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How I’ve Started To Love Myself With Low Self-Esteem

Having low self-esteem doesn't mean you can't love yourself and build confidence. Learn how.

I’ll be the first to admit that I have never loved who I am, that I have never been the most confident person.

Praise makes me uncomfortable for various reasons, largely because I’m very analytical; I’m always wondering if the person paying me a compliment is being dishonest because of an incident that occurred with a medical professional when I was in my teens.

The only way that I knew how to protect myself from emotional pain was to build walls, and keep them there. I went on to graduate from high school and college, learn multiple foreign languages, and earn jobs in the process, so I didn’t think those walls existed, much less needed to come down.

Hiding and distrusting everyone I ever encountered became familiar and comforting. Hiding may have gotten me places, but sometimes familiarity isn’t always the best option. Here’s how I’ve been learning to reverse that (in no particular order).

Eating Well

I used to think I ate well. It wasn’t until I saw a holistic nutritionist that I was taught to regard food as medicine.

I am currently in the process of transitioning from a meat-based diet to a plant-based one, and I’m finding that I feel better when I stick to that way of eating, although I don’t deprive myself if I find that I’m craving something every now and again.

Although my diet is by no means perfect, I get an enormous sense of satisfaction in the knowledge that I am giving my body the nutrients it needs and making adjustments to said diet according to how my body reacts both physically and emotionally to certain foods.

Finding a healthy balance of foods that works in order to fit your individual needs allows you to feel good about what you’re putting into your body, which allows it to perform at its best.

Exercising Regularly

I was never what you would call athletic. I would start an exercise regimen, go full on for a grand total of two to five days, burn myself out, and never pick up another barbell (or jump rope) ever again.

Regardless of the start-and-stop thing I was doing, the fact remained that I felt good post-workout, not to mention the fact that there is a lot of scientific research that show a positive correlation between physical exercise and mental health.

Working out regularly, even if it’s only twice a week to start, gives you a healthy outlet for excess energy, but even more importantly, it boosts your self-confidence.

You may not be able to see results right away, but small consistent efforts will gradually build up. I know that the idea that I’m becoming physically as well as mentally stronger, motivates me to work harder.

Having Patience With Myself

This is by far the most difficult thing that I have had to learn throughout this process. Even though we all know that comparison isn’t helpful when it comes to self-esteem, it’s easy to do. Refraining from comparing myself to people around me and having patience with myself has been one of the biggest things I’ve had to learn.

Just wishing for something won’t get you to your goal. You need to put the work in every day, and sometimes it’s hard to find the motivation, especially in today’s society when all we see are filtered representations of our lives on social media.

Accepting where you are and finding the positive in that is hard, but I’ve found that the more you focus on the positive, the more positivity you will find. There are things to be learned at every turn in life, and rushing the process makes it easy to overlook major learning opportunities.

Lowering My Expectations

Growing up, I used to have unrealistically high expectations for myself. I wanted to be driving as soon as I stepped through the DMV office at sixteen. I didn’t account for the learning curve that needed to happen before you gain confidence, not just with driving, but with anything.

While lowering your expectations may not work for everyone out there, I find that personally, by lowering my expectations, I avoid my tendency to beat myself up should something fail to go smoothly. Lowering my expectations, I’ve learned, also goes hand in hand with the idea of accepting where you are in life.

Yes, having high expectations can be good, but sometimes having they can do more harm than good. Having high expectations can lead to comparison and self-criticism, which can lead to lower self-esteem and self-confidence.

Having realistic expectations for where you are in your journey at this moment in time can help, even if it means lowering the bar a bit until you build up the confidence necessary to go for that loftier goal.

Expressing My Emotions

Growing up, I didn’t actively use any sort of healthy outlet to express that emotion, so I did the only thing I did know how to do: keep it bottled in.

I took that emotion out on myself by physically hurting myself, and I was eventually dealing with a dangerous combination of mental health issues, which wreaked havoc on my self-esteem.

That was how I learned that not expressing emotion is unhealthy, no matter what others may think of you. I learned to find healthy outlets, like physical activity, or writing in a journal about my feelings. Communicating with others verbally and letting them know how you feel is also important.

I take immense satisfaction from the growth I know that I have experienced when it comes to the practice of expressing myself. Knowing how unhealthy my unexpressed emotion made me allows me to experience a boost of self-confidence and self-esteem every time I express my emotions in a healthy manner.

Having low self-esteem isn’t fun, but it’s by no means permanent. By finding what works for you, you can take little steps to raise your self-esteem, and eventually learn to love yourself.

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About the Author

Alisa Tanaka

Alisa Tanaka graduated with a Communications degree from Lewis & Clark College in 2012. She hopes to develop a career that allows her to make a measurable impact on the world while doing something that she loves. Her interests include psychology, linguistics, and mental health. She can also be found reading, watching documentaries, and writing her blog.