You probably already know what self-esteem is if you’ve recognised that you want to work on it.
But to keep it brief – self-esteem is how you see and feel about yourself.
This will come from the thoughts and beliefs you have about yourself.
But these thoughts came from a whole bunch of places. The environment you grew up in. The people who raised you. The influence of the people you look up to or choose to be around.
They come from the shows you watch, the words you read, the social media feeds you engage with. Your life experiences.
They will all have a part to play but guess what?
In all of those things, the constant is you and you get to control it.
We’re getting tired of it aren’t we? The subtle and not-so-subtle messages that a woman’s worth comes from her appearance and attractiveness and that a man’s comes from his wealth.
Nobody will say it outright obviously.
But it’s something we still internalise and even behave as though it is true because of the reaction.
These things are rewarded in our culture. Well certainly in the online culture – the most popular accounts on Instagram are almost all to do with wealth and beauty – a celebrity who inevitably has both of those.
But it translates everywhere. A pretty girl will get a free coffee. Companies make more money from more attractive salespeople. A rich man can buy his way into places he would otherwise be undeserving of.
We see the perks of those traits and internalise how we fall short.
For Arab and Asian cultures, it’s a different ball game. We’re playing with professions and whether we’re married or divorced. These will raise or lower our social standing and so these are the things that people value.
These are just some of the things from outside of us that could affect how we see ourselves and affects our self-esteem.
It can affect how you live your life because it relates to your overall attitude, thoughts and feelings about yourself, your happiness, whether you assert yourself. It affects how you feel about trying new things and being able to identify your strengths. It affects your relationships and whether you feel deserving of respect, love and compassion.
So self-esteem is a big deal and it’s not always fixed on one level, it can ebb and flow in different periods of your life.
But if you can look at these images, hear these types of prejudices, live among them and still be unaffected, well that’s when you’re winning.
If this is something you’re interested in doing, then try these 5 steps.
1 : KNOW WHY YOU HAVE LOW SELF-ESTEEM
The reasons that come from you:
- negative self-talk
- aiming for perfection
- assuming failure is catastrophic
- thinking you know what other people are thinking
- comparing yourself to others
- giving into your fears
- not setting and maintaining personal boundaries
- bottling your feelings and opinions in any relationship
The reasons that come from others:
- being criticized or bullied
- emotional, psychological or any type of abuse
- being surrounded by negative people
- difficulty or problems related to your studies or work
- unhealthy relationships or relationship problems
- health issues
- pressures or prejudices from people, family, culture, society
- financial problems
There may be others or there may be a few playing a part at the same time and of course it may be the criticism you received that made you have that negative self-talk in the first place!
But it’s not always easy to identify so it’s important to explore all the possibilities for you and what could be your deep-rooted issues.
When you find a way to heal these parts of you that have been wounded, you will start to build your self-esteem. You may find help with this in future blog posts.
2 : KNOW WHERE YOUR WORTH COMES FROM
Your self-worth is knowing what your value is.
If you believe your worth to be given from the man who can’t commit and who continually disrespects you, then you will be broken.
If you think it will come from a parent who has never been able to show their love, then it will hurt you.
When you measure your worth against other people or other things, then you will always fall short.
These are the sad realities for many people I know and have worked with but the beauty is when they realise their worth never came from people to begin with.
Their self-worth, your self-worth and mine all come from Allah (swt).
Let me say that again.
Allah swt has specifically told us where our worth comes from.
In the Quran, in His words, Allah tells us that the most honorable are the ones who have piety.
So in other words, His definition of our worth, the things we’re going to be accounted for at the end of this life, is our hearts and our souls and having Allah swt in the centre of our being.
This immediately takes out any other definition set on us by people, society or culture.
How beautiful it is that God sees us by our true selves and is also always so open to our flaws, knowing that we are human and just trying our best.
Now that you know this, re-centre yourself.
Connect to the One who made you and has elevated you.
3 : REFOCUS YOUR ATTENTION
Anything you focus on grows and becomes more plentiful.
So instead of focusing on all your flaws and things you dislike which has been keeping your self-esteem low, focus on what you do like.
Concentrate on what you think you’re good at and the great things other people notice about you.
Strengthen and develop these parts of yourself.
4 : TAKE A CHALLENGE
Do something you’ve never done before but have always thought about doing.
It could be as simple as going to a city you’ve never visited before, or trying a new cuisine or outfit.
Don’t overthink it, just go for it. Any small stretch outside of your comfort zone will push you toward a higher self-esteem.
When you see how well you do or how far you go, even if only the first step, you’ll develop a sense of confidence.
5 : BE OF SERVICE TO OTHERS
Get out of your own head and start doing things for other people. The more you are of service to others; making them feel better, making their lives easier in the ways that you know how, the better you feel. Win-win.
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Reflect, know yourself and create the best version of you and the life that you want.