How do you know if you have healthy self-esteem? There’s a certain peace that comes of accepting yourself and your gifts, strengths, and weaknesses. It is freeing to be aware of your capabilities and your limitations without feeling like they are a valuation of your worth or success as a whole person.
Healthy self-esteem encompasses self-love, self-respect, a sense of worth, self-knowledge, self-acceptance, boundaries, well-being and self-confidence. It applies to all aspects of life, and allows for a way of being aligned with the highest good for all. Without it, life can feel like it’s happening to you, and it can be easy to play the role of victim.
A person with healthy self-esteem knows how to establish clear and healthy boundaries in all areas of their life. This means they know what they will and won’t accept in terms of behaviour, treatment, remuneration, etc, and will firmly state their preferences. They begin from a place of abundance, able to fill their own cups without the need to be filled up from without. They honour others’ boundaries, knowing that if a situation isn’t a match, they will find one elsewhere. They have the inner strength to walk away from things that feel discordant, trusting that they will find and recognize resonance.
As with anything, it is possible to learn and build your self-esteem muscles every day.
Here are a few ways to move towards greater self-esteem:
1) Drop the judgements
Have you ever heard the expression ‘you’re your own worst critic’? Well, it’s true. All judgements begin within. If you’re reluctant to put yourself out there, for fear of looking ___stupid, crazy, ugly, uncoordinated, or [you name it]___, you’ll never try anything new, and never know if you like what you discover. Judgements are rooted in shame, which is a toxic and debilitating energy.
If you find yourself judging others for their attempts, ask yourself if you’re holding harsh judgements against yourself for times when you’ve failed, or been too afraid to try. Sometimes a judgement of another’s efforts reveals envy at their courage. Try to start from a neutral place, where there is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong,’ no ‘success’ or ‘failure.’ Your only goal is to show up and see how it feels. That way, you’re not holding unfair expectations and you’re allowing for life to flow in whatever way it goes.
2) Celebrate your efforts
How do people learn their capacities and limitations if not by trying things? Celebrate your courage in trying and learning through the process. If you focus too much on success or failure, you will whittle away your self-esteem and hold yourself to some unseen standard of approval which only serves to limit you. It is showing up and trying that truly counts, and that teaches you the greatest lessons in life.
The great thing is, celebration also opens the way for you to establish a safer place from which to try new things. If you know you’ll be celebrating the efforts and not only the successes, you’ll create a comfortable level of self-acceptance, knowing your goal is to try, and to learn. You won’t be holding yourself back for fear of failure, you’ll be joyfully accepting new challenges as an opportunity to grow.
3) Learn to say no (without guilt)
Healthy self-esteem comes with firm and clear boundaries, which means being comfortable with saying no. When you are consistently saying yes to others’ demands, for fear of offending or ostracizing them, you are giving yourself the message that your needs don’t matter. It can be the cause of buried resentment and anger.
As you learn to establish healthy boundaries, you’ll discover that no becomes a good friend. It doesn’t have to be a distancing factor between you and another; it is simply meant to indicate that the current opportunity is not resonant with your needs.
As you develop your boundaries, you honour your time, your desires, and your energetic resources. You get to know your limitations and capabilities on more than a physical level, and are able to trust them and state them clearly. There is no guilt at saying no, because it feels good to care for your own needs, and creates healthier relationships.
4) Be honest in your self-assessment
This has two sides: be honest with yourself when you’re great at certain things, and be honest with yourself when you’re not. You don’t have to be great at everything, the idea is to have a balanced life, with a varied repertoire. Healthy self-esteem means you’re able to own your gifts without the need to constantly remind everyone else of that fact. It also means you can admit when you’ve made a mistake or when you’re not able to do something.
Knowing your worth is a cornerstone for healthy self-esteem. It combines the knowledge that your skills and capabilities are not the sum total of who you are, and neither are your limitations. Your worth is independent of anything you can or can’t do; it is inherent in your existence. Your gifts and talents just add depth to your human experience.
5) Stop comparing yourself to others
With the other four under your belt, this one should feel easier and more natural. You’ve already dropped the judgements about yourself and others, you’ve been celebrating your efforts, you’ve learned to say no, and you’ve been honest in your self-assessment. This one is almost inherent in those things, it is probably already happening.
Comparison to others is a sure way to undermine your self-esteem, whether you come out ‘on top’ or get the short end of the stick. It feels yucky, for want of a better word, to compare yourself to others. Anyone outside of yourself is starting from a different place and using different tools. Comparison is futile, and can be debilitating.
Use your own experiences to measure your growth and expansion. Use your willingness to try to determine your success. Use your heart’s resonance to decide on which experiences feel good and which don’t. Nothing external to you has the power to define your experience, and the sooner you release the need to measure up to something outside of you, the happier and healthier you’ll feel.