In our modern world, we are inundated with the do’s and don’ts of what will bring fame or shame. So much of our self is suppressed to fit in, to look perfect, to be perfect. However, we must realise that how we accept ourselves is how we humans can live a more fulfilling and meaningful life. Clinical Psychologist Dr Guy Winch calls self-esteem our ‘emotional immune system’. It is a psychological strength and a critical tool to face challenges. It is the spark that drives us forward.
In that context, self-esteem is a powerful strength that affects our thoughts, behaviours and actions. Having healthy self-esteem is all the more relevant to pursue goals and dreams, with the resilience to face challenges.
We are wired from childhood to prove our worth, to be better than the best, to compare and aspire, to believe that we have to be perfect at everything. As we grow older, we are affected by external judgements. Psychological studies have shown that social media has affected our self-esteem in negative ways. When we enter social networking sites, a lot of the time, we compare our lives to others. We feel we are less than the online displays of success and beauty. After logging off from the virtual world, the feelings of inadequacy tend to linger. This in turn affects how we feel about ourselves, and we become fragile and fearful.
We seem to have forgotten an important fact: We are imperfect humans, and we are not meant to lead perfect lives, nor fit into a specific body shape, nor have a smooth road to success. In the virtual world, no one displays the struggles before success or the pains before the gains. Each one of us has different set of skills and talents. We contribute to society in our own distinctive and creative ways. It doesn’t mean that we are less than or more than anyone else. We each have our own journey, and if we support and respect ourselves and others, the journey becomes easier.
Here are three essentials to strengthen self-esteem:
- Keep a lid on the inner critic:
- You are Good Enough:
- Courage to face the fear
Often, when a person is overwhelmed by critical words, it crushes the spirit. We all have an inner voice, very often it spills out as negative commentary. The judgements are painful and undesirable. We are drained by the internal battle of finding ways to feel good about ourselves. The best way to deal with this inner voice is to question it, and ask ‘why am I not good enough or capable enough?’ Listen to the response, and then challenge it again. The critical voice will diminish. Another way is to imagine speaking to a friend in that harsh way. You would never hurt your friend’s feelings. Be a friend rather than a foe to yourself.
We often compare ourselves to others. And then we feel we are not good enough. We never appreciate any achievements, nor internalise praise. We do our best, and we feel it is not good enough. We have a set of skills and uniqueness which we contribute in this world, journal all those achievements, and acknowledge the personal challenges that have been overcome. Write them down every night before you sleep. Mentally, pat yourself for all the achievements. Remember, you are good enough as you are.
Often, we want to fit in because it’s easier than standing out. We are afraid to dip our toe into new waters, or test new ideas. We are afraid to fail. When we look back, we are going to be filled with regret if we don’t pursue that goal, that dream, or that desire. We have this one life to achieve our fullest potential, to explore possibilities. Fear is in the mind, it is the ego holding us back. If we don’t try our best we will never know what we are capable of achieving. All one needs to do right now is to take that one small step towards your dream.
Self-Esteem is not about being arrogant or self-absorbed, it is being aware of one’s positives with humility and the capacity to accept any negatives with compassion and inner strength. Self-compassion can motivate people to overcome their feelings of not good enough.
If we can change the way we esteem ourselves, we can determine the way we behave in the future. It is time to make that commitment to oneself.
The article has been authored by Shobha Nihalani, who is an author and certified life coach.