Self-esteem is one of those words that we hear a ton, right? Tell me something. Whenever you do, what immediately comes to your own mind? While there are literally thousands of self-help books, blogs and articles on the topic, I think the easiest breakdown would be that self-esteem is about how you determine your own worth. The reason why this matters so much is because knowing what your worth is determines the choices that you'll make—and that can ultimately determine your destiny.
While, for a lot of my 40s, my self-esteem has been in a pretty good place, my 20s and 30s were a roller coaster ride because I didn't value myself as much as I should have. Some of it was due to generational curses. Some was due to having some really toxic people in my life. Some was due to simply not knowing how. However, now that I get just how special I am and how there are certain things that only I can contribute to this world, everything about how I choose to live my life is very different. A lot of it has to do with the following 10 tips that I'm about to share.
If this is the year that you are determined to raise your own worth and then add tax, these steps can help to make that desire a true reality. Trust me. I am living proof.
1. Affirm Yourself on the Daily
I'm someone who firmly believes that if you want to understand a "tree", you need to spend some time evaluating its "roots". That's why I wrote articles for the site like "What If It's Your Parents Who Happen To Be The Narcissists?" and "How To Recover If You Had To 'Raise Your Parents' As A Child". Unfortunately, a lot of us did not get the affirming that we so desperately needed from our parents/loved ones/teachers/mentors while growing up or we received mixed messages from them (I can't tell you how many times I was told not to wear certain lip shades as a teen because my full lips would make it be "too much"; talk about a backhanded compliment, chile). And so, since the people we looked up to totally sucked at making some of us feel good about ourselves—at every stage of our childhood and adolescence—many of us grew up thinking negatively about ourselves as well. And that does nothing good for one's self-esteem.
You can't do anything about the past. What you can do is be intentional about lifting yourself up in the here and now. One way to do that is to write down 10-15 things that you genuinely like about yourself and post them somewhere that you can see them. Then make sure to state those things out loud, each and every day (add onto the list as more things come to mind too). Sound crazy? It's not. What's crazy is spending your life looking down on yourself when there is only one you, when you are a true gift to this planet and when tomorrow is not promised. Feel me?
2. Put Your Needs BEFORE Your Wants
While on the surface, this might seem like a crazy point, if you spend enough time in toxic patterns to the point where you want to break them, this will actually start to make perfect sense. Wisdom and maturity tend to teach us that everything we want isn't good for us. Example? There are quite a few men on my sex list who were fine and pretty good in bed who about destroyed my sense of self-worth and almost took my uterus out (long story).
I had to learn the hard way that a sign that you truly love and value yourself is you aren't so impulsive that you will go after something that you want without pondering if your mind, body and spirit can all agree that you need that person, place thing or idea in your life. Because the reality is, a lot of what we want is designed to appease us while the very things that we need can truly fulfill us. Placing needs before wants are how the big girls live. You're grown, right? Choose wisely.
3. Stop Putting So Much on Your Plate
I don't know what makes so many of us believe that if we overextend ourselves, it's a good thing. Well actually, I do have one theory. I think some of us feel that if we put a ton on our plate, it will somehow prove our worth when really, all it does is wear us TF out, cause us to do things halfway, and oftentimes, it makes us resentful of those who don't appreciate the fact that we put ourselves in this position in the first place.
More times than not, when we have too much going on, that is totally on us because, there is such a thing as the word "no" (check out "The Art Of Saying 'No' To Things You Don't Want To Do"). There's not a ton of time and space to get into why so many of us struggle with this two-letter word that is a boundary and a lifesaver; however, one of my theories is when we were toddlers, a lot of us said that word incessantly. Because we ran it into the ground, our parents reprimanded us and so it went into our psyche that saying "no" is a bad thing when it really is nothing more than a limit.
If you want to do things right and well while maintaining your own peace of mind, you need to get into the habit of doing less so that you can do everything in excellence. Besides, here are no million-dollar checks being passed out to those who damn near kill themselves trying to accomplish as much as possible on any given day. For the sake of your health and well-being, pace yourself. It's a true act of self-care.
4. Forgive Yourself
You know what I find to be interesting. The folks who are typically the most critical of others also never give their own selves a break. Also, the ones who don't believe in forgiving other people are oftentimes the ones who never forgive themselves either. Lawd, if there are two things that many of us were taught an extremely poor definition of, it's what it means to love and to forgive. And because we don't really understand either, we choose to weaponize them both.
As far as forgiveness goes, I promise you that it's not about cosigning on the abuse, hurt or pain that someone has caused you. If I were to simplify forgiveness, it's about giving a wound the time and space that it needs to heal, so that you don't keep "picking at it" and infecting it all of the time. Because the reality is, a lot of people who believe that it's OK to dwell in a space of unforgivingness are actually the ones who either keep reliving what was done to them or they end up taking it out on other people—people who have absolutely nothing to do with what happened to them.
A wise person once said, "Remember, when you forgive you heal and when you let go, you grow." If you want to heal, forgive anyone who did something that hurt you. Including yourself. Watch how far this gets you in your self-development and in the relationships you have with others, moving forward.
5. Leave Toxicity TOTALLY Alone
There are some words that are tossed around so much that I don't think we really get how serious they are at this point. One of them is "toxic". For the record, people are human and humans make mistakes. So just because someone disappoints you or doesn't always live up to your expectations, that doesn't automatically or necessarily make them a toxic human being. Toxic is harmful. Toxic is damaging. Toxic is poison.
If you look up the definition of poison, one of the things that it states is it's something that will ultimately impair your overall health and well-being. When you're on a quest to love yourself in a truly productive way, you can't keep yourself around people, places, things and ideas that will hinder you from being mentally, physically, emotionally, financially, professionally, relationally or spiritually not so good. I don't care if it's a family member, a friend, a church, a job, a city, a relationship—life is too short and you are too precious to keep choosing what is keeping you from thriving. Let. It. Go.
6. Take More Risks
While it might seem odd to recommend that you take risks in order to build your self-esteem, here's why I think that it's such a good idea. Risks build confidence because, at the end of the day, what you are saying is that you trust yourself enough to do something that you've never done before or to try something that might seem a little out of the box.
In fact, I'd venture to say that many people who struggle with their self-worth do so because they doubt their capabilities more than they should. They don't think they're good enough to apply for a certain job. They don't think they're attractive enough to ask a certain someone out on a date. They don't think they are daring enough to take a trip to a place that they've never been before. Oh, but when they do it and realize (more times than not) that they made a bigger deal in their head than they ever should have, it helps them to walk away with a, "I really am bomb, ain't I?" mentality.
When you take a risk, only two things can happen—you can succeed or not. Either way, it's good for your self-esteem because the ultimate takeaway is you bet on yourself. That makes you courageous and the bolder you get, the stronger your self-esteem will become in the long run.
7. Partake in More Indulgence
This past January 9, I celebrated 14 years of abstinence. When my crew asked me what I did to celebrate, my answer was simple—I pampered myself. The day before my anniversary, I got a mani/pedi. The day of, I found a place to get my eyebrows arched (because for some reason, a threader does them too thin; I don't like that). I also copped some beautiful long-as-hell feather earrings. I ordered some oxtails (I dig me some oxtails). Then I chilled. It was wonderful.
I'm a giver. I'm really glad that God made me that way too. However, there used to be a time when I was giving to any and everyone but myself. No longer is that the case, though. I finally get that I deserve to indulge myself in things that make me feel beautiful and celebrated, just as much as anyone else does. And you know what? So. Do. You. If you want others to cherish and adore you, you've got to set the example. One way to do that is to pamper yourself. What's your plan for that this year?
8. Value Your Time
There's a quote by an author named H. Jackson Brown, Jr. that, minus the fact that there are no Black people in it (side-eye), I really like. It says, "Don't say you don't have enough time. You have exactly the same number of hours per day that were given to Helen Keller, Pasteur, Michelangelo, Mother Teresa, Leonardo da Vinci, Thomas Jefferson, and Albert Einstein." If you substitute this with names like Oprah and Beyoncé, it really is crazy that we all have 24 hours and yet, some of us are either stagnant or in some sort of perpetual life cul-du-sac because we live ho-hum lives or we choose to do things that are a colossal waste of our time (check out "These Bad Habits Are Totally Wasting Your Time").
I don't care if it's a relationship, a job, a habit or anything else—take some time out to reflect on the fact that these past 10 years alone went by pretty fast and time only seems to be moving more swiftly the older that we become. With all of that said, a huge sign of not esteeming your worth is to let any person, place, thing or idea waste your time. I've shared what waste means before. It means "to consume, spend, or employ uselessly or without adequate return". Did you peep that "without adequate return" part? If you're out here spending hours on social media or watching television, that can be a waste of time, sho 'nuf. At the same time, if you're constantly putting in more than you're getting back whether it's a person, place, thing or even an idea, that is also wasting your time. You're better than that. Stop it. Not later. Now please.
9. LOVE YOUR BODY AS IT IS
I seriously doubt that if we didn't see as much of other people's bodies as we do, that we'd struggle with our own body image so much. Comparing ourselves to others is so ridiculously counterproductive. Besides, I've shared before that one of the most romantic things that I've ever heard a husband say about his wife is what he physically loved about her is "when God made her, he had me in mind". I know the couple personally and the wife is no traditional Coca-Cola bottle. It doesn't matter to him. She's got what he likes. How beautiful is that?
All of us have our own personal opinions about things like cosmetic surgery. No time to get into all of that. What is important is making sure that you don't hate your body simply because it's not like so-and-so. Who cares?
You've got the same Creator that everyone else has and just think about how you would feel if something you made told you that you totally jacked it all up just because it doesn't look like something else that you designed? A healthy body image is not only healthy to have but super sexy too. Make it a point to celebrate your individuality. Watch how much higher your self-esteem gets once you do.
When it comes to the topic of resting, one of my favorite quotes is, "If you get tired, learn to rest, not quit." (A street artist by the name of Banksy is credited with saying it.) It might be a bit of an "ouch" to hear, but a part of the reason why a lot of us don't accomplish all that we desire to isn't because we're not capable; it's because we overlook bare essentials like eating right and resting well. Listen, getting 6-8 hours of sleep at night is not a luxury; if you want to fully function on all cylinders, it is an absolute necessity.
While we're here, it should also go on record that rest isn't just about catching some zzz's. Rest also includes knowing what you need to do in order to refresh yourself. Something that can help you to figure out what type of rest your mind, body and/or soul requires is to check out the article, "You're Tired AF. But What Kind Of Rest Do You Need?". By honoring that you need to love yourself enough to sleep soundly and rest internally, you are well on your way to proving that you're worth a million bucks and that nothing or no one should treat you as any less than that. The cool thing is you'll be alert enough to pinpoint the jokers who try and make you feel otherwise. Get some rest, sis. Your self-esteem depends on it—it really is a wonderful act of self-love.
These are just 10 things but they are 10 powerful ones. I'm telling you, once you know how precious you are, it's damn near impossible for anyone or anything to shake you. The year has just begun. Go into it with high self-esteem. The world will be your oyster if you do!
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