Building Self Esteem

Written by Jada Sheehy

Let’s be honest — Feeling good about ourselves is not always easy. Did I believe that I was smart and capable growing up? Yes! Well…sometimes, I believed that. Other times, more than I should, I believed that I was not good enough. That I may never actually be good enough. Any positive remarks that came from professors, mentors, peers, friends, or family meant very little to me as I didn’t always believe that about myself. Why is that? Is it because I didn’t like myself or the person that I was? No, I loved myself… Well, until I didn’t. No, that’s not it. I think it was because I was conditioned to receiving negative comments from those whose opinions mattered most, rather than positive. But, was that negative talk or just constructive criticism? Hmmm. Maybe it was because with every accomplishment I was told that I needed to do even better next time. That this was good, but not quite good enough.

Honestly, I know it’s a multitude of factors that these feelings and thoughts can be attributed to. I can’t blame those around me for not knowing how counterproductive their words were towards my self-esteem, but I can commit to breaking a pattern. I can commit to speaking more positively about myself and those around me as I know how impactful words can be. And, you can too.

Now, as I stated earlier, that’s not always easy! I don’t think it’s possible to completely stop negative thoughts from entering our minds (although, I really wish we could!), but we can control what we do with them.

Let’s go over five ways to build, or rebuild, your self esteem and reshape your thinking.

  1. Be Nice to Yourself

Yes, I know. This is absolutely 10x easier said than done. I KNOW! To help with this, I’ve worked on showing up for myself as I do others. If a coworker or friend were to speak negatively of their work, I would help them reflect on how the project started in comparison to its current state. This would allow them an opportunity to see the growth and commend themselves for their efforts.
If I am able to do that for them, then I want to be able to do that for myself.

To make this even easier, maybe start by writing down affirmations or repeating them to yourself in the mirror. It may feel awkward at first, but trust the process.

  1. Remember that Nobody is Perfect

While it may be difficult to accept, we must recognize that no one is perfect. It’s challenging to believe this, especially since we tend to compare ourselves, but it’s necessary in order to protect our own mental health. Remember, comparison is the thief of joy and things are not always as they seem, so try not to steal your own happiness.

  1. Celebrate the Big & Little Wins

When I graduated from college, I felt nothing. I was so consumed with my next steps that I actually forgot to celebrate what I had accomplished. It wasn’t until several months later that I began to process what happened. Like .. I graduated from college?! After that moment, I decided that going forward I would celebrate the big and little wins. I was no longer going to delay joy or gratification. By celebrating the little victories as well, I was more motivated towards accomplishing my bigger goals. Now when I accomplish my larger goals, I’m able to reflect and respect the milestones along the way.

After all, what’s work with no play?

  1. Focus on What could Go Well

It’s very easy for me to focus on the things going wrong instead of what’s going right.
Instead of asking, “What’s the worst that could happen?” I began asking, “What’s the best that could happen?”. This simple shift allows me to put my energy towards the best possible outcome, so I’ll do whatever it takes to succeed. I’m a bit of an overthinker, so while I focus on the best outcome, I still prepare for any challenges. However, the right mindset helps overcoming these challenges easier.

  1. Surround Yourself with Supportive People

Our fifth and final tip for today has been the most transformative for me. I grew in a lot of areas, but I was still surrounded by people that triggered my negative thinking. It started to feel like my growth didn’t matter, or wasn’t actually real. We live in a world where others’ opinions of us play a role in what we think of ourselves – no matter how much we say it doesn’t. I’ve had to cut ties and set boundaries with family and friends. It’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do, but alternatively one of the most rewarding.

You have to surround yourself with supportive people that empower you to be the best version of yourself.

Positive self esteem talk is vital at any age, but our fundamental childhood years is where it matters most. As I write this, I reflect on my childhood and experiences where negative self talk played a role. Would I have been so hard on myself when I made a mistake if I knew that making mistakes was not only normal, but totally expected? Would I have been so consumed with what others thought of my appearance, decisions, grades, etc. if I was proud of myself? Maybe when I first went to college I would’ve picked the major I wanted instead of following what I thought I was supposed to do, therefore avoiding having to take a year off to regroup. Now, I’m not saying things were all bad because they weren’t! However, there were many times when outcomes may have been different if I had more self confidence.

Do you know the most interesting part about the moments that I shared with you today? No one around me would’ve suspected a thing. Everyone believed I was confident and determined. That’s partially because that’s how I was taught to be – to not show weakness or fear. And, it’s also because I didn’t properly know how to communicate any of these emotions. When I tried, it wasn’t well received, so eventually I stopped. I can only imagine how different things may be if I was able to log onto an app like Rhithm, for example, and share the emotions I listed today in real time. If my teacher knew that I stopped participating in class because I was so afraid of saying the wrong thing and being laughed at, not because I disliked her class, would she still have called my dad? Probably! But instead of saying I was going to fall behind because I was focused on my social life, she might’ve shared with him that I was experiencing symptoms of anxiety and provided resources.

Parents, teachers, counselors, etc. really do want the best for their children, but alternatively, children have to not only be able, but feel empowered to communicate their needs and emotions. I’m glad that resources like Rhithm are giving students their voice.

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