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How can I build my self-esteem?

At 45, Felicia is what one would describe as successful – she’s a happily married wife to her college sweetheart, mom to two sons consistently on the honor roll, and a director of sales for a thriving manufacturing company. She’s athletic. She’s a former tap dancer. She’s polished, well-spoken (she speaks three languages), kind and compassionate.

“I read about what I’ve done, on paper, and I’m like, ‘Hey, yeah, that’s a pretty successful woman,’” says Felicia. “But when I look at myself, I don’t see what’s on that paper. I don’t see what I’ve worked so hard to build.

“All I see is how far I’ve yet to go, and how everyone else seems more successful than I am. I see where I’ve failed, not what I’ve established and created.

“And the weirdest thing is that I am the most supportive friend and colleague and mentor in the world, at least I like to think… and yet when it comes to my own self-talk, I’m not kind at all. If I talked to others the way I talk to me, I would never talk to me.”

Felicia isn’t alone; many people are quicker to judge themselves, many people cast a harsher light on their own beings than they ever would on others.

When you have self-esteem challenges, it’s a great idea to seek therapy to help you think about yourself in a friendlier way, but there are some things you can do on your own to supplement the work you do in session once or twice a week (or however often you and your therapist have agreed upon). There are ways to develop compassion for yourself, to be comfortable in your bravery, and to find that self-love that is no necessary for joy.

Tip #1: Write.

Journaling has become such a gift for so many people. Now, the idea of journaling might be intimidating to you – you may think, “I’m not a writer!” But you don’t have to be a writer to journal. In fact, there are many different ways to journal – you can do bullet-style journaling, which is merely jotting down simple notes or short sentences; you can draw your thoughts instead of writing them out; you can do free-verse journaling; or you can type out to your heart’s content as if you’re writing out your very own novel. There’s no right or wrong way to write; it’s just about writing down how you’re feeling, where you’re at in any given moment, and freeing yourself to think and feel whatever you want, in the safety of your own pages.

Tip #2: Practice mindfulness.

No, mindfulness is not the same as meditation, which scares off some people. Meditation does take a bit of practice and a bit of skill, but mindfulness is so much simpler. Mindfulness is simply being aware of what’s here and now.

Try this: the next time you’re having a snack or a meal, be hyperaware of the flavors you’re tasting. Try thinking about each ingredient in the dish, and how they’re contributing to the deliciousness of what you’re eating. Or take a few minutes out at work, sitting at your desk and closing your eyes. Feel your feet on the ground, your thighs resting on your seat, where your arms and hands have fallen. Can you picture how your face looks at this very moment? Is it at rest? Is it strained?

The idea behind mindfulness is so simple. It’s about not being anxious about what’s to come or sad about what you’ve left behind. It’s just being here, right now. When we have poor self-esteem, so often it’s because we’re dissatisfied with what we did (or didn’t do) or worry that we won’t get somewhere (wherever that is). When you’re just here, right now, and you’re not judging anything about who you are, how you feel, what you look like, where you’ve been or where you’re going, it’s so very peaceful.

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