by Jenn A. Nocera, MA, MFT, CLSC, CPFT
Formula For Excellence
"It's a sad man, My Friend, who's living in his own skin but can't stand the company."
—Bruce Springsteen, Better Days, 1992
Self-esteem can be defined as having confidence and faith in oneself and one's worth and abilities. Merriam-Webster defines self-esteem as a confidence and satisfaction in oneself; self-respect. It is an individual quality that can be affected by many factors, including how we are raised by our parents, what we are taught in school and the life events we have experienced.
Self-esteem can be very fragile in people who have endured many hardships, abusive situations or bullying. Having a physical condition can worsen self-esteem. Being overweight, for instance, can make an individual feel ashamed. Conversely, feeling ashamed can contribute to becoming overweight.
Low self-esteem can be marked by feelings of shame, self-blame, timidness, poor relationships, trouble drawing boundaries and lack of success. Most of us can recall a time when feeling badly about ourselves caused us to retreat instead of branching out into the world. Everyone experiences at least some self-doubt, but poor self-esteem is more pervasive.
So, how do we enhance our self-esteem?
- Don't "should" yourself. Eliminate the word "should" from your vocabulary. Who says you "should" do this or that? Why "should" you? What would happen if you followed your intuition and chose not to do something?
- Learn to rely on yourself for your own worth. Family and friends have their own issues. Be careful not to base your self-esteem on how they appraise you. Self-esteem needs to be intrinsic rather than based on external, variable factors.
- Take an inventory of your strengths. What are you good at? What skills do you have? What do people compliment you on?
- Take care of your appearance. Do the best with what nature has given you. Attend to your self-care needs and practice good grooming.
- Stay physically active. Exercise releases endorphins (i.e., feel-good chemicals) in our brains. It feels good! Plus, achieving fitness goals is life-affirming and self-esteem building.
- Help others. Practice random acts of kindness. Share your talents. Volunteer. Assisting others feels good and builds confidence.
- Learn a skill or take up a hobby. Exploring new interests keeps you engaged in life and builds confidence. It places you among other students and gives you the opportunity to expand your social network. It also provides a productive focus for your thoughts.
- Nip negative self-talk in the bud. Learn to identify and stop negative thoughts. Replace them with positive affirmations.
- Let toxic people go. Negative people tend to bring you down. Limit your contact with them.
- Stop comparing yourself to others. This is a setup for misery. Focus on your own life. And, remember so-called "reality" television is anything but reality.
- Enforce healthy boundaries. Being kind to others is wonderful. Allowing other people to take advantage of you is unhealthy and bad for your self-esteem. Your needs and wants matter. YOU matter!
- Change your environment. Take care of your personal space. Surround yourself with people, things, thoughts and messages that are positive and uplifting. Eliminate clutter in your environment, your mind and your social circle. Letting go of who and what is no longer serving us makes way for new people and things to enter our lives.
- Learn to identify and accept your emotions. Allow yourself to feel your emotions without judgment. Recognize that your feelings are unique to you and are providing you with information. They are temporary and do not make you a good or bad person simply for having them. You are worthy of having thoughts, feelings, ideas, wants and needs without being guilty or shamed.
This formula for excellent self-esteem will take practice and mindfulness to put into place. It may be useful to work with a qualified mental health professional or coach to help you work through some of the underlying causes of your poor self-esteem and set healthy new goals.
The effort will be well-worth it as you begin to feel more comfortable in your own skin. People will notice and respond. As your self-esteem grows, new opportunities will begin to present themselves, and you will be more likely to take them. Enjoy your newfound confidence. As Bruce Springsteen would say, "Better days are shining through."
Coach Jenn A. Nocera, MA, MFT, CLSC, CPFT, is a life and wellness coach, psychotherapist and personal fitness trainer with advanced degrees in behavioral science, psychology and marriage and family therapy. She works with clients to redesign their lifestyle habits. She provides structure and accountability, so clients learn to master life's challenges rather than fall victim to circumstances. To learn more about her services, contact Jenna at 732-842-3515 or visit www.FormulaForExcellence.com.