Sometimes life has a way of kicking you when you’re down. On a scale of one to loser, you’re a Steve Urkel. You can’t seem to catch a break and you’re ready to shut down. On top of that, it’s a lot harder to fall back on your usual distractions when you’re in a funk because nothing seems to bring you joy.
But maybe that’s a good thing. Perhaps the funk is a sledgehammer in disguise, ready to knock down the superficial walls that keep you from finding your inner Stefan Urquelle. Here are five ways to love yourself and cultivate genuine self-esteem.
1. Believe That Pride Is Overrated
Cultivating genuine self-esteem means throwing away traditional definitions of success. In his book Letting Go, Dr. David Hawkins suggests that genuine self-esteem does not actually arise until pride is relinquished. That which inflates the ego does not result in inner strength.
Sure, it’s great when the external world matches your internal disposition, but they’re entirely separate entities. Someone might think you look great, while someone else might think you’re the ugliest person in the world. In order to cultivate genuine self-esteem, however, you have to do the hard thing and let go of your need for external validation, take good care of your inner self, and love yourself unconditionally. The external world will always change, but you are you for the rest of your life.
2. Find the Funny
Your brain is funny. For all it’s strength and power, it can be super irrational. Let’s say you have a bad morning and leave your laptop at home one day. You get to work and chastise yourself for forgetting your laptop and somehow, through a train of otherwise unrelated thoughts, come to the conclusion that you are defined by your forgetfulness.
Next time you catch yourself using forgotten laptops as a basis for formulating beliefs about yourself, pause and laugh. Because, come on – you are not your laptop. You simply forgot the thing at home! Cultivating genuine self-esteem means learning to laugh at your irrational thoughts. Intercepting thoughts caught in a negative cycle will make you more mindful of the stories you think are true about yourself. Stay away from the negative stories. They’re not worth it.
3. Say No to Shame
According to best-selling author and research professor Brené Brown, shame is the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing we are flawed and therefore unworthy of acceptance and belonging. Maybe you lost your job and were forced to sell your house, or are still trying to finish high school years after your peers. Be proud of the courage it takes to keep going rather than beating yourself up with feelings of shame.
I once heard a quote that the difference between humans and other animals is that other animals nurse their wounds when they are hurt, while a human kicks themselves for getting hurt in the first place. Stop kicking yourself. Give shame the side-eye and just say no. You are not flawed. You deserve love. You are so much more than your experiences.
4. Build Your Empathy Muscle
Everyone wants to feel heard, understood, and loved for who they are. Practice extending compassion to those around you. Being empathetic and learning to see the world through another person’s eyes has the unique benefit of broadening your own view of the world. You may even discover a shared experience along the way. Listening closely and treating others with compassion will make it easier to treat yourself with compassion as well. Start flexing your empathy muscle and others will undoubtedly flex theirs for you in return.
5. Focus on the Journey
No one is born with perfect self-esteem. It’s an ever-moving target that you have to work toward everyday. Some days it’ll be easy to see your true beauty, and other days it’ll be more challenging. Instead of focusing on perfect self-esteem as the end game and getting frustrated with yourself for not feeling 100% all of the time, focus on feeling the best you can in the moment. Life will always throw you a curveball. Anyone who tells you that they feel good about themselves every moment of every day probably isn’t human. Leave your tunnel vision behind and focus on the big picture. You have a heart and a brain just like everyone else, so just enjoy the journey.
Featured photo credit: Ed Gregory via stokpic.com