October 13, 2016 by Cláudia
In an earlier post, I considered self-esteem to be the first and utmost factor to living a happy life. By why is it so important? Living in today’s world also means to be constantly bombarded by beauty ideals, new products that will help you lose weight, clear your skin and clothes to boost your confidence. Paradoxically enough (not really) it seems like everyone is feeling insecure all the time. Beautiful models we consider beauty icons succumb to pressure, people who through our eyes seem to have perfect lives reveal themselves lonely. And these are just the cases in which the people are actually honest and real. Mostly people are just trying to pretend to be okay.
The social media explosion as lead us to both an outbreak of voyeuristic and exhibitionist behaviours and as a result, we constantly compare ourselves to others’ unrealistic lives as well as make a huge effort to show that our life is also worthy of admiration. It comes to a rather ironic situation in which everyone’s trying to pretend to have huge confidence while having our self-esteem beaten down by watching other people pretending to have huge confidence.
Also, a huge confidence always strikes rather forced and laboured to me. True confidence comes from acknowledging the flaws and being proud of the qualities. To have self-esteem means to push ourselves to do the best we can possibly do, to be gentle when we fail and proud when we succeed. Also, an important part of self-esteem is to treat ourselves kindly, both body and mind, to feel gratitude for what is good in our lives and also accepting that not everything is going to go as planned. But to be arrogant and act as superior to others… that doesn’t really integrate my concept of self-esteem.
Self-esteem, or self-love, means to treat ourselves with the same kindness we hope the person we love the most receives – to support ourselves through hard times and not beat ourselves down. Self-esteem really is the true basis of happiness. How can anyone build something in his/her life while constantly feeling worthless and believing to be incapable of doing anything right? Or how can you love someone else when looking at yourself you only find flaws? Self-esteem is, in the first instance, the way we perceive ourselves and that deeply affects our behaviour and thoughts.
In a way, life turns out to be what we think it will – there is something of a self-fulfilling prophecy. Our mindset affects our perception of things and therefore changes reality.If we are constantly attacking ourselves with toxic thoughts, how can we possibly value others? If we don’t think we can do anything right, how can we achieve what we hope to?
It’s really difficult to change the habit of self-deprecation though. Being used to negative thinking and defeatism turns into a habit and it reaches a point where it is more natural to beat ourselves down than to actually have positive thoughts. Toxic thoughts like a cancer grow and the more they grow, the more you put yourself down for not recovering – it is a terrible vicious cycle filled with guilt and frustration.
I am extremely far away from what I would consider a good self-esteem. However, I’ve come a long way (and have an even longer way to go). These are some of the things that have helped me:
- Accept that you have negative thoughts about yourself. Instead of creating more negative thoughts about having negative thoughts, just acknowledge how you feel and avoid creating any extra frustration to the fact that you don’t feel very good about who you are. It’s so much better and liberating to recognize “I have low self-esteem” than to just try to force into a mindset you don’t yet feel and by that create more negative thinking.
- Appreciate and value the fact that you are trying to work on your problems and create self-love.
- Value small acts of kindness towards yourself. It may seem inconsequential but a healthy meal, a night well slept or a nice conversation can make a lot of difference. Change happens slowly and through small but significant acts.
- Be kind when you fail. There are days when there doesn’t seem to be possible to even think about positive thoughts. These days, just accept where you are and think that it was a bad day and you don’t feel good. I always say to myself “Today I feel like shit and won’t even attempt to study/work/whatever I should be doing, and that’s okay. Tomorrow I will feel better.”
- Avoid comparing to others, because often we have unrealistic expectations of what others have and their life is therefore it is like competing in an unfair competition.
Self esteem may seem like a very narcissistic and self-centered behaviour, but it is exactly the opposite. It means to tend to ourselves in order to be able to tend to others. It means to believe and support ourselves in order to achieve our full potential. It means to be able to love ourselves – and then others.