"Look at what you bring to the world, not what you lack." - Miranda Kate

Thursday, 19 June 2014

How to build your Self-worth & Self-esteem, and 'Being enough'

A Rainbow in a grey sky.
Do you think you are worth caring about?

Do you think you are good enough?

Do you put your feelings last?

“You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.”  - Buddha

Lack of self-worth and ‘being enough’ is a large subject, and one talked about a lot in self-help and personal development circles. And for me personally, it is one of the reasons I started my journey.

It is a topic that shows up in many different forms, and many different ways, and I will return to it in future blog posts. But I wanted to mention it early on, to look at the basics of it, and how it shows up, and how to start tackling it.

“It’s not what you are that is holding you back, but what you think you are not.” - Denis Waitley

Lack of self-worth or lack of self-esteem is about believing we are not worthy, or believing that what we do is not good enough. Many of these feelings are developed in our formative years, and reflect how we were nurtured as children by our parents. They also arise from situations we encountered and environments we were in during our formative years, school years, and even into our early adulthood: any traumatic event can trigger these feelings.

In regards to parenting, the questions that come up are: Were we a priority? Did we receive enough time and attention? And more importantly, was that time and attention positive or negative?

Some people are more sensitive than others, or more insecure, so it can be difficult to find a balance, but a happy, secure home and/or parent goes a long way to help a child achieve feelings of self-worth and that what they do is good enough. ‘Quality time’ spent with our children matters. It may be only 15 minutes a day, but if that time is positive, encouraging and loving, it can make a huge difference; it develops their ability to feel positive about themselves. Whereas, if it is spent correcting, berating, nit-picking, or simply ignoring the child, it can be destructive.

“Act as if what you do makes a difference. It does.” – William James

In regards to situations: Did we encounter abuse of any kind: verbal, emotional, physical, or sexual? Were we bullied at school, at home, by friends, parents, siblings, or strangers? Did we feel secure? Were we moved around a lot? Did we experience multiple homes, schools, or extreme living conditions, such as domestic violence, homelessness? 

All of these will affect how we feel about ourselves and how we show up in the world. It will affect how we react to those around us and to future situations we experience. We might not be able to change what has happened to us, but we can change how we choose to think about it, and the meaning we give it.

“You have been criticizing yourself for years, and it hasn’t worked. Try approving of yourself and see what happens.” – Louise L. Hay

I experienced many of these situations, and feeling good enough is something I work at every day. I used to tell myself I don’t bring anything positive, that I am a burden and people don’t want me around, which is completely reflective of how I was treated as a child by the single parent I had and my siblings. I experienced domestic violence, homelessness, and plenty of verbal and emotional abuse, as well as bullying. I moved schools six times and moved house eighteen times before I turned eighteen. My experiences run the gamut of many of these situations both through my formative years and into late teenage. I repeated the patterns I developed from them into adulthood, resulting in me frequently changing homes, jobs, relationships and friendships.

It was only once I asked myself why my life wasn’t going the way I wanted that I took a closer look and started to see the patterns. I then sought to change and break them, but it's no mean feat: it meant changing the way I thought about myself, in particular how I talked to myself - and about myself to others too. And to do that I needed to change the perception I had about myself and the life around me.

“Perception is a mirror, not a fact. What you look on is your state of mind, reflected outwards.” – Colette Baron-Reid 

It’s not easy to change our thinking, sometimes it’s a daily fight, but we can start by countering the negative thoughts we have about ourselves not being good enough. We need to remind ourselves what we DO bring to the world (or situation, relationship, friendship). I consciously began reminding myself that I did have something of value to bring, that I am worthy of other people’s love and respect, and what I have to offer is unique.

Everyone has their own gifts, and when we feel overwhelmed by a situation, or an event that hasn’t gone the way we would have liked, or reminded us of a previous trauma, we need to focus on those gifts.

I recommend writing them down and reading them regularly. I followed Mastin Kipp’s advice - founder/owner of the Daily Love website - who said:

“Make a list of all the things you wish other people would see about you.
Then ask yourself – are you demonstrating these qualities towards yourself?
How would you act if you were demonstrating them?”

Writing that list and answering those questions is important, because then you have it to refer to whenever you are feeling bad about yourself. And it might surprise you when you see just how many qualities you have.

“Your worth is defined by how you feel about yourself, not how other people feel about you.”- Unknown.

Among the list of my qualities were such things as: loyalty, honesty, caring and trust. I knew I possessed them, but I rarely treated myself with honesty, loyalty or caring. I was often harsh with myself, believing I didn’t deserve any of them. But if I started being honest with myself, and listening to myself, standing by my feelings rather than belittling them or being ashamed of them, a whole new person arrived. And I also discovered that the last one, trust, was a key factor in building my self-esteem.

If we don’t trust ourselves, how can we believe in ourselves? We need to trust our feelings. By trusting them we can become sure of them, and when we become sure them, we become sure of ourselves, bringing a sense of inner security. And if we are secure in ourselves, then the effects of the outside world diminishes.

“The more you believe in yourself, the more you can trust yourself. The more you trust yourself, the less you compare yourself to others.” - Roy T. Bennett

We trust ourselves by knowing our limits, keeping within the boundaries we are comfortable with and not compromising them for someone or something externally. Being true to what we want and what we feel in our hearts. Being fair to ourselves and reminding ourselves of all the good things we have done, and that what we have done is good enough.

So remember:

“Be kind to yourself! Forgive yourself! Encourage yourself! Believe in yourself! Appreciate yourself! Have faith in yourself! Listen to yourself! Be gentle with yourself! Stop talking so negatively to yourself! Love yourself!” – Mastin Kipp