“You, yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection” -Buddah

If you were on the call this evening with Jenny and I, you hopefully gained some great information about self esteem and how it effects other parts of our lives. There was also some background about me and how I've become passionate about empowering others to attain their best self esteem as well as how I've come to have my own healthy sense of self worth.

As promised, I'm posting the list of action steps I have come up with to assist you in attaining healthier self esteem and to be on the road to your best life. I can't emphasize enough that how we feel about ourselves is foundational for your true happiness. I'm also including in this post how I define self-esteem.


What is self esteem?

In a basic definition, self esteem is how we feel about ourselves. That we understand and accept that we are unique, special and worthy human beings just for being born. But there is a foundation to our individual self esteem that needs to be thought about and reflected upon before we can really evaluate our self esteem and then try to take the necessary action to improve it. Here I have outlined three foundational guidelines:

1. Ask yourself the following questions:
What am I committed to? What do I believe in? What is important to me? This will tell you your values. The list may be long and if you want, you can star or number them in order of importance to you. Once you have made this list, go back and ask yourself if you are living up to these values. Be careful here, make sure these are YOUR values, not things that you think you SHOULD value. For instance, for me, one of my values is giving back and making a difference. Once I starting truly living this way and honoring this, my self esteem skyrocketed! It was like I starting living with integrity from my soul.

2. Teddy Roosevelt said, “Do the best you can with what you have, where you are”. I think this helps when we compare ourselves to others. Sometimes I get hung up about the plans I had 10 years ago for myself, that it’s not where I am today. But remembering that as long as I do the best I can with the current tools I’ve accumulated, there is really no possible way things could be different and it truly is the best for me.

3. Listen to your intuition. If something in your gut is telling you something about your life that makes you uncomfortable, I can almost guarantee that it is negatively effecting your self esteem. I wish I would have listened to mine a few times when it was not just whispering, but screaming in my ear. My self esteem suffered greatly during those times. This goes for resting too. So many of us, go, go, go constantly, never taking the time to honor ourselves with rest.

And now on to the action steps…

I encourage you to spend some time with this list and really think about your answers. Get out paper and pen or pull up a Word document and get to work. Be prepared to maybe become emotional as you think about and document your answers. Be honest with yourself.

1. Recognize your level of self esteem

This may need to be broken down into categories instead of one lump sum. You can rate it on a scale of 1-10 in general, or break it down and say “my self esteem about my body is a 6, but about how smart I think I am is a 9”. There’s a good chance you feel better about certain charactersitics about yourself. Be realistic.

2. Write down ways that you think your self esteem has affected other parts of your life. 
You may need to take some time to think about this one. Like for me, shopping was a big one as I was doing it to try to build myself up. Or maybe you didn’t apply for a particular job or ask for a promotion because you didn’t have what it took to make it could happen. Or maybe that your boyfriend or friends or family has confronted you about the way you talk about your body. In that instance you are bringing other people that you care about into your storm of low self esteem.

3. Reflect on times in your life when your self esteem was good and healthy
What were you doing? Where were you? Who was in your life? Are these things still happening? 

4. Take inventory of people in your life that may be affecting your self esteem negatively, other than yourself. 
This one may be difficult because these may be family members and people you care about. Is it a boyfriend who encourages you to dress a way that makes you uncomfortable or makes jokes about your body? Or a parent who pressures you to be an over-achiever? Or a friend who constantly talks bad about herself and wants you to commiserate with her? Or it may be someone in your life that is toxic that you don’t even realize is holding you back from being your best true self. Don't just list these people, write down situations to bring realness to it. Take some time to think about that one.

5. Take inventory of the people in your life who have effected your self esteem in a positive way. 
These are people that believe in you, and accept you no matter what.  Same as the previous action, list these people and write why they have encouraged you to have healthy self esteem. *Note: This may mirror some of the same people that have effected your self esteem negatively. If this is the case I encourage you to have a constructive, non confrontational heart-to-heart with that person.

6. Define what being beautiful means and looks like to you
This is my favorite because it taps into your own personal values. I’m not talking about weight, the way you look or the clothes you wear. I’m talking about what you think a beautiful person on the inside looks like. What are the attributes? What do they stand for? What are their attitudes and beliefs? 
An example of what I think is beautiful is someone who stands up for what she believes in, even if it's against the norm. Someone who is educated on subjects she is passionate about. Someone who lives with integrity and tries to bring out the best in people. This may not be what you think is beautiful and that's okay!  I really encourage you to make your own definition that is unique to you.

7. Make a list of 100 things you love about yourself
Yes, I said 100. It's possible! This one is really important and I encourage you to give yourself an hour or 2 to do it in one sitting. Don't worry if you have some repeats, keep them and look back later for patterns. You may see some of your values emerging. If you are having trouble; list your strengths, things you admire about yourself, your greatest achievements, even your favorite physical attributes. Read this list out loud to yourself. You may feel embarrased, or awkward or even get emotional when you read it. That’s okay, this may be the first time you have ever said these things out loud!

8. Make a list of positive affirmations about your self esteem
Carry them with you or I like to put them on post-its and put them on my bathroom mirror where I will see them and say them out loud. You are putting these ideas into the universe when you say them out loud. It will come back to you. Here are some examples that I got from my Twitter friend Ray Davis:
I am beautiful in mind, beautiful in body, beautiful in spirit.
I am a unique and worthy person. I require no more justification than that to be exactly who I am.
Those that told me I was unworthy were wrong. I AM worthy. More sure of it today than ever before.
My beauty flows from inside to out. As I recognize my inner beauty, my outer beauty blossoms.
I am making peace with my body. I accept its flaws, celebrate its beauty, and work to improve what I want to change.
I am an immaculate being of light; perfect in form and function.

We didn't have time to get into body image during the call, but I think that it's integral when talking about self esteem, especially for women. This next part focuses on body image and how it’s connection with our self esteem. Studies show that often, perception of our bodies goes hand in hand with self esteem and self worth, playing a powerful role in how you see yourself as a whole person.

9. Make a timeline of certain beauty milestones in your life. You may need to look at old pictures to try and jog your memory.This exercise is to get you thinking critically about how your self esteem was shaped. I want you to try and remember the following times: First time you remember a friend or relative whose appearance inspired you growing up. First time you remember receiving a compliment about the way you look or act. The most critical comment you ever received. The first time you felt proud of the way you looked. When you first started to worry about the way you look. Go back and try to recall how you felt during these times. Was it easier to remember the first critical comment than the compliments? If you would like to take this exercise further, create a visual timeline by adding pictures like your favorite baby picture of yourself, you in your favorite outfit, your all time favorite picture of yourself, no matter how old it is.

10. Write a letter to your body.This one is optional, but I did it for myself and I can’t tell you how empowering and freeing it was to do this. Mine turned out to be an apology letter, which I will post on my blog in a few days. I think a key to freeing ourselves from having a negative body image and to accepting our bodies for the way they are, is to at least for a moment in time treat our bodies with the kind of respect we would treat someone that we care for and love tremendously. When I did this, when I looked at my body as if it were a person that I loved, it suddenly occurred to me that I needed to apologize for the way I had treated it. Writing that letter has been the single most powerful action I have done for my self esteem and body image. I cried my eyes out when I wrote it and I read it every week and still get emotional, but it’s getting easier to read. So in a way, I’m forgiving myself for hating my body. And that has been an amazing feat for me. I hope it's powerful for you too. 

I'll close with this: It's been my experience that self esteem is effected by this unending pressure and quest for perfection. A wise friend told me “Perfectionism is negative self-talk disguised as something positive. It is a greedy master that demands more energy than it yields results.”