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8 Life Projects To Help You Overcome Low Self-Esteem

8 Life Projects To Help You Overcome Low Self-Esteem

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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Last Updated on January 15, 2019

How to Talk to Strangers Without Feeling Awkward

How to Talk to Strangers Without Feeling Awkward

Many of us feel awkward talking to strangers. I’m a very outgoing person, even though I sometimes feel uncomfortable walking up to someone and asking a question or starting a conversation. I consider myself pretty high up on the extrovert meter. So what is it that makes us pause and become worried or anxious about talking to people we don’t know?

In this article, we will discuss why we feel this way as well as some tips on how to talk to strangers without feeling awkward.

Step right up, don’t be shy!

Why We Feel Awkward Talking to Strangers

The next time you feel uncomfortable talking to a stranger, tell yourself that’s completely normal. There are numerous reasons why it’s actually natural to feel awkward talking to strangers:

Our Stress Levels Rise Around Strangers

Numerous studies have show that our levels of cortisol go up when we are around strangers.[1] Cortisol is the hormone inside of us which produces stress responses.[2]
So there you go, right off the bat you can see part of your standard response to strangers is due to a chemical reaction!

A very interesting by product of increased cortisol is that it makes us less empathetic. More than likely this can be traced to our evolution. The increase in the cortisol and the corresponding decrease in empathy makes us want to stay away from strangers. We are biologically wired to feel concern around strangers.

Evolution Taught Us to Be Wary

Evolution has also taught us to be wary of strangers in general. Humans as a whole have spent a large chunk of their history banded together in small protective groups. We did this in order to help protect each other and maximize resources.

When you think about it in this context, outsiders to our small groups or strangers are considered potential threats. Fear of strangers is common across almost all human cultures.

Culturally Conditioned

We can also thank our society for helping us feel uncomfortable and sometimes afraid of strangers. The term “stranger danger” is something most of us can relate to either growing up or raising kids. Or both.

I remember hearing this from my parents, mostly about not getting in someone’s car I didn’t know. And as the father of 2 teenage girls, you can be sure I’ve talked to them about this very concept more times that they want to hear.

The thought that strangers can be dangerous is built into us as it is. Toss in the amplification of the media on strangers doing things such as kidnapping kids and it takes it to an even higher level.

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Now that we’ve reviewed some of the reasons why we are nervous, let’s look at why you should talk to strangers more.

Benefits of Getting over the Awkwardness

Let’s take a quick look at some of the advantages of how to talk to strangers without feeling awkward. These are some high level benefits of talking to strangers.

1. Broadens Your Network

After you talk to someone, you didn’t know previously they become someone you know at least a little bit. This alone helps broaden your network of people you know. This is helpful in many ways whether it is work related or socially related.

2. Improves Your Communication Skills

I am a huge proponent of the value of solid communication skills and have written about it often. The more you talk to people, especially people you don’t know, the better your communication skills become.

Interacting with a wider variety of people will bring the added benefit of improving your communication skills.

3. Continually Learning

So many of us don’t actively seek to learn new things. This is one of the primary keys to staying engaged in life and our own personal self fulfillment.

Almost every time I speak to someone I didn’t know previously, I’ve learned something new. When we speak to strangers, it pushes us out of our comfort zones and we tend to learn new things.

4. Increases Self Confidence

Every time we learn to do something we were previously anxious about, we feel better about ourselves.

Forcing ourselves to talk to strangers will lead to increased self confidence. As we get more and more comfortable doing something that previously made us feel awkward, our self confidence will go up and up.

So, how to talk to strangers to reap these benefits?

How to Talk to Strangers

Here are some tips to on how to talk to strangers without feeling awkward.

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1. Say Hello

Putting “say hello” first may seem a bit obvious but let’s take a deeper look. Much of the social awkwardness when speaking to strangers is simply breaking the ice. The first words that will engage someone.

Most people will respond when someone says hello or hi to them. And those that don’t, you probably don’t want to talk to anyway.

Practice being the person that opens the door to a conversation. Say hello.

2. Ask About Them

Something that I have noticed over the years is that people love to talk about themselves. Even fairly private people tend to open up when asked about events in their lives.

You can ask leading questions that get people to talk about themselves and recent events. Things like recent movies watched or the summer vacation are great to get someone talking.

As a father, I also know that people love to talk about their kids. Asking about kids is a fairly easy topic to bring up and in general, most people will expound upon all the great things their kids do or are involved with.

3. Just Do It

One of the biggest reasons we don’t do things we want to or know we should is because we overthink it. Quit thinking about it so much and just do it.

When you give yourself the time to analyze every little angle about a situation, you also give plenty of time to talk yourself out of it. You’ll wind up thinking what if this happens or what if that happens.

Try to force yourself to jump right in without thinking about it too much. Whenever I have done this, I always feel great about it afterwards, no matter how it turned out.

4. Don’t Take It Personal

One of the greatest lessons in life I ever learned was don’t take anything personally. We all go through life with our own sets of experiences and see things through our own lens. The way people react to different situations has almost nothing to do with us. It has to do with previous experiences and the way people feel about things other than us.

When someone’s reaction isn’t what you’d hoped or expected, chances are it has nothing to do with you. Remember that and keep it in context.

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5. Get a Chuckle If Possible

I used the word chuckle purposely because it makes me laugh. In my opinion, it’s one of those funny words. We all like to laugh because it makes us feel good. And when someone makes us laugh, we typically remember those people in a positive light.

One of the best ways to make a conversation easy and free flowing is to get some laughter going. It doesn’t mean you have to be the master joke teller or anything. See if you can work in a way to make the person you are talking to get a smile or some laughter in. In fact, laughing at yourself maybe a nice try.

6. Detach

A great feeling is when you don’t mind which way something turns out, that you will be fine no matter what happens. Kind of like when I watch my two favorite football teams play against each other. I don’t really care who wins, I just want a fun game.

Treat talking to strangers the same way. You don’t really care how the conversation goes because you are detaching from the outcome. Make it a fun time with yourself and if the conversation goes well, awesome! If not then no big deal, move on.

7. Share Your Stories

Well, all like to feel connected to other people. And many times we wind up hanging out with people that we have things in common with. No surprise here.

To help with how to talk to strangers without feeling awkward, tell stories that have commonalities with the person you are talking to. Kids are an easy one. I have a daughter who was a competitive cheerleader and now plays club volleyball. I have instant connection and stories with strangers I speak with who have kids that play sports. It’s easy to relate to.

So when you are speaking to a stranger and you have a story or mutual connection point, bring it up.

8. Give a Compliment

Almost everyone likes hearing a compliment, whether they admit to it or not. As a general rule, we don’t give out enough compliments. It’s amazing how one small remark someone tosses your way about how good you look can literally make your entire day.

When you are speaking with someone you don’t know, see if you can work a compliment in. Nothing creepy here. Not a good idea to tell someone you just met that they are the prettiest or handsomest person you ever met. However, if you can share how you like their tattoo or shoes or something like that, it will help put the conversation into an easy going, smiling place.

9. Relax Your Body Language

If you go into a situation all worried and nervous, it shows on your body. Your shoulders are tensed up, there’s a look of consternation on your face, things like that.

When you engage a stranger in conversation, make it a point to relax your body language. Take a deep breath before you engage the person, let your body relax, and put a smile on your face. This will help relax you and it has the added benefit of putting the other person more at ease.

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If they see that you are relaxed, it helps them relax. Plus having open, engaging body language is very conducive to inviting someone to open up into a conversation with you.

10. Practice, Practice, Practice

Like everything else in life, talking to strangers gets easier with practice. The more you do it, the easier it becomes.

Make it a point to talk to several strangers each week and it will definitely help you relax as you do it more and more.

After a while, it will become something you don’t even think about, you just do it. And that takes all of the awkwardness out of being in these type situations.

The Bottom Line

As we have seen, it is perfectly natural to feel awkward talking to strangers. We are biologically built that way and we have our own society constantly warning us how dangerous it is. It’s no wonder we feel awkward talking to strangers!

There are numerous benefits to learning to be more comfortable talking to strangers. See if you can employ some of the techniques mentioned to learn how to talk to strangers without feeling awkward.

Once you start practicing speaking with strangers more often and utilizing some of the tips, you will become more comfortable doing so. This in turn will lead to a learned new skill and increased self confidence.

Remember, everyone you know was a stranger at one time. Now get out there and make some new friends.

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Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com

Reference

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