I want to have more confidence in my own skin. I’ve been trying on my own, but I just need some help.
How do I have better self-esteem?
~Timid Taylor in Tahoe City
Lauren, today’s Dear Ellie columnist, is here to help:
Dear Brave Soul,
Pre-COVID, I attended a networking happy hour for work, hosted at one of the most popular clubs in downtown San Diego. I wasn’t feeling overly confident in my position and felt anxious. What should I wear? How should I start a conversation? Fear filled my mind.
During the event, I approached the bar, and a beautiful bartender greeted me. She looked like she stepped out of a magazine cover. As a rule, I try not to give compliments unless they are sincere. I told her that she looked incredible. She then mentioned that she was having a really down day, feeling extremely self-conscious, and thanked me for my kind words. Whhhaaattt?? How the heck does she have low self-esteem?
My takeaway: No matter how you look outside, confidence ALWAYS starts on the inside.
In my experience, self-esteem is not constant; it fluctuates. Any authentic woman will tell you that her confidence wavers; in fact, female leaders who share their vulnerabilities and embrace them are my heroes. Dr. Brené Brown’s TEDx Houston talk, The Power of Vulnerability, is one of the most viewed TED talks globally. She’s genuine, knows who she is, who she’s not, and shares what happens during her bad days. It’s okay to have a bad day. Own it, and then start again.
My self-esteem journey has been a rollercoaster. Raising Your Child with Self-Esteem was my parent’s go-to child-rearing manual, which seemed to balance out the angst from eighteen moves. If you want to test out your self-esteem, move to a new city! Later in life, an early divorce almost wiped out all their pre-work. So how did I bounce back? Slowly. “Brick, by brick,” as influential speaker Mel Robbins would say. Her Audible series Start Here is a favorite.
Loving yourself is a full-time job. One of the most influential books I have read is The Body is Not an Apology by Sonya Renee Taylor. She argues that “self-esteem and self-confidence aren’t scalable” and neither orient the world towards compassion and justice—the answer: radical self-love. Think about if you loved yourself at any size, rich or poor, employed or unemployed, etc. What would change? You would move mountains. You would have the power to transform society. How can you radically love yourself?
Let’s try an exercise. Take a self-inventory. Go through the list of subjects and state what you love and fear.
Subjects: Career, Love, Friendship, Nourishment, Body, Family
|Career||I set my own schedule||I often lack motivation|
|Love||I’m open to it||I’m not in a relationship. I won’t find the right partner|
|Friendship||I love hanging out and connecting with people||No one likes me, why would they be my friend|
|Nourishment||I enjoy eating good food and trying new things||I don’t follow the right diets or trends to keep myself healthy|
|Family||My family is always there for me||There will be disagreements that I can’t solve|
Next, rank your fears, and your area of focus will appear. Find the root. Typically once you have addressed your biggest fear, the rest start to dissipate.
|I’m not in a relationship. I won’t find the right partner||I’m afraid to be alone|
|No one likes me, why would they be my friend||I don’t think I’m enough|
Based on these newfound roots of fear, let’s brainstorm some actions for radical self-love. How can you transform your fear? If you are afraid of being alone, you may start to date yourself. What have you always wanted to do? How can you treat yourself? Think about it this way, if you are afraid to alone and in your own company, why would anyone want to date you? Embrace yourself. Love yourself, and then, I promise, the magic will happen.
Start with radical self-love, meet yourself where you are at, and take action. Action breeds confidence, and trust me, you are worth it.
Lauren + Ellie