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Dealing With Low Self-Esteem

Dealing With Low Self-Esteem

What do you picture when you look back on your younger self? 

I picture; a gaze pointing to the floor, a voice that cracks with nearly every word, and palms coated in sweat clutching whatever happened to play a role of a lifebelt in those moments. What others can’t see; heart beating in my chest so fast as if echoing the racing thoughts and in contrast, plenty of silence and plenty of loss; missed opportunities to make friends, not responding to the teacher’s question even though I’d known the answer and not standing up for myself. I squirm thinking about the last part in particular. 

My teenage years weren’t kind to me. Or rather, I wasn’t kind enough to myself and struggled with low self-esteem during one of the most important periods of everyone’s life. But back then I didn’t realize I was the one in control and let myself float through moments of doubts and self-hate fuelled by many insecurities. 

I know, everyone has them. You might compare yourself to other people and see that in some ways you’re lacking; maybe your face doesn’t fit into the beauty standards or maybe you aren’t as funny as you’d like to be. Plus, all the embarrassing moments or even being picked on – we’ve all been there in one way or another. But my mind absorbed everything like a sponge, ready to twist it into something negative. Soon enough, I didn’t have enough confidence to do what came naturally to other people and I didn’t have enough confidence to be myself. But now here I am, writing this from a different country, in a different language, and with a different perspective.

How did I manage to improve my self-esteem?

It wasn’t therapy in a traditional sense (even though I should have attended sessions back then). What helped me was connecting to those parts of myself that contradicted my low self-esteem; my adventurous side. The breakthrough moment came when I was 18 years old and saved enough money to go travelling. My dream was to visit South Korea, so when I came across a Facebook post of someone looking for travel companions, there was nothing that could stop me. And sure enough, the trip involved all those things I struggled with: social interaction, speaking in a foreign language when I could barely string a sentence together, being independent, and lots of exposure. But it was effective; I still remember dancing in the street just because I felt like it.  

A few months later, I signed up for my first pole dance class. My goal was to try something new that would challenge my stamina and entertain me for the rest of my gap year. But what I got in the package was improved mood, more self-confidence, and increased self-esteem. After the first lesson, I was hooked. It made me feel powerful because I finally had the right tools to express all those emotions I’d repressed this whole time and that hung onto my self-esteem like invisible weights.  

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So what can you do to like yourself a bit more?

There’s no magic formula that can turn you into a self-assured person straight away. And even a gradual process involves some form of luck. But my advice is to combine the pleasant with the unpleasant by doing something you enjoy while getting yourself out of your comfort zone. In my case, it was making my dream come true despite the challenges that came with it and trying new things but it can be anything that brings you closer to your goal and helps you channel the negativity into something more productive. 

Try this today: write down what you like about yourself and then think about how you can cultivate your strengths. Are you creative? Connect with the world by sharing your art. Are you ambitious? Consider how low self-esteem stands in the way of achieving your goals and ask yourself, do I want to be held back and wonder ‘what if’? Are you good at sports? Physical activity is a great way to grow stamina that also translates into mental strength. Everyone is good at something; you just have to learn how to unleash your inner power. 

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