By Alivia Hall
“You almost have to step outside yourself and look at you as if you were somewhere else you really care about and really want to protect. Would you let someone take advantage of that person? Would you let someone use that person you really care about? Or would you speak up for them? If it was someone else you care about, you’d say something. I know you would. Okay, now put yourself back in that body. That person is you. Stand up and tell ’em ENOUGH!” – Queen Latifah
In a world of uncertainty, this we know for sure: there’s no way to escape the relationship you have with yourself. It is the groundwork for everything else you experience. You can’t divorce yourself, you can’t break up with yourself once you’ve had enough. Perhaps that inevitability is too daunting, and that’s why we put relationships with ourselves on the end of our priority list. Perhaps we don’t think that we really have the power to change them… so instead we try to change the relationship we have with anything and everything else.
When I was most struggling with low self-esteem, I would never of guessed that I was one of the main causes of it. The constant negative self talk, the dissatisfaction and constant critiquing of my appearance and the fact that I always doubted myself… I mean, no wonder my self image was so incredibly bruised. It wasn’t until I learned what it meant to love myself and treat myself better that I began to see myself in a much clearer, more accurate light.
If you don’t treat yourself well or believe you are a worthy, deserving person, you will most likely fall victim to living your life self-verifying this to be true.
Self-verification theory is when people seek confirmation of their self-concept. This means if you have a negative self-concept, you are likely to attract and surround yourself with those who confirm your belief about yourself. Often those who stay in abusive relationships do so because they believe they aren’t worthy or deserving of love, and their abusive partner verifies that belief. As you can see, it is completely toxic and that is why it is important to recognize your beauty and worth, and truly love yourself.
Take stock of everything that’s happening in your life. Realize that it is a reflection of how you are treating yourself, thinking about yourself, and therefore, creating your experience.
Here are the five simple ways I personally learned to stop the cycle, and build some genuine self-esteem:
1. Start just by taking notice and catching yourself in the act.
The more you try to catch your negative self-narrative, the more aware you will become of it. For example, the other day I got an exam back and wasn’t happy with the grade. From the minute I saw the letter, the negative self talk started. “Why didn’t you try harder, why aren’t you as smart as everyone else, how could you get that question wrong?” and it started to give me anxiety.
All I had to do was catch myself: I reminded myself that I did try hard enough and I did prepare well for it. Just because I got a not-so-great grade on one exam doesn’t mean I’m not smart or capable. It just happened to be quite a difficult exam! It definitely wasn’t worth me beating myself up over.
2. Learn what it means to forgive yourself.
Everyone makes mistakes. We are all human. That’s the first thing to understand. You’re not the only person to feel as though they’ve failed. (In fact, there’s no one person who doesn’t feel this way at some point.)
Recognize what you did wrong, and learn from that mistake. See how crucial it was, think about what you’ve learned. Don’t let it become a source of internal hatred. Let go of regrets by reminding yourself that you did what you thought best in the moment, leave the past in the past, as it won’t exist in the present unless you bring it there, and carry your wisdom into the future, as that’s the point of everything in life.
3. Learn that accepting yourself as you are is being okay with yourself even if you don’t love every part of yourself just yet.
Accept yourself exactly as you are – the good, the bad, the ugly. Recognize your own beauty for what it is, not in the context of comparing it to others. So many of us are chasing after unattainable beauty standards because we think that real beauty is perfection. Physical beauty may be, but happy, whole, lovable humans are not the ones who spend their hours and days just trying to look a certain way.
“To rely so heavily on appearance is to set you up for a fall, after all, image is transient and it’s also subjective. It creates an insecure existence where you’re not only liven ga life based on fluctuating value of what you can attain through validation but you’re also debasing your own substance by neglecting what makes you, you – your values and you live your life. Instead your identity is your appearance” – Natalie Lue
4. Practice affirmations.
When I first read about how affirmations can really make a difference to the way you perceive and talk to yourself, I honestly thought it was bullshit. Regardless, I started to say then to myself while staring at myself in a mirror. I really recommend trying it as it honestly feels really, really good. The more you practice affirmations, the more you start to believe them. Something about telling yourself you are a beautiful person while looking yourself directly in the eye is powerful.
Practicing being mindful will allow you to wake up and see things how they really are. It will allow you to live in the present moment and appreciate it. It will help you let go of judgements, labels and really connect with yourself. I just finished a book on meditation by Jon Kabat-Zinn called “Wherever You Go, There You Are” and I loved it. It’s a great beginners guide to meditation.