I was kind of a strange kid growing up. In my own little world of art and playwriting, I didn’t notice that I was different. I genuinely liked myself. But when I entered the “real world” of school. opinions, people, and comparison, I began to realize (or more accurately feel) that perhaps I wasn’t good enough. This thought was a seed that implanted itself in my brain. Every time I thought about it, I watered it. Before long, that seed became a tree, with wide spread branches, and feelings of not being enough became a big part of who I was. I was great at disguising those thoughts, a phenomenal actress. Most of my friends had no idea how I really felt.
To be totally honest, I didn’t even know how I really felt until an event that happened (years later) shined a spotlight on my deep-rooted feelings of insecurity. I couldn’t ignore my feelings any more. At this point, I fully acknowledged that I had some very serious work to do.
The beginning of my epiphany was at Loehmann’s. One giant, open dressing room with a bunch of teenaged girls – who were thin, fashionable and popular. I decided to change quickly, but not before my not so perfect body was seen. The ridicule followed me to the high school locker room and I became self-conscious. Though not the social norm, I was fit due to years of horseback riding and biking. But I didn’t look like the plastics. After the “event,” I felt shame. I felt confused, embarrassed, and alone. So I turned to music, and punk rock saved my soul, but not my dark, goth image.
It has taken me over 25 years to reflect on high school and the way it affected my life. I realized I felt so poorly about myself that I let others decide my fate. I stayed with social groups where I didn’t fit, I followed the general career path of the women in my family, I pretty much gave up on me. But guess what peeps? I had an “aha moment” and decided I was, in fact, enough, and that things in my life were going to change. It’s a long hard road, but I’ve got my trusty DMs to help me with the rocky patches.
Here’s what I am doing to boost my self-esteem and self-worth. Try these tips and recognize your own worth too.
- Be your own best friend. Begin by noticing what you’re saying to yourself. You will be shocked at how often you say unkind things to yourself (I know I am floored), but know that it’s totally normal and part of the process. Learn to observe the thoughts that come up and don’t judge yourself for having them. When you see you’re in unkind space, ask yourself, “If this were a friend coming to me, what would I say to them?” Now change up your self-talk. Pep talk for loving-kindness folks. Right here, right now. Focus on just one thing you appreciate about yourself today.
- Get curious about why you’re triggered. We get emotionally triggered by all sorts of things: words, actions, decisions, the list goes on and on. When I got serious about feeling worthy, instead of blowing up at emotional triggers, I began asking myself what still needed to be healed. By doing this, I am able to understand myself better, so the next decision, I chose would lead to better, more self-loving choices.
- Ask your close friends & family what they appreciate about you. Sometimes a kind word from someone we love goes a long way. Their perspective also helps shed some light on the qualities about ourselves we have ignored. Get these words in writing, so you can pull them out and reread them when the soul crushing feeling hits. Send a quick email asking: “As one of the key people in my life, would you mind telling me what you appreciate about me? I’d be so appreciative!” When you get the response, print and save their words. Re-read as necessary.
- Surround yourself with people who lift you up. One of my downfalls is saying YES when I really want and need to say NO. It all comes down to not valuing myself or my time, or my own needs. Don’t be afraid, the person asking won’t hate you. They will respect you. And the more I decline events, and time with people who brought me down, the more I make room for the things in my life that made me feel happy, and whole. Feeling this way makes me love myself and appreciate the power within to ground myself. I am beginning to feel that I am enough. I signed up for online meditation classes, and started writing poetry again – seriously. Through these activities, not only am I finding myself, but I also am growing a fantastic support network of likeminded individuals who might eventually become friends.
- Focus on kindness and helping others. Choosing to switch my focus from “What’s wrong with me?” to “How can I give back?” is incredibly powerful. I can feel my worth when helping others. By giving a compliment, starting a random conversation with the woman bagging my groceries, helping an elderly person with their groceries, lending an ear, a hug, and a tissue for a friend after a long hard day…I can see my impact. I matter. I have the power to create happier moments for others. And when you see that you’re capable of this as well, it’s impossible to see that you are worthy and deserving of love, especially your own.
- Practice gratitude. I know I say this a lot, but you need to be grateful for yourself as a human being. Today’s society has us used to looking at things from the outside in. I don’t want to feel my worth based on my looks or fashion faux pas. Looks fade, fashions change, but our souls never do. I know this, but without writing it in a journal, I couldn’t see anything to appreciate about my odd self. But it is easy, and transformative. Bullet points, random notes and thought – all good. The point is that your gratitude focus is inward. You’re appreciating the qualities that make you unique.
- Realize everyone has their own struggles. We all know this, but don’t necessarily internalize it. It takes the creation of your own tribe of like-minded, supportive souls to give you the opportunity to discuss your feelings. Your groupies and friends will open up too, and your own self-worth will rise because you realize that you are not alone. You have the power.
Stay motivated and caffeinated!😉☕