Self-esteem is hard.
That’s not something that people want to tell you. They imagine that the moment you get told something is difficult, you’ll throw your hands in the air and give up.
I don’t. I think it’s better to be honest and, honestly, respecting and accepting yourself is HARRRRD.
But it's totally worth it. Let me explain.
In a perfect world, we would wake up every morning, swing our feet out of bed and bust out six or seven of our favourite yoga moves before a healthy breakfast.
I don’t know about you, but that is not the life that I am living.
In my world, my alarm goes off at 6.50, 6.55, 6.57, 6.59 and 7.00. Then I snooze it for another 5-10 minutes before I finally grab my phone and try to focus on whatever dumb new stuff my Instagram friends have posted until I’m finally awake enough to sit up and think about getting to the shower.
Self-esteem is a little like getting up early for school or work after not getting to sleep until 2am - you don’t want to do it and your brain is really good at telling you you don’t need to, but you know that if you don’t your life is gonna be harder in the long run.
So, you get up, drag yourself where you need to go, work, and then at the end of the day, you’re a bit richer.
Building self-esteem is similar: you can learn to trust and believe in yourself. At first it is going feel pointless but, after some work, you are going to be so much richer (figuratively and literally).
Here are seven steps that I have found worked for me when I started my own self-esteem building journey.
Whatever your reason, find it, write it down, memorise it, and believe in it.
2. Identify the mean thoughts
We all have voices that tell us the bad things about ourselves, whether they come from other people or your own mind.
When you hear a voice that is saying something that makes you feel bad about who you are, try to remain as calm as you can and consider what it said without jumping straight to an emotional reaction.
Remember - just because you heard it doesn’t mean it is right, especially if you are saying it to yourself!
3. Forgive yourself
We all make mistakes. If you mess up feel it, deal with it, and do better next time.
What happens to us doesn’t define us; how we react to it does.
Once you have spotted a bad thought in your head, grab onto it, stare it in the eyes and tell it that it is wrong.
Here’s something else that people don’t tell you - you can control what you think and when you think it.
Self-confidence is like a muscle - the more reps you do the stronger you get, making it easier to deal with the heavy stuff.
Start small. Maybe you were 14 when someone at school pointed at your knees and laughed at how knobbly they are. Maybe everyday for the next six years you go to put clothes on and every morning you think ‘I can’t show my weird knees’ and only wear long pants.
Ok yeah, that’s a story about me.
The point is, that whole thing sounds ridiculous but to me, it was so real that it changed my behaviour for six years.
Find that thing for yourself - something small that seems like a bigger deal in your head than it is and tell yourself, ‘No, my knees are fine. And even if they aren’t, I don’t need to care because anyone who points at them and laughs in front of all of my friends is a total dickhead.'
It’s not going to take one day of saying no to your fears to make them disappear. Like I said, self-esteem is hard.
You will need to do it every day, as much as you can. It will take mental energy and sometimes you will fail at it and that is OK. Remember your reason and keep going again as soon as you can.
You deserve to find your worth.
6. Scale up
Once you’ve spent a few weeks repping the small stuff and are learning to trust yourself, try something bigger and start the process from the beginning.
Remember the why > identify the thought > forgive > disagree > practice.
One important note - you don’t have to do this alone. Try to have someone you can trust to talk to if things get hard. It might be a counsellor or a doctor, or a positive uplifting friend or family member. Of course, there is always someone here at Youthline.
7. Be flexible
Routine and structure are good, but it’s always important to be able to respond when something changes.
If you find that my advice isn’t quite right for you, but you can change it to work for you, then go ahead! The focus is you changing your thoughts for the better and whatever works for you is the right way to do it.
This process is one that I’ve found works for myself and is loosely based on something called ‘cognitive behavioural therapy’. When you’re trying to improve yourself, I always find a little bit of learning can really help.
Congratulations! You’ve made it to the end of this blog post! You achieved something today. Now go out there, follow the good thoughts and leave the bad behind.
By Ben Moore
Ben doesn't like to sit still. That's probably part of the reason that after 1 year of training, 2 years of job hunting, and 4 years of working in high schools, he gave up Drama teaching to pursue writing. He has exactly zero regrets about this decision. He is an advocate for mental health awareness, treating everyone equitably and generally trying to be a Good Person.