Most of us do our best to make sure that our children feel good about themselves but often, as adults, we tend to overlook that in ourselves. We may have started in life with high self-esteem, but every day life can erode our positive self image. It does not have to be extraordinary events that knock our good feelings out of the ring, even daily living experiences can take their toll. For example, the boss who never has and never will appreciate your work. Or, the favored older sibling who managed to stay married to the same spouse forever and to have important scientific papers published (no, that one is not me, I do have an older cousin with a great lake house and a paid off mortgage, though). The realization that we are not going to be perfect parents (well, yes, that is me). And, then, there is always the aging process to pull the rug out from under. Gravity, wrinkles, graying hair, loss of muscle tone, and all the things that begin to go wrong with your body and your memory as you age, can take away even more of your self-confident.
Some people never had much in the way of self-esteem to begin with. You may have had a difficult childhood that made you feel bad about yourself. You may have had parents who were too busy welcoming a living or simply trying to survive to let you know how great you were and how much you meant to them. You may even have had meaning parents or no available parents, so there was no one important in your life to tell you how important you were in theirs. Children can rarely go beyond the emotional boundaries set by their parents, at least not while they are still growing up. So, if you do not like yourself, your children will not learn how to like themselves. And, if none of you is confident and happy about who you are, then you will not feel entitled to seek each other out when you are in need.
Healthy self-esteem lets adults take healthy risks, so when the job goes, you feel good enough about yourself to jump into the job market and find another. Knowing that you are capable in that way gives your family a feeling of strength against the unknown. Healthy adult self-esteem also protects you from letting others treat you badly. That means that your children will see you give and expect respect and good treatment from others. They will not see you get symbolically pounded, they will not see you victimized, and they will see that you can recover from the torrents. When your children see you being strong, they know that their family is strong. Adult Self-Esteem Tips Others see us through the lens that we color and shape. If we do not like ourselves, others will find fault as well.
Sometimes, our busy lives can erode our self-esteem even before we know it. While we are busy taking care of everyone else, our own needs get put away until we are so full of unmet needs that we begin to think that is all we are. Just a constantly draining well of neediness that has no way of re-filling. We have to remember that we are important to our families, to our selves, and to the other people in our lives. We have to remember that we have value and that we deserve to look in the mirror and say "My goodness, that is a fine person looking at me today."
If you would like to increase your self-esteem, here are some things you might want to try.
o Set personal boundaries . Nothing drains us of self-esteem faster than letting other people walk all over us. It may be the boss who always makes you work late, it might be the teen who daily lists my faults (my life again), it might the strange who loves you but can not remember your birthday, it might be the parent who still criticizes the way you fold your towels. Take a look at your life and determine where you need to say "Stop" and then stick with it.
o Spend time with your children . That's right, carve out some extra time in your busy week to have some fun time with your kids. There is nothing like seeing how much your children love being with you to make you realize how valuable and valuable your place in their world is.
o Make a list of your accomplishments . Every couple of months, write out everything you have accomplished. It does not have to be something huge, just the daily stuff of life, such as: got the plumbing fixed, finished report at work on deadline, brave guest a wonderful birthday party, managed to give kids summer holiday despite limited budget. Those are the things that make up life. Tolstoy did a great job of writing War and Peace, but did he do anything else in that time period, or did his wife and his lover take care of the daily grind.? I bet those two women accomplished far more than he did, and I bet they were never thanked. You may never be thanked either, but you need to validate the things you do that keep your family going.
o Try something new . Self-esteem does not come to those who sit and wait. You have to get out there and try something in life. If the things you are currently doing do not make you feel good, then try something new. Take a course, learn to paint furniture, take up bowling, become an amateur rose drawer. It does not matter what you try, just try something. Even if it does not work out, you can at least feel better for having tried.
o Set the bar lower . Many of us judge our own success by measuring ourselves against others (remember my cousin who owns the mortgage free lake house to die for?). Well, I will never have a house like hers and I will never pay off my mortgage, but that is because I am raising many children (none of what are currently in jail), so that means something, does not it? Our small successes are just as valuable to our family and to the world as the major successes of others.
o Get a good hairdresser or barber . Studies have shown that the first thing people notice in others is their hair. And, I bet that you know that when you look in the mirror, how your hair looks has a major impact on how good you feel about yourself. It does not matter if this is a superior value, it is a nonetheless value, and a good hair cut can make you like yourself more. Take the time and the money from the family's resources to give yourself this boost. It will make everyone feel better, not just you.
o Exercise. You can exercise without changing your lifestyle. Just add a ten minute walk at night, or a couple of sit ups during the afternoon. This is not about losing weight or building muscles, it's about getting those exercise induced 'feel good' hormones going again.
o Jettison the baggage. Take a look at your life and determine who needs to be in it with you and whose time is over. Sometimes we have friends, or even relatives, who have been important to us at one point, but whose presence has become a problem. You can maintain some part of the relationship, but take a look at the ways you need it to change, or if it is still worth retaining.
o Spend time with friends . There is nothing like being with people who like us to make us like ourselves. You do not have to drop your family responsibilities to carouse with your buddies, but you can find one event a month that is just you and a couple of friends. Maybe it is lunch outside of the office with collections with what you have a special affection, or may be it is a movie night out with the girls (or guys) who have been friends long enough to really know you. Create the time and make sure your family knows that it is important that they cooperate in your attending.
o Make friends . For many of us, our busy-ness and the way we have to categorize each part of our life (parent, adult child, worker, soccer mom) has reduced our ability to make or keep friends. Try different ways to have friends. For example, set a date on the calendar to have a neighborhood bar-be-que and send fliers out to all your neighbors. Follow up by asking them to bring something and getting RSVPs. Or, start chatting with someone who looks responsive at your church or social event group. Or, start talking to some of the other soccer moms and dads and see if you can strike up a friendship there. Is there someone at your exercise club (remember, you are going to exercise) who do you think you have a lot in common with?
o Keep your bedroom clean. You may already do this, but many of us do not. We make sure that every other room in the house is clean and tidy, but we never get around to the place that is supposedly to be our sanctuary at the end of the day. Make this room your priority. Keep it looking welcoming and pleasant. This is where you are you, where the pretense is dropped and where you unwind. So, make the space attractive, tidy, clean, and a place where you really want to end the day.
o Throw out your old clothes . You do not need reminders of what no longer fits, or of a lost youth. If you have outgrown an article of clothing, either by size or by age, then get rid of it. You can not make room for the best you that you are now, if you are hanging onto a version of you that no longer exists.
o Get a pet that you like . Often, we buy our pets because of what we think our children need. May of us think that our kids need an "Old Yeller" type of dog (one that does not have to be shot, of course), to teach them responsibility, or to watch over them, etc. But, the truth is it is generally the parents who take care of the animal. So, forgo the turtle that will always hibernate in the back of the closet and only come out once a year, and buy what you want. Some kind of dog or cat or even a lizard if that is what you like. Just so that it is honestly yours. I once read in a book that of all the memories that stick with a person through life, it is the memory of the look in the eyes of a faithful and loving dog that will sustain and comfort us in old age. Well, I hope you have more than that comfort you in your twilight years, but for the present, get a pet that loves you unconditionally during all the times that no one else does.
o Act as if you have high self-esteem . If you can not feel good about yourself just yet, then act as if you do. That will cause other people to treat you better and then soon enough, you will begin to actually feel like you deserve their good treatment.
by Brenda McCreight Ph.D.