Do you suffer from low self-esteem and lack of confidence?
If you answered yes, you’re not alone. And today, I want to come alongside you and share some of the ways I’ve been able to overcome low self-esteem.
“I can get by without new t-shirts.”
“I can’t afford this chalkboard right now.”
“I don’t really need this carafe,” I would reason with myself. But this time browsing the aisles of Target was different, and
- 2 t-shirts
- 2 salt & pepper shakers
- 2 small carafes
- 1 – 4 pack of 4 oz. ball jars
- and a chalkboard later,
my cart was full.
I thought of all the ways I’d use my purchases:
- filling the salt & pepper shakers with baking soda for sprinkling on the carpet, rugs and mattress, and scrubbing bathroom surfaces,
- making sugar scrubs to store in the ball jars,
- and hanging the chalkboard in the kitchen so that we can keep a list of groceries we need.
Then, when I set one of the carafes on the nightstand in the guest room something struck me. It was as if the gift cards gave me permission to fill my cart with all the items I’d made excuses not to buy in the past.
But it was more that that. That three dollar carafe spoke into my heart to bind together the pieces of my broken self-esteem.
What Causes Low Self-Esteem?
Knowing where low self-esteem originates affirms your feelings from that time in your life and provides a springboard for moving forward. It’s actually very empowering. With that said, here are few reasons for low-self esteem.
- Critical environment – You’re likely to struggle with low self-esteem if you grew up in a critical environment. That can be your home, a relative’s home, at school, in sports, anywhere you felt particularly criticized.
- Being treated poorly in a relationship, whether it’s a spouse, friend, someone you dated, or a parent. That constant poor treatment is like receiving a negative message about yourself on repeat.
- Money struggles – If you struggle financially or are perpetually worried about money, it can wear on your self-esteem.
- Chronic illness – Having a chronic illness, whether physical or mental, affects how you feel about yourself.
- Making mistakes – We tend to internalize our mistakes, such as struggling in school, a failed relationship, messing up on the job, or losing a friendship, as sign of our self-worth which drags down our self-esteem.
Signs of Low Self-Esteem
One of the side effects (if you will) of low self-esteem is believing everyone else is better than you. That is exactly the subconscious message I heard from living on the wrong side of the tracks. And it’s that message that made it difficult for me to indulge in life’s little “luxuries.”
A few other signs of low self-esteem include:
- Negative self-talk – that voice, more like a broken record, in your mind that torments, criticizes, judges and puts yourself down. It’s like a plague. Blegh!
- Doubting yourself – This shows up as downplaying your achievements, seeing yourself through your weaknesses, not trusting your instincts, lacking confidence to try new things or pursue dreams and goals, or second guessing your decisions
- Struggles with shame, guilt, anger, depression, anxiety – All the above for me. I’m relieved and glad to say that grows less and less true everyday.
- Not being able to accept compliments – I struggled with this for so long. Thankfully, not anymore. Now, I say thank you, even if it’s a struggle. I’ve found the more I practice that, the easier it gets to actually accept the compliment.
And in particular, I believe you can tell a woman struggles with low self-esteem if she:
- lives in the shadows of everyone around her
- has a pattern of being in (and staying in) unhealthy relationships
- is afraid to speak up or use her voice
- is a perfectionist and/or is afraid to make mistakes
- struggles with performance anxiety
- can’t say no
- doesn’t enforce personal boundaries
- buries herself in roles and responsibilities
I have lived with and wrestled with every single one of these signs. It’s been an exhausting battle, but I’m so relieved and very glad to say I’ve won or in some cases am winning the war.
How to Overcome Low Self-Esteem
I spent my young adulthood wandering the wilderness that is low self-esteem. But I felt like I was wearing clothes that didn’t fit, and I was eager to shed the discomfort; I just didn’t know how. Or so I thought.
The reality is we have an inner voice guiding us at all times. We just have to learn to listen.
I was in my thirties, a new mom and young wife, before that voice caught my attention. By the time I turned forty, not only had that voice grabbed my attention, but it welled up and rose to the occasion. The me that had been too afraid to express myself for fear of displeasing those around me didn’t have a choice but to step aside.
Truly, me being able to put aside my deep abiding fear (operating in fear was a lifestyle for me) to make room for the power in me that is greater than anything I could be afraid of, was nothing short of a modern day parting of the sea.
All that to say, the strength to improve your self-esteem comes from deep within and becomes so strong you can’t avoid it any longer.
7 Ways to Improve Your Self-Esteem as a Woman
It has taken many, many years and lots of baby steps to recover from that mindset. One of the things I did to make that shift was very unintentional and oh so basic: I started washing my face at night. I know. So stinkin’ simple. But taking the time to make my own cleansing oil and go through a nighttime skincare routine was like a little love note to myself. All it said was “you’re worth it.”
That leads to my first tip for improving your self-esteem and that is this: practice self-care. If you struggle with the idea of self-care, then start with uncovering the truth about self-care.
Honestly, a solid self-care routine covers it, because in my mind everything else is self-care. But, I’ll highlight a few more ways you can build your confidence.
- Reframe your personal narrative – In other words, whatever story you believe, whatever history you have, look back at it with truth and wisdom to gain a new perspective. This is what I consider putting aside childish ways, the notions we carry with us from childhood, and taking steps toward growth and maturity.
- Practice gratitude – Thinking on things you’re grateful for has a way of lifting our spirits and putting us in a frame of mind to build our self-esteem. This does not mean we gloss over sadness, anger or any other “negative” emotions.
- Process your emotions, all of them – My favorite ways to process my emotions is through counseling and journaling. And obviously, I don’t believe any of our emotions are inherently negative or bad. Instead, I consider them God-given signposts that guide and support us.
- Capture the negative thoughts – By that I mean notice when the negative record is playing, and turn it off. You can do that by countering the negativity or criticism with truth. Also, take the time to say thanks to the inner critic, task master…whoever is trying to talk down to you, and let them now you can take it from here. That they’re no longer needed. (They likely exist as a coping strategy, formed early on in your life to protect you in times of stress or trauma.)
- Practice self-awareness – Start noticing what you like about yourself, what you enjoy, your personal likes and dislikes, and make a physical note of it. Then read that list from time to time. Becoming more aware of who you are and what makes you tick miraculously opens your eyes to see how fearfully and wonderfully made you are.
- Live with intention – First, determine what you value and establish your priorities. Then, guard your time and spend it on what matters to you most. Something about living life intentionally sends a message to your brain that says you matter. If you’re not sure where to start, try my book, Home on Purpose: Mindful Living in a Hectic World. As I said before, God has a way of meeting us right where we are and for many of us, that is in the busyness of running a household. And as you’ll discover, once you start changing your outer world, the inner world can’t help but follow.
All these actions add up until one day you realize something: you’re always being pursued, chased down by love himself, even in the aisles of Target.
That knowledge has been the ultimate boost to my self-esteem.