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Every wife and mother can remember when self-esteem took a steep decline. Maybe it was the changes your body underwent during pregnancy. Maybe it was the tiring experience of caring for your firstborn that put some distance between you and your spouse. Or, it could be that you’re simply underappreciated by your husband and your children, which isn’t exactly a recipe for building self-esteem. Whatever it was that nudged you into questioning your self-image as a woman, this is where that story ends and your new story begins. Here is where you learn how to build self-esteem.
What Is Self-Esteem and Why Is It So Important?
Simply put, self-esteem is the value you place on yourself. It can vary from situation to situation, For instance, you might have high self-esteem when it comes to expressing your thoughts through writing or speeches, but low self-esteem when it comes to complex math. Or, maybe you’re certain that you’re a great mother, but uncertain as to whether you’re a great housekeeper.
In most cases, self-esteem is merely situational, but there are a growing number of women who experience low self-esteem chronically. Because healthy relationships are the building blocks for self-esteem, as a young girl, your self-image is shaped by your family, friends, and every social interaction you experience from birth. You either develop high self-esteem or low self-esteem, depending on the dynamics and details of those relationships and interactions. If given enough negative feedback about yourself, it’s highly likely you’ll suffer from low self-esteem from childhood well into adulthood.
This type of chronic low self-esteem is very hard to shake. No amount of kindness from others will be able to combat the self-image that’s been developed within you. You simply can’t understand someone else’s positive perspective of yourself, because a self-hate was formed inside you from a very young age. It is a battle you will have to consciously engage in on your own (but others showing you kindness is definitely a necessary component to helping you recognize your value).
Unlike chronic low self-esteem, event-based low self-esteem can cause lasting damage to self-assurance, but it is not always a problem that cascades into every facet of a woman’s life. As a wife, having a loving and supportive spouse does teach you the value they place on you, but if their love and support were suddenly withdrawn, you wouldn’t suddenly believe you’re an unfit mother just because your spouse isn’t placing value on you as a wife.
Still, while some event-based low self-esteem stems from isolated situations, there are some events that do affect other arenas in your life. For example, if your spouse says they are no longer attracted to you and the solution isn’t as simple as losing weight or putting more effort into your grooming routine, then it’s easy to understand why your self-image as a whole would be damaged and other parts of your life would be negatively affected. Feeling unattractive on the outside to a spouse makes a you feel like every part of you is unappealing and worthless. Attraction is more than skin deep, so it’s really no stretch of your imagination if your sudden, event-based low self-esteem about your physical appeal begins to infiltrate how you view yourself as a whole.
Whether it’s low self-esteem that stems from an event or a chronic condition brought on by negative relational interactions throughout childhood and youth, it all boils down to one truth: building self-esteem is going to be a very difficult journey for you and it’s one you’ll need to take mostly alone.
How to Build Self-Esteem
Invest in yourself. Give yourself value. Recognize that you determine your worth—not that life event, and certainly not those around you. You do this by engaging in a self-care routine that says, “I’m worth it!”
Rewrite your story. We all have a narrative we’ve created about ourselves. Some of us are victims of our circumstances, some of us are fools who have made one too many mistakes, and some of us simply aren’t good enough and never have been. But, I tell you that some of the greatest victims have become society’s greatest heroes, some of the world’s worst fools managed to redeem themselves, and some of those who just weren’t good enough were playing the wrong sport or working in the wrong field or trying to love the wrong people. You write your own story. Nobody can write it for you. As long as you’re breathing, there are more chapters waiting to be brought to life. Remember: you’re not your past, you’re not even your present—you are just a few choices away from the woman you want to be in the future. Start writing her story today.
Stop everything (for a while). Get off social media. Stop logging into Instagram, Pinterest, etc. Don’t flip through magazines. Don’t watch television shows or movies that objectify women in one way or another. Stop asking people what they think about your looks, your work, your art, etc. Just immerse yourself in your own opinions. How do you feel about the way you’ve dressed today? Did you push yourself hard enough at work? Whatever it is, learn to be comfortable receiving opinions and criticisms from yourself without first comparing yourself to other women. That’s what this “stop everything” break is about. Comparing ourselves to other women is not only too easy, it’s also dishonest and misleading, because no two women are alike in any way. What can our self-image possibly gain from using such an uneven playing field as our standard? If you give this step enough time, you’ll have no choice but to rely on self-assurance, which is the very building block of high self-esteem.
Be realistic, be objective. While working on developing your own set of standards, remember not to bring in preconceived notions. For example, when it comes to self-esteem about looks, you really need to be more objective. You simply cannot compare yourself to body types men and women have turned into idols. Remember how the ideal feminine body type in the 90s was slender and large-chested with a semi-flat butt? What’s the ideal body type now? It’s an exaggerated hourglass that 99% of women can’t duplicate without the help of cosmetic surgery. Be objective. What is universally attractive? Healthy, well-groomed, and happy women. If that’s the best you can do, then you’re already 100 times more attractive than you could ever be if you continued putting yourself down and obsessing over a look that simply doesn’t come naturally to you.
The same objective lens can be used in other arenas. Do you feel you’re not the best stay-at-home mother you could be? Well, what basic goals makes for a happy home? How about a showered, happy momma who’s got dinner on the table by 6:00p.m. and a livable—not perfect—house? Notice that how you’ve treated yourself (showered) and the state your emotions are in (happy) are what I listed first. Then comes the sustenance and socializing opportunity for the family. Lastly, a livable, functional environment, within the home or otherwise—not a perfect, Martha Stewart photo shoot. Before you can raise the standards and reach for higher goals, you need to first be realistic and objective about the basics.
Don’t judge other women. We all know what it does to us over time when we continually focus on other women and try to find flaws in them. First of all—just like the times we make other women our standard and compare ourselves to them—it’s another dishonest tactic. We tell ourselves that if we can find something we don’t like about a beautiful and/or intelligent and/or successful woman, that we are somehow better. It’s even worse when we speak our criticisms out loud for others to hear. If the witnesses don’t contradict us—or they actually agree—we are even further convinced that the way up is to tear others down. Then, if we ever encounter these women in person, we catch ourselves being sickly-sweet to them, maybe even complimenting them. Is that the type of woman we want to be? Two-faced? All our negativity and dishonesty do is convince us that other people think badly of us and don’t tell us the truth to our face. This makes for paranoia-based low self-esteem.
You write your own story. Nobody can write it for you.
There is so much I want to share about how to build self-esteem. We’ve all been there. Some of us are there right now, struggling just to breathe sometimes. I know the feeling all too well. This is why I want to just cover the very basics for now. These 5 steps will put any woman like you on the fast-track to feeling more confident about self-image. It paves the way for more self-assurance and less dependence on external influences.
If you know a wife and/or mother who’s been dragged through the mud lately and just can’t seem to find her footing again, please share this article with her to help her build self-esteem. What further advice would you give her as she starts her journey toward high self-esteem? Have you implemented these strategies to overcome your own low self-esteem problems? I’d love to read about it in the comments below!