As someone who spent years in the dark void that is low self-esteem, I write this post with compassion for those that are where I was.
I started so utterly low that I felt my entire life had no value. I still struggle with my confidence at times (honestly, who doesn't?), but what motivates me to write this is the knowing that it can get better. I am not writing these tips based on things I studied in books, but based on real experience that showed me, it is entirely possible to find your way back into the light of self-love and self-confidence.
1 - Accept how you feel and value your feelings
If you're reading this, it's probably because you're aware that you have low self-esteem.
However, you may try to dilute this in some way, perhaps by quickly pushing aside negative thoughts. Or perhaps by flooding yourself with positive mantras such as, “I'm beautiful, I'm smart, and I'm worthy.” Positive mantras are great, but if you don't believe the words you're saying, they can make you feel like you're failing, which will only make you feel worse in the end.
Listening to yourself and giving yourself space to breathe and just feel what you feel is crucial.
It sends the message to yourself that someone is listening to you, that someone cares. As you take this message in it will create a positive core feeling that you are worthy of being heard. You can use this to steady yourself and hold onto, like a support beam around which a new foundation is built.
Starting this can be scary, because it can feel like you're reaching into a bottomless pit. However, once you let the feelings fully rise up, you will be surprised how quickly they loose their charge and power over you.
Wait until you have some quiet time alone to do this. Put your hands on your heart, and breathe deep. Then just say it. All of it. “I feel ugly. I feel stupid. I feel worthless.” Keep saying it, and let yourself feel what you feel.
If you need to cry, shed those tears. As you do this, keep reminding yourself that millions of other people have these same feelings. You are not wrong for feeling them. You're simply letting them rise up because you're ready to release them and bring in something the feels better.
2 - Realize the difference between feelings and facts
You are a human. That is a fact. Most things beyond that are feelings.
You can feel ugly. You can feel pretty. You can feel a lot of things, and you must become aware of when you take a feeling and turn it into a definition or a fact about yourself. There's a big difference between, “I am ugly,” and “I feel ugly.”
Begin noticing how you use “I am...” and then make a point of shifting to, “I feel...” when it's followed by a negative statement. A feeling can pass through you. An “I am” statement you hold onto, you own it, you lock it in.
The more you become aware of this, the more you will shift and start to let these feelings unlock so that they can rise up and flow out of you. We do not come into this world insecure and self-critical. We come in full of love, joy and curiosity. If we were born insecure, we would never learn to walk or talk. We'd be much too terrified of stumbling and making mistakes.
We learn to be self-defeating. Which means, we can also unlearn it.
We learn it from a lot of places, and for each person, what they learn and how they learn it is different. Sometimes it's personal, and criticism comes right down onto us from a parent. Sometimes it's more vague, and it's simply seeing a certain type of person portrayed as beautiful that we know we look nothing like.
Wherever it is you got it from, the important thing is to realize it's not yours. The things that are real about you, that are unchanging, are the things that I listed: love, joy and curiosity. You may have lost touch with these, but they're still inside of you, ready and eager to be rediscovered.
3 - Forgive those that made you feel down on yourself
Forgiveness has a powerful way of releasing the deeply entrenched gunk.
You aren't going to forgive anyone because you condone their behavior. You aren't forgiving because you want this person or these people in your life.
You are forgiving because carrying around all that anger, sadness and hate is a weight on you. You deserve to be free.
Raising your self-esteem means choosing what's in your highest good above all else. It means making yourself a priority. By holding onto what other people said or did, you're putting them in the driver seat of your life.
No one is allowed to drive your life but you. This life is yours. You get to decide what's true. Put yourself first, and focus on how you, and only you, now want to define yourself.
4 - Create a self-love journal
If you've ever heard of a gratitude journal, this is the same concept. This step requires the most commitment, and you'll be tempted to drop it after a few days. Do not do this.
It takes 21 days to make a new habit. It takes 40 days to make it your new normal.
Make a promise to yourself right now, that you feeling good about yourself is so important you're going to do this for 50 days, and with the intention that you keep doing it after that, so long as it feels good.
For the next 50 days, write two things every day that you love about yourself. Anything at all, even just the fact that you take care of your dog, and you love that you do that, because you love your dog.
You can write the same two things repeatedly.
You can even just write I love me because I'm breathing.
To take note of the fact that you're breathing is to notice that you are alive. You are a flesh and bone part of this world. You were created, and you exist for a reason. You are one of a kind, a sacred reflection of all the stars in the sky. You're breathing. You're alive. YOU MATTER.
If you get momentum going, write more than two. Write fifty. Write hundreds. Write until your hand hurts. It's important you keep a journal ONLY for this purpose. If you want to release negative thoughts, have a separate journal for this. This way, when you need a boost, you can pick up your self-love journal and there before you is a positive, self-created resource of good vibes.
5 - Let go of the need to define your appearance
In the same way that society can impose on us feelings of being ugly, it can also make us think we HAVE to feel beautiful.
Loving all types bodies is becoming the new norm, and it's fantastic. But declaring you love how you look is not required in order to be a self-confident person.
You can just be, and it can feel great.
No longer feeling the need to label your appearance can be liberating. You can stop calling yourself tall, short, fat, thin or anything else right now. You can forget wrestling with all of that, because it's all so convoluted anyways, and just declare that you are a person and you are alive and that's all you need to know.
6 - Find what makes you happy and focus on it
Feeling happy naturally raises your self-esteem.
When you feel happy, you are in the awareness that your time, your life and your energy are valuable. Does coffee make you happy? Then give yourself permission to savor a cup of joe. If taking a slow walk makes you happy, then schedule in daily walks. If watching a ridiculous reality show puts you in your happy place, then let yourself enjoy it without guilt or apologizing.
When you focus on what makes you happy, you also tune into what aligns with you. You stop living for other people, and start living for you. This cuts way down on you worrying what others think. Focus on what brings you joy, and remind yourself, if it brings you joy, then it's important, because you are important.