I have a child who would be described as self-confident: no climb is too high or ride too fast and he believes that he can take on the world in any sport or any fight! I sure do envy that self-confidence 😊 However, that same child is also sensitive to feeling unlikable or that he ‘always makes the wrong choices’ and he does not do well with criticism – a feeling that I’m sure many of us can relate to.
This is the difference between self confidence and self-esteem. They may seem similar on the surface but one is about having confidence in your abilities while the other is about how much you like and love yourself.
‘Loving yourself’ tends to be hard as we are usually our own worst critic. We will be the first to tell our friend that she is doing the best she can, that her kids love her even when she feels she’s failed them, that her ‘big mistake’ is actually a massive learning opportunity. You know the conversations, when we channel our inner Oprah and straighten our friend’s crown and help her move forward? BUT do we ever do the same for ourselves? Does the little voice in our head tell us that we’re doing our best, that our kids really do love us (even when they’re screaming how mean we are!), that tomorrow we will be better? Or does that voice tell us we’re stupid or that we’re ‘damaging our kids’?
Firstly, let me say that this is why it’s so important to surround ourselves with the people who do lift us up and get us past that voice in our heads, but more to the point we all need to learn to start loving ourselves AS WE ARE! (Yes, that’s a Bridget Jones nugget right there…) After all, we don’t only love our friends when they’re perfect, we love them for all their quirks and faults. Even if we feel the need to point out a mistake, we try to do with love and positivity, right? So why don’t we do the same for ourselves?
This is the true meaning of self-esteem. It is how we feel about ourself – whether we like or love ourselves and whether our general view is negative or positive. It’s understandable if our view leans towards the negative, many of us were raised with our faults being pointed out to us to ‘help us improve’ and that’s the voice that has continued in our head all of these years. Turning that around and raising your self-esteem can take time and some real work but there are some simple things you can do to improve your self-image and positive feelings about yourself.
- Learn to talk to yourself kindly – Catch yourself when you’re saying or thinking something negative to yourself and turn it around. Imagine you’re talking to your close friend and what you would say to her in the same situation. But be careful, don’t make this such a big thing that you catch every negative thought and start berating yourself for having berated yourself lol, this is a learning process. Treat yourself as a child learning to walk and don’t tell yourself off each time you fall down, just whenever you catch a negative self-thought try to re-frame it.
- List your good qualities – Make a list of the things you like about yourself and of the things that you have achieved in your life or the times you have surprised yourself. Take a look back at all of your hard work and commitment to the things and people you care about. Ask those in your life to tell you the things they like about you or how they would describe you and your strengths, you may be pleasantly surprised to find out the things other people see in you that you don’t. As you become aware of your strengths, play to them. For example, if you have a talent for crafty things give more time to it, perhaps create birthday cards or gifts, or if you make the best ever cheesecake perhaps bake one for someone who’s feeling down or send one into your child’s class for no reason at all. Spreading a little joy sure helps you feel good about yourself.
- Work on the areas that need work – Sure, we all have areas we know we’re not great at, I’m not asking you to suddenly think you’re perfect! Part of getting to know yourself is to understand your weaknesses as well as your strengths. However, true power comes from doing something about it. You could take an online parenting class, start a meditation course on anger, get a great new cookbook to mix up your meal routine (or just get a Hello Fresh subscription for a few weeks and have the food coming right to your door!!). Strengthening the areas where you feel that you are lacking will boost your self esteem no end and you may just find that you start to love areas that you used to avoid.
- Learn to say No – When we think of self-care, we tend to think of bubble baths or wine night, but a key part of self-care is learning to say No. If you find yourself doing the things you ‘should’ do instead of the things you ‘want’ to do then it’s time to stop and give yourself permission to say No. Do it politely but do it without feeling that you have to justify it. It’s ok to just say ‘No thank you, not this time’ and move on. I know, you’re saying ‘it’s not that easy’, ‘it’s family’, ‘it’s work’ or ‘my kids will miss out’. But seriously, how much fun is that wonderful family outing you planned if you’re snappy, tired and impatient with everyone because you’re so depleted?
- Fill your cup first – When I hear people say that you need to fill your cup first it always makes me think of the oxygen mask analogy: it’s no good trying to put someone else’s oxygen mask on before your own if you pass out while doing it. It’s the same with self care. If you are empty then how can you help those around you fill up their own cup? Don’t get me wrong, we all do it. We fall into the habit of trying to finish our ‘list’ before taking time out and relaxing. I have always found it hard to fully relax knowing I have to get up again and carry on. However, before long the complaining starts: ‘my husband doesn’t appreciate me’, ‘my kids don’t do enough to help’ or ‘i’m so fed up of doing everything round here’ (yes that last one is definitely one of mine!!). But think about it, if you don’t put yourself first, then why on earth should anyone else???! Once you start valuing yourself enough to put yourself first, then other people will do too.. I promise!
A real life example of learning to put myself first, is that I work from home so I will usually leave all the house ‘stuff’ until the afternoon. This means that as soon as I get the kids home from school it’s all about emptying dishwashers, bringing in laundry, tidying up, vacuuming etc. then rushing back to finish up in the office before starting dinner. It stresses the kids out that I’m nagging at them to help as soon as they’re in and I have zero patience for their afternoon antics as I’ve been on the go since I first woke up. However, lately I’ve started coming in the door, making a cup of tea and heading to the parent’s lounge to watch 20 minutes of tv or read a book. Sure, I have to ignore the bickering that usually starts, but eventually kids start emptying bags and dishwashers, tidying rooms (sometimes even doing homework!) and asking if there’s anything else they need to help with before being allowed some screen time… It’s no quicker than doing it the other way but it’s not much longer either and the bonus is that we end up all staying friends instead of me turning into a banshee. I guess I thought that it was better to be a real-life example of ‘doing your chores first’ but I have come to realise that teaching them self-regulation and self-care is a much more valuable lesson. If I needed proof that it was working, I got it last weekend when I had plans to catch up with girlfriends for the first time post isolation. My youngest complained that I wouldn’t be home with them but my eldest piped up: Mum deserves to have time with her friends too, just like when we get to have a playdate! Yes darling I do, and so do all of you!
To me, stepping into your power simply means acknowledging who you are and loving her, faults and all 🥰