– by Soha Kala
August 21, 2017 : When I was growing up, my parents always told me that I am the ‘smartest kid’ they had ever met. My friends thought I had an appealing face and for my grandparents and their friends, I had the prettiest heart.
I was curious and had questions about the world I was growing in. I had ideas that could have solved problems I encountered in my life. I could hold interesting conversations, and charm people with my compassion.
But I did not live up to my potential. There was always something holding me back.
For the longest period that I can remember, I did not believe that I could do most of the things I wanted to do.
I wanted to learn the ballet but I felt I would not be able to perform with my extra kilos and would be reduced to a laughing stock.
I wanted to be a writer but I felt my expression was too weak and my thoughts far too amateur to share with another person.
I wanted to be in a relationship but I felt I was not good enough to have somebody interested in me.
At one point or the other, we all question ourselves, which is usually followed by self-doubt.
Am I doing enough?
Am I making enough money?
Am I successful?
Am I good looking?
A major part of my job today is spent fiddling with an application called Google Adwords. So, this morning, as I sat with my mind clouded with questions and a new story to write, I decided to begin with a search in the application. I quickly punched in the words self esteem and happy.
I discovered that about 1-10 million people search for the word ‘happy’ every month whereas just over 100K search for the word self-esteem in a month
(Alternatively, I also searched for ‘Beatles band’ and found only over 1,000 people search for them every month)
Everybody has a loving family, a few friends who care, somebody to talk to; we all have classes to attend, and work to do in our respective lives; TV shows to watch and places to go to. Why then are 10 million people still searching for ‘happiness’ on the internet?
The problem in not with us, but inside us. It lies in our belief in our own self.
Low self esteem restricts you from recognizing your potential and living your life to the fullest. Irrespective of how hard you work or how far you push yourself, your efforts fail to be fruitful.
As a teenager, I used to think I was not pretty enough. Not thin enough. Not smart enough. Not fair enough. I used to believe that I was just that; NOT ENOUGH.
All of this because I struggled to accept myself; I failed to forgive myself whenever I did something wrong, not realizing how hard I was being on myself. I worked harder and harder but was always one-mistake away from success – the fault was never in my efforts, but in my attitude. Changing my attitude about life and about me played a key role in developing my confidence that was no longer dependent on any worldly sign of success.
In the process of owning up to be the person that I am today, I discovered 7 concepts that I was struggling with. Over the years, I tried to re-examine and re-discover my own self-limiting beliefs and alter the way I interpreted these concepts. Working upon them helped me instill faith in my own self and boost my confidence,
Do you ever get distracted while doing some work by that little voice inside your head telling you you are not good enough? Do you fear beginning something new because you are uncertain of yourself? Do you choose to give up on some activities because you fear you might not do them correctly?
Because I have done that, too.
I have been so unsure of myself in the past, wanting to be so much but terrified to start because I feared making mistakes. It was because of this fear that instead of talking to people and working on myself, I chose to shut myself down completely. I was so afraid of being rejected that I decided to reject opportunities and people first. That is how I let go of tremendous opportunities to learn new things and meet unique people.
I have now grown to believe that man makes mistakes, and those mistakes in turn make man.
It is a continuous cycle. One can only learn when he knows what he is doing wrong. You can either choose to traumatize yourself over failure, or allow yourself to make mistakes and instead of looking at them as disappointments, embrace them as opportunities to grow.
As a kid, I remember falling off a bicycle because I told me friends that I knew how to ride a bike when I obviously didn’t. I was an anxious kid who worried that people would judge me if I told them that I didn’t know something.
You can only fool some people some time, not all people all the time. Above that, you cannot fool yourself. When people find out that you had been pretending all along, that can possibly shatter your confidence and relationships like nothing else.
In order to have a healthier self-esteem, you must first accept that nobody knows everything, and not everybody is good at everything. You might be a good writer, but that doesn’t mean you will necessarily be a good orator. Stop being pretentious in an attempt to please others.
It may be one of the hardest things to do; you may feel exposed and vulnerable to let go of your inhibitions and show your authentic self to the world, you may even feel feeble for some time, but it will be your first step on the path to resumption and growth.
As a teenager, I lived in a perpetual state of fear and self-doubt; I doubted myself to the extent that I was always doing things that others wanted me to do, rather than taking decisions for my own self.
It has been rightly said that you live the life you create. Hence, you must also believe in your capacity to make changes. Believing in your competence does not happen overnight, and it does not happen naturally. A good start would be to list down your strengths and weaknesses and then work on them.
If someone criticizes you, see it as a chance for you to improve. If someone does better than you, take it as an opportunity to learn from their action. Do not let these experiences shake your trust in your own self.
Take 100% responsibility for your actions. Do not let things happen to you, instead make things happen for you.
You are bound to make mistakes and let people down; do not fear that. Quit making excuses when that happens, and accept failures as an outcome of your own actions. Do not indulge in self-loathing and be open to accept responsibility when you are at fault. I have grown to maintain a ‘I am sorry, how can I fix this?’ attitude and that has been incredibly beneficial to my confidence.
It might seem hard initially, but confidence stems from an understanding that YOU are doing the right thing.
One mantra that I believe in with all my heart is – Either do something. Or completely quit thinking about it. Stop second-guessing and devoting extended amount of time to the ‘what-ifs’.
If you want to paint, pick up a paper, some brushes, and a color palette and draw what your heart desires. If you want to learn a sport or a dance form, enroll yourself in a class and enjoy every session you attend. Don’t worry if it will turn out good. Don’t worry whether you have any previous knowledge about your new interest. Don’t worry about what people will think. Don’t worry if you will be better than your friends or your colleagues. Just immerse yourself in the moment, and move on.
Worrying about what others think of you or seeking confirmations for your actions will only keep you from doing something good for yourself.
Your self-esteem is a measure of what YOU think about yourself and how worthy YOU think you are. Do not look for external affirmations. Set expectations for yourself, fulfill them for YOURself, and be somebody you can be proud of.
I realized that I doubt myself the most when I compare my life with what other people are doing.
In order to have a healthier self-esteem, you have to understand what works for you and what makes you feel good even if it is different from what someone else desires. No two things can be similar, and that goes for life, as well.
I realized that I was continuously (and blindly) chasing targets- I wanted to score better than my friends in the exams, have a better job than they do, find a bigger house than theirs, have a smarter partner. In an attempt to come first in this rat-race, I forget how hard I was being on myself.
Practicing self-compassion is not as difficult as you may perceive. I can break it down to a two-way process,
- Care about yourself and be kind instead of being cruelly self-critical
- Do not exaggerate or ignore problems or your mistakes, and look at them with a clear mind.
An important step to develop confidence in yourself is to be kinder to your own self. Remind yourself that you’re doing your best, and even when that may not seem enough, tell yourself that you are willing to learn. Surround yourself with compassionate voices, and your own voice should be in that list – make sure that instead of being extremely critical and judgmental of your actions, you are highly receptive and appreciative of your efforts.
I know today that I am not perfect, and I do not even have to try to be that. Perfection to me is a myth. I am far from perfect but I am happy. You can be too.
Be human, and that should be enough.
And above all, hold on to the thought that you are capable.
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