far you’ve come. Measure your improvements, after all, what you think about yourself is far more important than what others think about you!
Define your “why”: We all need to know what our purpose is in life. Why do we exist? Why do we do what we do? If we know your why we will stay motivated to stay the course. If you have clarity about your purpose you will begin to see how you were perfectly created to fulfill that purpose.
Plug into a community: Get rid of toxic people in your life. If you’re working hard to change your self-talk and practice wholehearted living, toxic people can wipe out all of your hard work in one conversation. Surrounding yourself with supportive people who will make your journey more fruitful.
Journal: Journaling is a powerful tool when it comes to personal growth and accountability. Writing out our thoughts and feelings can give us a record of success that we can look back on. Changing habits and creating new routines in our life takes reinforcement, journaling can help instill those new habits until they are stable.
Journaling is also a great place to practice daily gratitude. Reflect on the day and look for things that you can be grateful for, lessons learned, people you encountered or experiences you had. Focusing on gratitude will shift your energy and help give you a new perspective on yourself and your life.
Personal growth is a life-long journey. It took years to build your self-esteem. If you have been struggling with low self-esteem, it will take time to reprogram your self-talk and reframe the way you perceive yourself. Be kind to yourself along the way, it takes time to create new habits and ways of thinking.
One of the best ways to build value in yourself is to be intentional about creating a self-care routine. Taking time daily to care for yourself consistently will help you see your worth and make you feel good in the process. Remember you were created imperfectly perfect and you are worthy!
Let me know how you’re doing. Are you loving yourself today?