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Two Paths to Up Your Self-Esteem and 6 Steps to Take Now

Mary is a woman of great accomplishment. Her resume is an impressive compilation of jobs reflecting ever-greater experiences of leadership and mastery in the field of finance. When she looks back on having set each and every goal, Mary recalls thinking “If I can do this, I’ll feel good about myself.” Years and many accomplishments later, Mary still feels inadequate. For Mary, the emptiness has nothing to do with her abilities and her functioning. All those wonderful accomplishments generated external rivers of admiration and approval, yet, for Mary they never quite fill her reservoir or wash away the feelings of inadequacy. There is no inner wellspring independently sustaining her reservoir and confirming her sense of worth. Mary remains dependant on feelings of worth being generated by her activities and accomplishments.


Sylvia is a woman who has spent years in therapy overcoming childhood assaults to her self-esteem. She has healed from the death of her mother and grown in her ability to feel independent and emotionally capable of managing her feelings. She has a strong flow of positive feelings that she can generate from within. Yet without recognizing it, Sylvia has begun to limit herself by becoming less interested in relationships and new work challenges. The avoidance started with a few small failures and the subsequent uncomfortable feeling of being seen as less than how she wanted to be seen. She began consoling herself, “Why should I care what anyone else thinks, anyway?” Without more reflection from the world she has fewer opportunities for new experiences that feed her growth, help her discover and hone her capabilities, or expand her sense of self. By “playing it safe,” keeping a short rein on her self-expression, and suppressing her longing for the exhilaration of meeting new challenges, entering new relationships, and learning new things, she has cut herself off from vital experiences. She has no fresh input and over time her reservoir has stagnated.


Mary and Sylvia’s stories highlight two ways we fill our self-esteem reservoir and thereby can help us identify two blockages to this flow:


·      Absence of an inner wellspring of contentment and satisfaction           

·      Avoiding growth that comes from challenges, relationships and fresh knowledge


 Here are 6 steps you can take to clear the debris and allow good feelings to flow:


Don’t discount or reject positive reflections or diminish the intentions of the people who give them to you.

Ask yourself “what am I putting in the way of being touched and instructed by other’s feedback?”


Talk to and respond to yourself like you would toward a dear friend.

The way you treat yourself has a powerful effect on self-worth and how you feel about yourself.


Allow yourself to feel proud.

Many 50+ women did not grow up being encouraged to feel self-pride. We may have been taught it is okay for others to feel proud of us but it is egotistical, self indulgent, or will cause jealousy from friends and open us to criticism if we feel self-pride. Yet, genuine self-pride (taking pleasure in oneself) is a universal, healthy, and natural feeling.



Aim to see yourself realistically.

There is security in being realistic, so take an inventory of yourself that allows you to see both your strengths and “growing edge.” Then regularly set goals that stretch you.


Remind yourself “No one is a finished product.”

We are always in a state of “becoming” and therefore the best attitude to take is satisfaction in the (sometimes uncomfortable) process of being polished to a greater shine.


Create an affirming mantra to support yourself in new situations.

For example: “There’s no shame or blame in what’s not yet me,” “I enjoy becoming more,” or  “On a fresh route, there will be some doubt, but I’m still stepping out!”


We all need to feel our value in a real way. We long to be free to be our best selves, not overly dependent on the opinion of others, nor starving ourselves of the nutrients provided by new experiences, knowledge, or feedback from others. Ultimately the dance of becoming our best selves is the integration of our internal qualities (including our relationship to ourselves) with our external accomplishments and relationship to others.

Enjoy the dance!