We all fall into that state of low self-esteem after all we have been doing, we find ourselves in a sea of failures. Often times, it’s not a pile of losses but a single malfunction. A relationship that did not work out? A job you did not get? An exam you did not ace? A career dead-end? Always tell yourself this shall pass!

But when you get into a series of little failures and are not able to get up and bounce back in the right way, you lose control and start to develop a habit of dragging yourself out of pretension. There is still hope. There is a way out of the self-esteem abyss (aka low self-esteem).

Whenever people ask me questions about self-esteem, a number of times I sense people know what to do but they do not know how to do it. Nowadays we are bombarded with a lot of information on self-improvement and it’s all the same. Let me break those ideas into practical personal projects you can easily do so you can immediately get started.

1. Make a list of your achievements

Do not focus on the negatives. All this time, you have achieved things in your life. Ask yourself, what are these? Having been able to make it through a roller coaster relationship? Finishing a course in spite of the time challenge? Working for a top company in your industry when no one from your college has been admitted except you? Having managed to raise a family or run a household who would not have achieved anything without your support or contribution?

There are a lot of other things you can think of. Listing them down is not silly. They are important. They make you up. They make you important. They make you beautiful.

2. Create a dream board

Some of the things you have listed in your achievements may be what I call “accidental achievements” because they were never planned. Just like sending you to school was never your choice but it was what everybody was doing. It just went its way on its own without you realizing it. But you cannot leave yourself to luck all the time.

Take control of your life and make things happen for yourself and for your loved ones. You know you should have a dream, a goal or a priority. Now, let’s put that in black and white or should I say, in colors by creating a dream board!

Get yourself a clean cardboard or a frame which you can hang somewhere and put images of what and who you want to be in the next five years and in the next 10 years. Include an image of a person you want to be – maybe physically, emotionally or in whatever aspect of your life. Put this board somewhere visible so you will see this everyday of your life and stop thinking of the setbacks. Start focusing on your dreams and goals.

3. Start making choices of who you want to be not what others want you to be

Related to the dream board, include this process as a personal reflection about the kind of person you are. Ask yourself: Am I acting as myself or am I trying to project a different person? You can be that inspiring person who always catches everyone’s attention. Or the achiever who went to Harvard and is now a successful corporate leader. Or that articulate guy who can speak confidently on stage.

There is a pressure for any one of us to follow a certain figure in our environment. If this is strong, you have to fight the current and be yourself. Fighting the tide means learning to express yourself with your own style, leading your team in the effective way you know or choosing a different path you feel you will fit in.

4. Develop the habit of self-affirmation

A big chunk of who and what we are comes from how we were raised by our parents or family. Whatever words, images and action we saw when we were growing up, we swallowed that up into our system. It is up to us – up to now – how we will take them.

In front of us is the future and if we want to take control of our lives, we have to take the good things we learned and unlearn those that are not helping. In the mean time, we can still change that by using personal affirmations to motivate us.

Self-affirmations are positive statements that describe a desired situation, repeated many times to influence the sub-conscious to take positive action. By doing so, we ingrain in our systems a different attitude to help us keep going in spite of difficulties. In Expert Enough, here’s one example: I am capable of achieving my goal!

5. Project self-confidence

If you can’t make it, fake it. This adage sounds silly but it is seriously true. Not that you have to fake it and pretend for the sake of itself. Self-confidence is like the chicken and egg thing. You can’t have self-confidence if you don’t try it. But where are you going to get confidence if you don’t have it? That’s where self-intervention comes.

You can copy confidence from your favorite drama series characters, movies or real-world bosses and success models. I like to look up to those team leaders in law and crime dramas. They tell me how to project assertiveness and confidence. Key things to remember: Practice what you have to say (until it becomes easy for you to be more spontaneous). Watch your body language and posture. Reduce tension inside by doing breathing exercises.

6. Create your environment of trust and support

It’s easier to project self-confidence if you have family and friends very supportive to you. They will be your first line of offense when making that confident move. When you get to the actual battlefield where you need to show off your confidence, make new friends and contacts. Start conversations to ease out the tension in the room. Get to know people in the places where you find your self-esteem challenged.

When you start establishing rapport, barriers fall down. Then your trust joins the environment and there you will find a bunch of people throwing their support at you.

7. Increase your social exposure

Practice, practice, practice. There is no other way the best artists and leaders succeed other than practice. So goes for self-esteem and confidence. Set the tone for yourself and get used to it. Not to say you do not try even if you are already there in the real world. But chances are you will end up with this cycle of what-ifs asking yourself just because you are afraid to try.

Mingle in clubs and organizations to get you used to talking to people, reach out to those in need, socialize in parties, get to know people, make personal and business conversations, etc. You can join a Toastmasters in your area if you want to take your public speaking and leadership skills to the next level. You can join a local sports club just to mix and balance physical health with “social” health. You can join a business club or organization to help you meet more business contacts and in the process you sharpen your skills in talking biz.

8. Reach out to people who are in need and pay it forward

Now you ask, “Is this important in improving self-confidence?” Often times, people with low self-esteem seem to find it easier to talk to those who are underprivileged or those in need. This is because it is when they are able to express themselves with more ease and have less fear about having to meet high expectations from achievers.

But more importantly, reaching out to others makes you stop thinking about yourself and instead, think of what you can do to help others, find a meaningful purpose or contribution and lead you to be more inspired to improve self for others. In relation to #7, expose yourself to people-oriented activities such as joining clubs or organizations where you not only sharpen specific skills or get used to talking but also being able to offer your own skills to service.

Time to make a step forward

Which of the tips on the list above is what you are most comfortable with? Take action! Pick one tip per week and see how you can develop the habit of pushing yourself to improve your self-confidence and self-esteem.

Nowadays, the best way to make a call to action effective is to get those around you to feel the real deal and see how it will affect them. My challenge for you is to pick up three to four projects mentioned above and commit to doing it. Send me an email about your commitment and be accountable for it. Be one of those brave souls who took responsibility.

Featured photo credit: William Warby via flickr.com

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