The way you see yourself affects every aspect of your life. A person with a healthy self-image experiences life very differently from someone with an unhealthy self-image. From work, to relationships, the way we feel about ourselves determines how successful we will be. Not external success, but internal success; which is the only success that matters.
There’s just no way around it, having a healthy self-image is imperative to experiencing a fulfilled and joyful life.
It’s no secret that the majority of us treat ourselves with contempt. The result is a society of insecure individuals who can barely find their place in the world, let alone feel worthy in it. It is true that we tend to judge everything and anything around us, but we reserve the worst and most hurtful judgments for ourselves.
Developing a virtually impenetrable self-concept can take years, especially for those whose self-concept has taken a beating over the years – from themselves and from others. Fortunately there are small, simple actions you can take right now that will have a profound effect on your self-esteem. Keeping up with them will take you a long way towards releasing yourself from your self-inflicted torture rack, and finally seeing yourself as the capable, worthy, and beautiful being that you are.
1.) Keep Your Word.
Think of someone you know (or know of) who can’t be trusted to come through with anything other than disappointment. Think about how you feel about this person. Think about the reputation they have with their community.
Your self-esteem is basically the reputation you have with yourself. Keeping your word with yourself is just as important as keeping your word with others. It’s damaging to your image of yourself not to follow through with your words. Soon, with some help from guilt, you make the giant leap from ‘my words mean nothing’ to ‘I mean nothing’ and then to ‘I am nothing.’
2.) Take responsibility for your life and your actions.
The most effective way you can keep yourself feeling powerless is by handing over responsibility for your life to others. Taking responsibility for your existence is the best way to radically change your self-image.
Remind yourself that you’re responsibly for your choices, actions, relationships, health, finances, happiness, and your time. Place the power back into your hands and wield it to create your best life.
For example, instead of saying ‘why is it that I never have any money,’ say, ‘what do I do that causes me to never have money.’ Understand that your life is a direct reflection of your values, beliefs, and choices. When you claim responsibility, you can act to make improvements in your life. These improvements that you’ve made remind you that you’re a capably person.
When you defer responsibility, you’ve essentially eliminated any power you had to take action on your life. This lease you feeling incapable, victimized, and destroys your self-esteem.
3.) Assert yourself.
Your needs aren’t any less important than the needs of others. I say this because we’re often taught to sacrifice ourselves for the ‘greater good’ no matter what that ‘greater good’ is and regardless of whether you agree with it.
It’s imperative to your self-esteem that you stand up for what you believe in and, when appropriate, you make your needs clearly known. You are responsible for meeting your needs, and if the environment you’re in doesn’t allow them to be met, you must take action to remove yourself from it.
This includes everything from saying no to taking on an extra assignment to saying no to a friend’s request for you to spend hours on the phone with her discussing the same problem over and over again.
When you’re assertive, you are sending the message that you respect yourself. There is no self-esteem, no positive self-image, without self-respect.
4.) Make plans for your life. Achieve and celebrate small wins.
Live on purpose. Don’t let your circumstances and environment dictate your destiny. Start making plans right now. Plan who you want to be, and what success looks like for you. There’s no need to create rigid outlines of every minute of your day, but don’t drift through life like a passive animal. You’re not a bystander in your life.
When you accomplish anything, no matter how small, celebrate it. You made a plan, you took actions toward that plan, and you hit a milestone. That’s something that needs to be celebrated and honored. There is no achievement too small to be recognized.
5.) Modify your vocabulary.
The way you say something makes a profound difference in how you feel about yourself, the world, and others around you. It’s as obvious as the difference between ‘get out of my way,’ and ‘excuse me.’ You could say both in the same tone, with the same inflection, and the same polite expression on your face, yet not one person wouldn’t take offense if you told them to get out of your way.
Start using words that put you in power. Stop saying, ‘I can’t do it.’ It implies that you don’t have a choice. Say instead, ‘I don’t want to do it,’ or ‘I choose not to do it,’ or ‘I won’t do it.’
Stop saying the word ‘should’ as it is almost never useful and almost always makes you powerless. Eliminate ‘I need to,’ ‘I’ll try to,’ and ‘I have to’ from your vocabulary.
Start saying ‘I will,’ ‘I plan,’ and ‘I intend’ instead. The essential component is that you remind yourself that you have choices and you are in control of your life. This increases self-confidence, without which you couldn’t have self-esteem.
6.) Be kind.
When you’re not kind to yourself, it’s easy not to be kind to others as well. When you start being kind to yourself, you begin to find more kindness in your heart for others, and vice versa.
If you treat others kindly, you’ll be more able to find compassion for yourself. Do nice things for people without expecting anything in return.
Randomly send people thank you cards, compliment them on what matters most to them, offer help in any way you can and smile at them. As a matter of fact, smile all the time. That’s another simple way to increase your self-esteem.
Soon, you’ll find that, not only are you softening up toward yourself, but you’ve made a ton of friends on the way and they all rave about what an amazing person you are.
When you feel the truth of those words inside of you, when you believe them with all your heart, you’ll finally be where you’ve belonged this whole time. You’ll be at peace knowing that you truly are a capable, worthy, and beautiful human.
Liz is a corporate dropout turned lifestyle designer and punchy personal development blogger. To find out more, go to her blog at A Life on Your Terms and download her member-only Life Lovers Guide to the Galaxy. You can also find her on twitter at @elizabethseda.