Pop-culture would have you believe that maintaining self-esteem is as easy as repeating positive affirmations and practicing acceptance of ourselves as we are. The reality is that we all have faults and just trying to accept our faults without changing anything about ourselves rarely makes us feel better about ourselves.
In order to actually develop a sense of confidence in who we are we must engage in self-improvement and challenge ourselves to be better. Few things build character like bravely accepting and overcoming personal struggle. Below I would like to offer a few pieces of advice for how you can do this.
Be Honest with Yourself and Others
One of the major ways we hold ourselves back as women is that we lie to ourselves and others. Sometimes due to a lack of self-awareness, we don’t even realize we aren’t being totally honest with ourselves. Other times we know we’re deluding ourselves, but it’s because the truth is too painful to look at directly. We lie to avoid awkward situations and negative emotions. Ironically, we lie in an effort to make things easier in the moment, but it always results in making things harder in the long run.
When we lie to ourselves, it’s often a sign that we’re not in a good place emotionally and mentally. When we’re neglecting to be proactive about building meaningful and purposeful lives, we tend to not want to admit that because changing our ways is very hard work. Victim culture perpetuates this negative cycle which many are stuck in because if we believe in ideologies like feminism there’s always some external factor that we can blame our situation on like men, white supremacy, the patriarchy, or capitalism.
When we lie to ourselves, it’s often a sign that we’re not in a good place emotionally and mentally.
In order to take ownership of our lives and our current situation, we must be honest with ourselves about what we’ve done to create the situation we’re in (even if aspects of your particular situation are a result of circumstance or bad luck). This is painful but so worth it. It’s impossible to change our lives when we choose to point our finger out at the world and look for someone or something to blame rather than take a hard look in the mirror and ask ourselves how our choices led us to where we are. When we accept responsibility for ourselves and our choices, we can then take control back into our own hands and make a powerful change towards happiness and success.
When we lie to the people in our lives, we give up pieces of who we are in exchange for avoiding some uncomfortable truth. Each time we give up a piece of ourselves and sacrifice honesty we lose touch with who we really are. Years of never saying what we really think can lead to feeling like you don’t even know who you really are anymore.
The Problem with Being Dishonest in Your Thoughts
When we’re not able to speak honestly we’re not able to think honestly. This often leads to women who have personalities and hearts all tied up in knots, feeling afraid to complete even simple tasks because they’ve lost touch with what makes them most powerful — truth. When you make the choice to be brutally honest with yourself and with others, things can get really messy at first but that honesty only destroys what’s false in your life. It leaves standing what’s real.
Marcus Aurelius once said, “The happiness of your life depends upon the quality of your thoughts.” The process of identifying and challenging thoughts, beliefs, and opinions we have that are inaccurate is one method that helps us remove the people and patterns that hold us back from our lives. When we’re in loveless or toxic relationships, dead-end jobs, or generally feeling stuck, it’s likely because we’re believing things or telling ourselves things that aren’t true.
The happiness of your life depends upon the quality of your thoughts.
When we choose truth little by little, we see that we become stronger and the world orients itself around us in a different way. We’re lowest in self-esteem when we’re bound up by past trauma, have poor health and fitness, constantly compare ourselves to others, and engage in negative self-talk. In this mindset, there’s no limit to the delusions you can allow yourself to believe.
We must limit our compulsion to focus on our faults and do things that develop our skills so we can shift the focus to what we have to be grateful for. The more we get used to choosing truth, the more we realize what our core beliefs actually are and gain the confidence to put those beliefs to test in the real world.
If one of your core beliefs is that it’s best to always say what you mean, for example, even if you test this belief in small ways at first, like saying no when you don’t want to do something rather than saying yes because you don’t like confrontation, the more you will grow in both confidence and courageousness. Honesty becomes a positive feedback loop in your life, pulling good people and opportunities in and pushing negative people and experiences out.
Don’t Be Afraid of Failure
Having self-esteem comes from understanding your limitations and abilities intimately. If we fear failure, then we will no doubt avoid potential situations that could result in failure, leading us down a path of never really getting to take advantage of what a valuable experience failing is.
What makes us fear failure most is the associated humiliation or embarrassment of others witnessing or knowing about that failure. The way most people use social media exacerbates this because we often only ever see a positive highlight reel of people’s lives. We so seldom see people in vulnerable and weak moments of failure that when some form of failure happens to us it can feel less like a universal aspect of human existence and more like verification that you’re a loser and everyone else is better off than you.
Having self-esteem comes from understanding your limitations and abilities intimately.
Aside from the worries associated with others noticing our failures, failure doesn’t feel good. It stings, it wounds the ego, and it can often be extremely disappointing if our hopes and dreams are tied up with succeeding in a particular way. What if I told you though, that if you could change the way you think about failure that you could use it to your advantage?
Embrace Failure as a Learning Experience
If you were willing to not only experience failure, but welcome it and seek it out, that would make you into the kind of person who would be more likely to live life to its fullest. You would be fearless in trying new things and making the most of the opportunities that came your way.
A stoic philosopher by the name of Seneca once wrote, “A gem cannot be polished without friction, nor a man perfected without trials.” When we fail, we’re given a chance to be humbled by our limitations. This is a grounding and necessary aspect of growth. When we fail, we’re always presented with an opportunity to finesse our technique, skills, and knowledge — often in ways that can only be grasped through experience. Failure is never really failure if you’re able to learn something to take away from the experience that makes you better off in the end.
A gem cannot be polished without friction, nor a man perfected without trials.
Going into a challenge with a mindset of not fearing failure actually makes you more likely to succeed. These are the life experiences needed to build you into a well-rounded person who draws their sense of self not simply from their ability to win but their ability to lose and not give up.
To have courage means to be able to do things that scare us. If you fear failure and take on new challenges anyway, then you’ll teach yourself over time to fear it less. When we have exposed ourselves to our fears by being courageous, over time the fear subsides, and we move into a state of confidence in our abilities to shine regardless of failure or success.
To Thine Own Self Be True
In a world where we’re often encouraged to follow the herd and do things to get the approval of others, it’s a real challenge to march the beat of your own drum. Carving out your own identity, which is unique and guided by the things you’re passionate about, regardless of whether or not they’re popular, produces a sense of self-worth that’s hard to shake. When we build our lives on the solid ground of our own principles and interests rather than on the whims of others we provide the opportunity to grow into well-rounded and secure women.
It can be scary to break from the pack and to live your life in a way that truly makes you happy. Namely this is because of the incessant human need for recognition. The constant tap dancing we do on social media and in the real world to gain acceptance and praise from others robs us of our ability to be truly authentic because if your goal is to gain the most amount of support from the greatest number of people then you inevitably have to limit yourself to appeal to the greatest number of people.
In order to be yourself, you have to be okay with the fact that some people are not only going to dislike you, they may even hate you. Alexander the Great said, “Destiny is not something brought about by legend, but by clearing away with one’s own sword.” You must think of being true to yourself in this way. Often time as we begin to reveal who we are to the world, society pushes us back and compels us to conform.
You have to be okay with the fact that some people are not only going to dislike you, they may even hate you.
Becoming who we’re meant to be requires the strength of will to be vulnerable and exposed to the criticisms of others. It means we have to be willing to break taboos and be unpopular sometimes, which can be incredibly intimidating, at least initially. As we become who we are though, a sense of inner peace and self-assuredness emerges that’s far grander a feeling than receiving recognition from strangers or friends.
Being yourself will help you remove superficial friendships from your life, and it also tends to attract like-minded people to you. While it can be painful at first to have people reject you for being your genuine self, rest assured that this is just creating more space for the right people to enter who will be attracted by your sincerity.
Recognition and validation from others are always fleeting positive emotions and will always leave you unsatisfied and searching for more. We must gain our confidence in ourselves by the merit of our accomplishments. This means being honest when it's scary, it means saying yes to that opportunity even though you think you’re not good enough for it, and it means being yourself even when it’s unpopular to do so. When we honor who we are in our hearts, speak the truth, and live life fearlessly in the face of obstacles, we develop the kind of confidence that results in a life rich in both inner and outer beauty.