You can’t always feel like a million dollars, but if you’re constantly feeling poorly about yourself, it’s time to work on improving your self-esteem. In fact, February is Boost Self-Esteem Month, so this is the perfect time to invest in yourself.
Ronald Kaufman, a seminar leader, executive coach and the author of “Anatomy of Success,” said in an email that self-esteem should be associated with positive feelings about oneself.
“We can define self-esteem as liking oneself, feeling good about oneself, being happy with oneself,” Kaufman said. “It’s about having a high regard for oneself, feeling we are worthwhile. This is all based on one’s beliefs, and therefore regardless of someone’s appearance, intelligence, income, popularity, talents, and accomplishments, anyone can have high self-esteem.”
Here are two tips Kaufman has for boosting self-esteem:
1) “Create a list of traits that you feel are true of someone who is worthwhile … [then] write down all traits that would be true of you that would make you feel worthwhile, and use this list as a guide for your decisions, choices, and actions that you take. Staying true to your list will support a high self-esteem regardless of anything else.”
2) “Stop any negative self-talk. If you make a mistake, foul up, or do something inappropriate, instead of calling yourself a jerk, a moron, or a loser, and beating up on yourself, step back and ask yourself, ‘Why did this happen,’ ‘What can I learn from this,’ and ‘What beliefs caused me to do this?’ Only be kind, caring, nurturing, understanding, and empowering of yourself. Otherwise … being hard on yourself could contribute to lower self-esteem and more of the same behavior in the future.”
He said that women tend to have unique self-esteem issues.
“Because of the media and the tremendous emphasis on a woman’s appearance, women have more pressure on their self-esteem than men,” Kaufman said.
However, no matter how hard it may be to have high self-esteem in today’s society, it’s important because self-esteem can affect mental health and life choices in general.
“If someone has a negative self-concept and low self-esteem, they will behave in negative ways to be in alignment with their self-concept,” Kaufman said. “Low self-esteem tends to contribute to poor health choices, whether it’s junk food, lack of exercise, lack of sleep, alcohol, drugs, arguing, etc. Better self-esteem tends to lead to positive life choices.”
Katie McCorkle, a psychologist, founder and CEO of Balanced Heart Healing Center, and author of “A Balanced Heart: 10 Weeks to Breakthrough,” said in an email that increasing self-esteem can be a matter of looking at your successes.
“Slow down and pay attention to all the ways that you already support yourself and those you love every day,” McCorkle said. “Too often, women worry about what they're not doing, rather than giving themselves credit for all they do.”
Susanne Berger, who writes a blog at Createanewlifewithsusanne.com, has four main tips for boosting self-esteem.
1) “Smile, reward yourself, take a walk and enjoy eating. Smiling is a feeling that comes from inside you. For some reason, when you smile you stand straighter. With good posture it's easier to breathe, and it's the best camouflage for whatever stress you’re under and negative thoughts that have been on your mind. Smiling prevents wrinkles and slows down the aging process.”
2) “Reward yourself. If you don't do something nice for yourself, no one else will. Set the example and set the standard. Do you know what makes you smile? It doesn’t have to be anything big. It could be as simple as an apple a day. On those tough days, it could be a double cheeseburger with french fries and a Coke. Now isn't that a treat? Remember you have to be good to yourself, especially when times are hard.”
3) “Take a walk. Walking is the simplest form of exercise. It gets you outside, and forces you to remove yourself from stressful situations. You’ll run into other people when you’re spending time outside, and you’ll certainly feel less claustrophobic. I suggest that you grab your iPod (loaded only with happy music, of course) and go for a walk. Start off slow and when you feel the anxiety of your stress, walk faster to the beat of the music on your iPod. Movement naturally causes your body to feel better. When you feel better, it's easier to deal with stress. When you take care of yourself and you exercise, your body takes care of you.”
4) “Enjoy eating. Everybody seems to be on a diet these days, obsessed with what are the ‘right’ foods and what are the ‘wrong’ foods. I suggest that you take a different approach, and ask yourself ‘What will taste good? What can I eat that will make me feel better?’ Eating simply for the sake of eating is not [healthy], of course. We all know what we should and what we shouldn’t eat. And we know if we are maintaining healthy eating habits. I suggest that you look at food with enjoyment in mind. In other words, make choices that will make you feel good — not in a way that will hurt your health but in a way that will support it. We all need to eat in a healthy way, and the best way to do this is to prepare your own meals at home. Take the time to shop for healthy and nutritious ingredients, and then prepare your own food. Sit down at the table when you’re eating, and really appreciate the delicious taste of each and every bite. If you eat in this way, you won’t gain weight. This is how you can create a meaningful structure for your meals. I’ve found that you don't give into eating habits that rob you of your energy and health when you’re eating delicious food that actually supports your body. Making an effort to start this routine will soon become a natural habit that supports your health.”
She said women specifically need to put less emphasis on outside appearances and more of a focus on who they actually are to improve self-esteem.
“I think we could resolve a lot of these problems if we were more realistic with ourselves and stopped confusing what we look like outside for who we really are inside,” Berger said. “The outside and the inside should be in unison, a total package … At an early age, we are conditioned to believe that if we’re not considered ‘beautiful’ (on the outside), we are somehow inadequate or ‘less than.’ We buy into this idea and don’t even give ourselves a chance.”
Elizabeth Gilbert, the executive director of the Crown Jewel Club, which is a non-profit organization for at-risk girls that focuses on building self-esteem, defined self-esteem in an email as “the way we feel about ourselves.”
At her organization, she said one of the first exercises the girls engage in focuses on self-esteem issues.
“We give our girls a mirror and ask them to find at least five things they like about themselves. We encourage them to look in the mirror every day and focus on what they like about themselves,” Gilbert said. “Sometimes it starts out with physical things — ‘I like my eyes’ or ‘I have a nice smile’ — but then they begin to look deeper and say things like ‘I’m a good friend’ or ‘I try my best.’ This exercise can work for adult women as well. Take a few minutes everyday to look in the mirror, and then write down what you like about yourself.”
She has two other tips for building self-esteem:
1) “Make time for yourself everyday. As women, it’s easy to put others first and leave no time for ourselves. Set your alarm 20 minutes early, and read a magazine or a book you haven’t been able to get to in the morning. Do a little yoga, or journal. Whatever you do, make sure you give yourself time everyday to do something that’s just for you.”
2) “Turn your weaknesses into strengths. You might do 100 things better than anyone else, but that one thing that gives you trouble overshadows everything else. Don’t let fear of failure hold you back. Are you not applying for better jobs because you can’t work in Excel or another requisite program? Take a class in it. When we teach our girls proper place settings, it has nothing to do with which fork to use. When they know what to do and can let go of fear and insecurity, they can be confident in themselves.”
Mikaya Heart, a life coach and author, gives the following self-esteem advice:
“Spend time alone, or with people who love you, doing things you love,” Heart said. “Spending time with animals is a particularly good idea, since animals accept us for exactly who we are. Other people often make us feel that we ought to be busy all the time, and the media makes us feel we are not good enough. Don't listen to them. Don't do things you don't enjoy, and do do things you do enjoy. Cultivate creativity in whatever aspect of life calls to you.”
McGraw Hill Professional. 2010 Special Months. Web. Feb. 22, 2012. http://www.mhprofessional.com/?page=/mhp/categories/chases/content/special_months.html
Kaufman, Ronald. Email interview. Feb. 22, 2012.
McCorkle, Katie. Email interview. Feb. 22, 2012.
Berger, Susanne. Email interview. Feb. 22, 2012.
Gilbert, Elizabeth. Email interview. Feb. 22, 2012.
Heart, Mikaya. Email interview. Feb. 22, 2012.
Reviewed February 23, 2012
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith