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Ten Steps to Improved Self-Esteem
By Mark Sichel, LCSW - www.marksichel.com
It's not vain to think well of yourself - it's called confidence. And let's face it, confident people are more attractive. There's an aura around a person with confidence that suggests glowing colors and bright sunshine on the rainiest day. Who wouldn't rather spend time with a relaxed and happy person than with that tense person glowering in the corner? People with high self-esteem look happier, healthier and more vibrant.
Gaining self-esteem is not as hard as you think, so why not start doing something about it right now? All steps, big and small, towards gaining self-esteem fall into two main categories: A) Avoid the negative and B) Accentuate the positive! Need more details? Just follow these 10 steps, and you'll find yourself feeling better about who you are in no time!
AVOID THE NEGATIVE:
1. Tell the critical voices of those friends and family shouting
in your head to shut up! Actually, say "Stop!" and replace the
critical thought with a kind, positive thought. Don't let those
critics be your mirror. Those 'friends' can be like fun-house mirrors
given the chance! Before you know it, you're too tall, too short, too
fat or too thin - depending on which voice is loudest. Nip those
inner voices in the bud - don't let anyone, including yourself, put
you down. Cross the street if necessary to avoid people who are
disparaging, faultfinding and doubting and you won't have to expend
all that energy trying to dislodge negative words. After all, if you
clog your ears with useless nonsense, how are you going to hear the
compliments? Listening to only the negative is deliberately putting
yourself into a nightmare! Wake up already!
2. Don't compare yourself to others. Why depress yourself by
using a friend, acquaintance or movie star as a measuring stick that
leaves you short? You don't have to beat yourself up because you're
not as rich, famous or thin as what's her name. That's a recipe that
can leave the most envied person in the world feeling totally
miserable. Trust me, anyone -no matter how seemingly perfect - who is
focused on how much more fabulous someone else must be, will not be
happy! So try something different - look for ways to use the people
you admire as your inspiration to help you towards your own goals.
What habits does this person have that could work for you and help
your own personality to shine? Emulate an exercise regimen, a work
ethic or just smile more often!
3. Start saying no. Chances are "no" was one of the first words
you ever said. At one time, it may even have been your favorite. USE
IT! Don't say yes to things you don't want to do - especially when
you feel you're being taken advantage of! Practice drawing your
boundaries. Start with easy people, if necessary - like a good
friend - before tackling your boss or your mother. And remember, if
you can't say no, at least don't say yes - say maybe. Maybe works, it
gives you a chance to think. You can always call and say no later!
4. Don't try to change others. If you're trying to change
anyone, stop right now! That's exhausting - mainly because it doesn't
work! All that trying and trying, the constant vigilance with lots of
failure and maybe a little change, a little hope and then a lot of
sliding back - I'm exhausted just writing about it! No one can change
unless they want to - so stop working so hard! The sense of failure
that results when trying to change someone never leads to feeling
good about yourself. Be supportive if someone is going through a hard
time - but remember, the work is theirs, not yours! The only person
you can change is yourself. Accepting that isn't easy, but once you
get to that point, the only change you'll be watching will be your
self-esteem going through the roof!
ACCENTUATE THE POSITIVE
5. Make a list of your achievements. If you think you don't have
any, consider some things about yourself that you take for granted.
Can you cook, read, ride a bicycle? Are you the organized one who
keeps the family files, pays the bills, gets the kids to school? We
all have achieved. It can be as simple as learning how to walk and
talk, to learning how to program a VCR, to graduating from high
school, to getting a job or to being a good friend. It's easy to
forget all we have achieved in our lifetime. Remember that struggle
of learning to swim, jump rope or drive and take the time to be proud
of your achievements!
6. Make a list of your positive inner qualities. Another list -
but then, you must like lists - you're reading this one! Lists are
great, especially when they're lists about how wonderful you are! Are
you nice? Thoughtful? Patient? Smart? Funny? Reliable? Caring? Go
ahead, this is for you! You don't have to show anyone else and you
certainly don't need to worry that anyone might think you think well
of yourself! Keep your list handy and review it whenever you feel
down. You're special - celebrate your unique qualities - appreciate
7. Look good. Wear your favorite outfit. Polish your nails, put
on a new shade of lipstick or do something different with your hair.
And then, feel free to smile at yourself in the mirror before sharing
that smile with the rest of the world! It's the fastest fix there is.
You can't help but feel good about yourself when you're looking your
best. You may even get better service in stores and restaurants! Hold
your head up, shoulders back and walk down the street with
8. Exercise - the cure-all of the 90's! But really, it's true!
It's hard to feel negative when all those endorphins get flowing!
Plus, anytime you feel as though you are doing something positive for
yourself; you strengthen your self-esteem. Not into exercise? Use the
same principle! Do something positive for yourself! Encourage and
enlighten your mind, spirit or body. Read a self-help book, try a 12-
step meeting, take up yoga. Sign up for a class that interests you.
It's hard to think badly of someone who is constantly expanding
herself - even when that someone is you!
9. Seek out people who make you feel good. Remember - you get to
choose your friends - so why not choose people who think you're
great? Stop dismissing those compliments and please - stop arguing
with people who think you're fabulous! Modesty is all well and good
but saying thank you to a compliment doesn't turn you into an
egomaniac! Also, examine your schedule - how much time do you spend
with people who make you feel good? Find a way to make time for the
special people in your life. Don't fall into the time trap of
continually putting off the most important people in your life
because you're too busy. Stay in touch - drop them an e-mail or leave
a message to let them know you're thinking about them at those times
when things truly are impossible. Make the people you love and the
people who love you a priority every day!
10. Be your own best friend. You're great to all your friends -
why not be great to yourself? When you're busy getting down on
yourself, stop for a moment. Would you kick your best friend if she
were having a bad day? Of course not! So what if you were your own
friend? Think about it. Would you be kinder? More understanding and
forgiving? Would you give yourself encouragement? Why not be that
warm, wonderful, supportive person for yourself! Go ahead! Stop
working against your own well-being and be good to yourself!
So take one step at a time and you'll be on your way! As your self-
esteem soars, you'll find that you feel happier with yourself and the
world around you. Chances are your health will improve. You'll have
more time and energy for the things you love to do as well as the
people you love. All of this is the natural result of possessing high
self-esteem. Remember, with a little effort, anyone can have high
self-esteem. It's not an inherited trait; it's a learned skill! Now
that you have the tools to start you off, those negative thoughts
don't stand a chance! Should they try creeping in, you can just whip
out your positive inner quality list and remind yourself of how
wonderful you really are!
Copyright 2004: Mark Sichel is a psychotherapist, consultant, and
speaker on a broad range of issues related to family, mental health,
and interpersonal problems. He is the editor and principal author of
the award winning self-help website, www.psybersquare.com. For a
more detailed guide to overcoming the panic brought on by
dysfunctional family experiences, read Mark Sichel's new book,
Healing From Family Rifts: Ten Steps to Finding Peace After Being
Cut Off From a Family. For more information about this book visit
the author's website: www.marksichel.com