These days, as in years past, women are still often the target of disparaging and demeaning comments that can gradually eat away at their sense of self-worth. This is especially true when more timid women inevitably come face-to-face with confident “power” women who may come across as having an overpowering personality with a tendency to bully others — whether purposefully not. Often, for those in positions of power, pushing down others to make themselves feel and appear more powerful is as natural as breathing air.
Fortunately, more and more once timid and unassuming women these days are able to attain positions of authority in the workplace and in the home. These women have come to realize that the ability to empower themselves has been in their own hands the whole time. As a result, these women have become more self-confident and their self-esteem has been boosted by others’ belief in their capabilities as well as their own awareness of their skills and strengths. This can only be a good thing, as this enables the women to become more productive and self-fulfilled in their chosen fields.
Building up one’s self-esteem doesn’t happen after reading an article or attending a confidence-building workshop. It takes years of unlearning bad self-damaging habits and practicing new behaviours and exercises that later become something that we do automatically when the need arises. People have turned to meditation, mindfulness exercises, physical exercise as well as gratitude activities to exorcise the internal demons that weigh down their self-confidence and even paralyze them from moving forward.
Here are a few of these ways to build up your self-esteem to be a more productive, self-fulfilling person – a truly best version of yourself that you can be.
Meditation and Mindfulness
“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” Eleanor Roosevelt
The former US First Lady was right about that. Someone with low self-esteem often focuses on her mistakes and thinks that everyone around her must think that she is so inept at the task that it makes her want to avoid doing more tasks that could lead to more mistakes. It’s a never-ending vicious cycle of negativity. And a lot of the times, our own worst critic is ourselves. Whenever we listen to that inner critic that constantly spouts destructive thoughts about how we look, talk, act or even dress. A few meditation and mindfulness exercises can help teach you to silence that self-sabotaging voice inside your head and listen to the real voice inside your heart.
Meditation is a way of connecting with your true spiritual self, regardless of whatever religion you practice. It will help you elevate yourself from that internal chatter you have inside yourself at all times to reach the more unself-conscious and quieter part of yourself.
- Find a quiet place where you can sit comfortably and undisturbed. Keep your back and spine straight to allow your energy or Qi to flow better. Use a mantra to chant to quiet your mind and clear all unnecessary thoughts. Try to visualize your mantra as a peaceful environment you can see in your mind. Place your hands on your belly and take three slow breaths, keeping your shoulders relaxed and loose. Say your mantra as you breathe in. Hold that breath for two seconds and repeat the mantra as you breathe out. Repeat this exercise for 5-10 minutes twice a day.
- Positive talk: Instead of a mantra, you can speak kindly to yourself with words of encouragement to drown out the inner critic’s voice. Keep the messages short and simple so that it’s easier for your subconscious to accept. Say things like “I am proud of myself.”, “I accept myself even if I make mistakes.” or “I believe in myself and what I can do.”
Mindfulness is a way of paying attention to what we are experiencing in the now and accepting it without any judgment or prejudice. You become more aware of your own feelings and emotions and just accept them for what they are without ascribing any negativity to them. You will begin to discern which thoughts and feelings don’t help you and recognize that you can trust yourself to know what is best for you. As those negative thoughts that breed insecurity and ill feelings are rejected, you begin to see more positivity and goodness that is really going on around you.
- Do a sensory walk. Wherever you are, stop and notice the small details around you. Use your physical senses – listen to the sounds, feel the temperature, focus on the scents and see what is unique or extraordinary about what is going on around you. Do your best to ignore or stamp down any judgmental thoughts and just accept what you are sensing for what they are.
- Strike a confident power pose. Stand straight, feet flat on the ground, shoulders back, chin up and hands on hips. Imagine your legs as rods that draw in strength from the earth, making you immovable in the face of any adversity or ill will. Hold that pose for two minutes as you chant a confidence building mantra every time you breathe in and out. Feel the change in your emotions as you do this and allow it to push away any self-doubt or self-anger.
It has long been proven that any form of physical exercise, aerobic in particular, delivers a rush of “feel good” hormones all throughout the body. It also keeps the body fit and conditioned for any activities you will encounter on a daily basis. It is a natural mood booster that can be both empowering and challenging since every new physical achievement adds to your self-confidence. It also helps boost personal productivity because you feel more energetic and confident that you are able to overcome your lethargy and laziness. The increased blood flow to the brain and increased physical stamina can give you the confidence that you can complete any tasks you will have to face.
- Find an exercise that suits YOU. It can be a challenge to start exercising but building your self-esteem involves doing something you are afraid of or don’t like in order to see that you can actually overcome that personal hurdle. There are many ways to bring exercise into your daily life and not all of them need to be at a gym. Consider any activity that gets you outside and moving. Set a goal for yourself and not because you want to compare yourself to others. Your best competition is yourself.
- Exercise according to your level and ability. Remember that any physical exercise you do is better than not doing any exercise at all. Start slow and build up to more challenging levels and longer times as you progress. Accept your body’s limitations at the start and be forgiving if it seems difficult or painful. Keep your goals and targets in check and adjust them as you are able to surpass each personal milestone.
- Join a group or a class. Even if you are at the beginner’s stage of your class, it is also important to integrate social interaction into your physical activity. Joining special interest groups like pack walks with your dog, ballroom dancing, tai chi or martial arts helps its members motivate each other and instills commitment to the group activity. This social motivation helps boost personal self-esteem and trust in the group as a support system.
Having gratitude helps you feel better about yourself because it makes you focus on the positives in your life and puts you in a better mood. Having low self-esteem makes you see more negativity in your life than there actually is. It’s like having ill-fitting glasses that distort the way you view the world and block you from seeing the good things that are really there.
These gratitude exercises are little activities that help you refocus on even the smallest act of kindness instead of seeing what you perceive as overall unhappiness. When you start to see gratitude and thankfulness in everything around you, your outlook and attitude towards yourself will begin to change for the better.
- Gratitude Box: Find a small box that you can decorate or adorn as you please. Take a minute everyday to write a message of gratitude for a loved one. It can be for small acts of kindness, an acknowledgement of their presence, or just an expression of appreciation. This is a way of sharing your thoughts and feelings with others. It also helps cultivate a personal sense of gratitude for your loved ones in ways that you may not have expected. You can set a date, perhaps at the end of the year, to share those messages of gratitude and receive a few messages of your own.
- Gratitude Jar: Think of three things that you are grateful for everyday and write them down on strips of paper. They can be simple thoughts or grand ideas. As you do this, you will find yourself looking at the world differently and seeking out the things that you can be grateful for.
- Gratitude notebook or journal: This is the easiest way to practice gratitude. Set aside a few minutes to think back on the things that made you feel grateful that day or that week. You don’t have to be strict with yourself about setting a schedule to do this. Be as spontaneous as you feel and write when you feel the urge to do so. This habit will help you focus on finding the good things that happened to you and it will totally change your outlook on the world.
- Gratitude token: Find a small item that is easy to carry or have around you every day. Make it something that you can personally imbue with significance that can serve as a trigger to pull you out of a blue slump or mental grind and into a state of positive thinking. Make it so that whenever you see or touch that personal token, you are reminded of something or someone that makes you feel grateful or thankful.
High Self-Esteem + Productivity = Your Best Self
“You’re braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.” Christopher Robin to Winnie the Pooh
Everyone has an image or idea of themselves that forms the basis of their self-esteem. This image includes everything that you think about yourself from the physical to the emotional parts of you. When you have high self-esteem, you have confidence in your ability to surpass obstacles and difficulties with a positive can-do attitude that accepts mistakes and failures as part of the process. When you can forgive yourself and move on from a personal or professional transgression, the next obstacle you have to overcome is much easier to tackle. You will no longer be tied down by the fear of failure or be held back by the opinion others may have of you because you can trust that your abilities and capabilities will help you accomplish more tasks.
As you succeed with each new task, you will start to see that more people will start placing their trust and confidence in you as well. This overt acknowledgement is another boost to your self-esteem that will keep you moving forward to bigger and better accomplishments both personally and professionally.