In this article, I would like to talk about self-esteem and how you can increase your own, creating unshakeable self-confidence in the process.
As a life coach, self-confidence and self-love/self-esteem are subjects I am asked about daily, often multiple times.
Questions that I am asked are: How can I improve my self-esteem? How can I gain self-confidence? and then, of course, can you teach me to have better self-esteem? Are there books that you recommend on learning that subject?
The answer is no, I cannot teach you self-esteem, and it is not something you can learn. It is something that you need to take consistent and deliberate action towards. Sure I can guide you, and there are some valuable and entertaining books on these topics. Still, I am guessing you want to live with self-esteem and not only collect data on what it is and what it is not.
When talking about confidence or self-confidence, I always love to remind my clients that confidence, etymologically, means with intense trust.
Think of someone else. How would another person gain your esteem? How would a person win your trust?
If someone you have never seen or met before tells you: trust me! What would you respond? I cannot trust you because I do not know you.
Similarly, if someone you have never met before stops you in the street and asks you: do you have esteem for me? You would say, well no, but don't take it badly, I just don't know you, so how can I hold you in high esteem?
So here is the first clue. To gain trust in someone or hold someone in high esteem, it is preferable to first know that person and then decide.
How do we decide? You don't just decide to trust someone. You get to know that person and see how that person acts. If that person often tells the truth, you will start trusting that person. Trust is gained, but then it is also nurtured. And so if you gain trust towards someone, say a love partner. You trust that person so much, through incremental steps, that you commit to spending your life with that person. Suppose you suddenly find out that person was unfaithful one weekend. In that case, the streak of trust is broken, and sometimes it is irreparable.
And now back to you. To hold yourself in high esteem, you will need to trust your ability to consistently act in the way you know you should. Act in a manner that is congruent to your values.
Just last week, a client of mine told me that she was in a difficult conversation, but because she didn't have enough self-esteem, she couldn't say no to a request that she didn't feel comfortable with.
But this is not entirely true. It is not because she doesn't have high self-esteem that she could not stand up for herself and say no. It is actually the other way around. It is because she didn't say no to something incongruent with her values that she has low self-esteem.
And so, what is the solution here? Break the pattern.
The first step is the hardest, but it is essential. You must break the pattern. Yes, it will take strength, and it will take courage. The next time you are in a conversation where you must say no, commit to saying no. It is only by acting strong that you will become strong. With strength will come the courage to act like this consistently. And with this added strength and courage, you start trusting yourself more and more in your ability to act according to your values. This is where self-esteem comes from.
You don't have to achieve great things to be successful, and you do not need to achieve great things to hold yourself in high esteem. You just need to know that you will give it a shot. That you will try and do your best with the time and resources that are currently at your disposal.
Let's take a second example to reinforce that concept.
Imagine a scene in a movie where someone is being bullied by two people. First, there is the big fat bully. And then there is the friend of the bully. He isn't as mean as the bully and doesn't do much of the bullying. He just stands there and says nothing. When the bully looks at him, he makes a fake and nervous smile and chuckle of approval.
What do you think of that person? Would you hold him in high esteem? Of course not. He is standing right there, afraid to do the right thing.
Suppose you see that person in the street the next day. Will you trust him? even though he actually didn't really participate in the bullying? Of course not.
The last example to make a point here is that authentic action taking is the only way to gain confidence and self-esteem.
Imagine you are at the office. Your boss tells you a racist joke. Do you stand up to him and tell him his jokes and comments are inappropriate, no matter the consequences? Or do you smile and snicker nervously?
Self-love comes from the trust you gain towards yourself by acting in symbiosis with your values and virtues. You love yourself because you respect yourself. Because you know that you have extraordinary potential. You use that potential every day to do great things. You love yourself because you are a natural expression of who you are.