While discussing how damaging negative self-talk can be I will often get the response “you don’t know what it’s like, You don’t hate yourself, your body is normal, my negative self-talk is inevitable because of how I look, you’re so positive about body image – you don’t know how this feels”
And while yes, I don't know how you feel, I'm not you. I have struggled with the relationship I’ve had with my body since I was a small child. I’ve physically harmed my body with self-harm and disordered eating. As an adult I’ve argued with friends and family for daring to take a photo of me and/or put it up on social media and I’ve not attended parties or events because I thought my body was too disgusting and that people would judge me.
The final straw was quite a few years back, discovering that my husband took sneaky pictures of me, ones that would never see the light of day and he said that he felt as though it looked like he was a widower as I was absent from all photos. From then on I read all I could and took courses on how I could improve my body image, my self-esteem and more importantly my self-worth.
I won’t lie to you, it’s something I have to constantly work on and keep in check, there are days when I catch myself saying vile things to myself but now I do catch myself, it doesn’t go unchecked and now we take photo’s all the time, although being comfortable with other people taking photos of me does still make me feel a little anxious.
These are 5 important strategies to start building your self esteem:
1. Make your own needs a priority.
We live in a world where people talk about how selfish people are. Yet most people put their own needs on the bottom of the pile. Ask yourself “What do you need?” I am not talking about the type of immediate gratification that comes with pouring yourself a nice whiskey. What fulfills you? What makes you happy? Where do you want to be in life? It isn’t selfish to take the steps to get closer to those things.
2. Challenge your own negative self-talk
Most of us are good people. Why is it then, that when we are alone in front of the mirror, we give voice to the cruelest of inner critics? Imagine if you said the things you said to yourself to a friend, imagine the look on their face, imagine how damaging saying those things would be to their self-esteem. Yet we do this to ourselves regularly throughout the day. STOP. Start to catch yourself doing it, start to question those things as if you were defending a friend from spiteful and harmful language.
3. Set Achievable goals.
Sometimes, if we have arrived at the point where we want to set goals for ourselves it is because we are eager for change. It can be very tempting to say "I want to be able to do 10 pull ups by the end of the month" but if you are currently struggling to do 1, is it achievable. When we set goals that are way out of reach it can diminish our self esteem when we do not reach them and damage our self trust.
4. Experience Success
Think about how we motivate children. If a toddler attempts walking for the first time, takes half a step, stumbles and falls down. Would you say “well that was rubbish, that wasn’t walking at all” or would you clap and encourage them with “yay, that was amazing, you walked, well done!”
Seek out situations and projects that stretch your abilities but don’t overwhelm them, situations where your probability of success is high. Then praise and celebrate your accomplishment, do not say “oh well, it was easy anyway”. Getting some ‘wins’ under your belt will help you to build up faith and trust in yourself. It’s a great way to get your motivation rolling.
5. Free yourself from the shoulda-coulda-wouldas
You know this bit in the original cartoon version of the Lion King:
Simba: I know what I have to do. But going back will mean facing my past. I've been running from it for so long.
*Rafiki hits Simba on the head*
Simba: Oww. Jeez... What was that for?
Rafiki: It doesn't matter, it's in the past.
Adult Simba: Yeah, but it still hurts.
Rafiki: Oh yes, the past can hurt. But the way I see it, you can either run from it, or learn from it.
Seriously, don't get bogged down with what you could have done, it's done. Focus on what it taught you and how to apply it to now - do not use it as a stick to beat yourself with!!
This Is me:
I’m Emma, I train women (Offline and Online) who may struggle with their confidence and self esteem. I believe that women need more options that suit different lifestyles and needs, some of us don't have time to stick to a rigid plan, some people are to scared to even set foot in a gym (I have been there).