COVID-19 and My Self-Esteem

This sucks. Not all of it sucks, to be fair. There are some good things that have come from this pandemic and quarantine, but there are a lot of things that suck about it too.

First, let me say that I am posting this from the perspective of a person who has not had to be on the front lines dealing with this virus, or had any person in my life significantly impacted by the virus. This post is coming from a person who is sitting at home, trying not to go nuts because this is very different than the normal life she has been living. I am in no way trying to say that my experience has been awful but I believe that a lot of people are feeling similar to me and wanted to post for them.

I’m on day 47. I came home on March 19th from a possible exposure and my extroverted life just died. Eight days later I found out that I had not in fact been exposed but I stayed home anyway. They shut down the schools and closed everything down and that was that.

The first few weeks were filled with enormous amounts of anxiety. I was glad to be home and have a home to be in. But I was afraid. I was afraid of getting sick. I was afraid of having to face death isolated from people I love, alone. I was afraid of getting someone else sick because I was carrying a virus I didn’t know I had. I was afraid we were going to run out of food. I was afraid.

One minute I’m like this…

Then I saw some good things peaking through. I was able to spend time with my husband and niece (who lived with us at the time) without having to worry about where I had to be or what I had to do. We laughed. We danced. We sang. We played the Atari and realized how far we’d come. That lasted for about 20 minutes because it was super boring. I sat in the grass. I got to sit in the sun on a Tuesday. I made new recipes. I cleaned out the closets and organized my house. There have been some good things.

But my self-esteem has been impacted in waves. I’m not sure if the shifts in the self-esteem are a result of the the waves of emotions that hit (anxious, okay, worried, happy — they just come crashing in so quickly during all this) or if it is a stand alone issue.

The next minute it be like this…

At the beginning of all of this, I asked people on Instagram how the lock down was impacting their self-esteem. Some people said they felt bad about themselves because they couldn’t control their quarantine snacking. Others said they felt bad that they saw others being productive and did not have the drive to do anything themselves. Since then, some people have been “quarantine shaming” others by telling them they have to be using this time to do something productive, but I’m here to tell you that not all of this time can be used in that way.

We are dealing with a whole host of emotions and there are going to be times and days when you can’t just get up and be a superhero. There are going to be days that if you make it out of the bed, you’ve accomplished something really big. Some days we are just going to be surviving this. And while that is okay, living like that does something to your self-esteem for sure.

Let me say this: Comparing yourself to someone else will, more often than not, cause you to feel bad about yourself or your circumstances. Do not compare your day, or your hygiene, or your diet, or your activities to what you see others doing. Set a goal for yourself and do that. Monday my goal was that I was going to be thoroughly unproductive. And so I was. Last week, I had a day where I couldn’t make it out of the bed. I couldn’t even set a goal. I just slept to avoid all the anxiety and sadness I was feeling. And then other days I have done craft projects, cleaning, organizing, homework and worked on stuff for work.

Here are some things you can do if your self-esteem has COVID-19:

  • Give yourself a break. Realize that we are experiencing that none of us have ever experienced and it is tough. You don’t have to be amazing right now. You just have to do the best you can. Stop talking so negatively to yourself and about yourself. If you wouldn’t say that about someone else, don’t say it about yourself.
  • Write yourself a note of encouragement. It doesn’t have to be something fancy. It can just be as simple as “This won’t last forever. You are doing a good job and you’re going to be okay.” Then post it somewhere you can read it each day.
  • Write someone else a note of encouragement. A lot of times, when we turn our attention from ourselves to others, we find a sense of relief. Some of this may be that we are spending too much time thinking about our own situation and our own issues.
  • Ask for help. Reach out and talk to someone. Talk to a friend or loved one. You don’t have to open up about all of it (although you could), but you can start with “I’m having a rough day” and go from there. In my experience people want to help the people they love and asking for help does not mean you are weak. If you feel like you don’t have anyone to reach out to, I’m here. Send me a message and let’s connect. I’d be happy to help encourage you!

We are in this together! Sending you all peace, love and happiness!

What is Confidence?

I am learning a lot about self-esteem in the psychology courses I am taking. One of my text books stated something that I struggled with for months. I am a believer in helping people learn to value themselves and find their worth… hello! That’s the whole point of this blog! You know, trying to help people improve their lives by improving their views of themselves. But one of my textbooks said that there was hardly any evidence at all that self-esteem creates anything in our lives! As in, it doesn’t matter what your self-esteem is, that it wouldn’t really impact your life that much.

Whoa! Wait! What? The author goes on to talk about the research showing that self-esteem is more of a result based how our lives are going at the time, rather than the cause of things going well. So, I took a step back and examined this in my own personal life and did some extra reading. Turns out, I think they have a point.

When my life feels organized, productive, and under control, I feel better about myself. I feel more positive and relaxed. I can more easily shrug off any criticism or negative feedback that comes my way when I’m feeling good about myself. But it’s not just when things are going well.. sometimes it seems to be completely out of my control, like I just wake up feeling really good on some days. Turns out some of it is outside our control and related to biology. Our hormone levels impact our confidence — hormone changes around the time of ovulation result in higher confidence for women, and in general higher levels of testosterone (in both men and women) and lower levels of cortisol result in higher confidence. But confidence and self-esteem are not actually the same thing.

What’s The Difference?

Self-esteem is essentially your own beliefs about your own worth. Confidence is different. Confidence is related to the beliefs you have about your ability to do something. For example, a person may feel that they are worthy of love as a human being, but not feel confident in their ability to find a suitable lover/partner. A person may not like much about themselves at all but be able to acknowledge their ability to cook well and experience a feeling of confidence in the kitchen. Make sense?

Building Confidence

The good news is that confidence can be built. It’s not something people are just born with. However, as I mentioned earlier, if you are born with higher levels of testosterone and lower levels of cortisol, you may be naturally more confident than someone who has different hormone levels. But there are things that can be done to grow confidence! And as your confidence grows, you will find that you are achieving more of your goals or that life starts to turn in a good direction and whamo! — self-esteem also goes up! Confidence is not something you have, it’s something you create.

STEPS TO TAKE

Know your purpose — what do you want to accomplish and why? Once you know why you want to do something, you will have the ammunition to fight the doubt and uncertainty that naturally taunts you. If I know that my purpose for this blog is to encourage others, than when I sit down to write it I can fight off all the questions of “what if they hate it?” with “as long as it helps one person, I’ve done what I set out to.”

Be aware of limiting thoughts — instead of asking “why am I not successful?” ask “Why shouldn’t I be successful & accomplish all my goals?” Remind yourself that you can handle whatever comes your way. When fear tells you that you will fail, remind yourself that anyone who is successful has failed and that failure is not the end all, be all. It is simply another stepping stone towards learning, growth, etc.

Use power poses — I’m linking an article here that is amazing! A power pose is the difference between standing like Superman and Snow White’s little friend, Bashful. Research shows that power poses can increase testosterone and decrease cortisol (thus increasing confidence) even after only 2 minutes! (I’m starting this today!)

Try being positive — instead of thinking how things might go wrong, think of the possible ways they might go right. And can we all please get past this “if I don’t get my hopes up, I won’t be disappointed” thing?! You will still be disappointed. It happens. It sucks. But you can move past it. Not getting your hopes up is a dysfunctional coping mechanism that is meant to protect you but is about as effective as trying to stay dry using a cocktail umbrella in a thunderstorm. First step: replace negative words with positive ones. “Can’t” becomes “can.” “Go wrong” becomes “go right.” You get my drift.

Focus on growth — confidence doesn’t mean you won’t fail, but that when you do, you keep going and grow from the experience instead of giving up. We all fail. We fail in business. We fail in academics. We fail in relationships. It’s okay. Just get back up, learn from it and grow from it.

My Lesson from the Leaves

I typically don’t look forward to fall and winter. I am a summer kid through and through. I don’t like the cold weather, the absence of green and the shorter days. Nope. Don’t like it one bit.

But this year I had a thought: maybe there is a lesson to be learned from the leaves in the fall. So I opened up my mind and heart and allowed myself to look at the fall differently this year. What I saw was significant: Letting go can be beautiful.

So many times in my life I have struggled to let go of things. All kinds of things. I have had difficulty letting go of actual things, like clothing that was the wrong size, or shoes that are old and worn out. I have fought with letting go of anxious thoughts that play over and over in my mind. I have battled with letting go of old beliefs about myself that cause me to question my worth or value as a person. But this struggle is not found with the trees.

The trees don’t fret about letting go of their leaves every year. They accept, as much as a tree can accept anything, that it is a natural part of their existence. They do not struggle to let go. They allow the process to happen. Each year they erupt into beautiful colors and let go.

I realized that there are many things I need to let go of. One of the things I have been focusing on over the past year is letting go of those old messages I received from others years ago and those beliefs that do not make me feel like the amazing human I am. I cannot continue to hold beliefs, forged in childhood, that I am “not _____ enough.” The people who gave me those messages were not equipped at that time to identify the magnificence that is humanity and therefore should not be counted as experts on my amazingness. This is true for you too! Let’s let go of all those old beliefs that no longer serve us. Let’s let go of those beliefs that we are not good enough, thin enough, thick enough, smart enough, rich enough, pretty enough, tall enough, dark enough, light enough, enough enough! The truth is that just by being born you are more than enough. You are magnificence in human form! As am I! And this fall I am letting go of any thought that tells me otherwise!

Just Do It … Who Cares?

Over the past few weeks, I have been talking with a lot of people about this idea of following your heart, doing what you want… despite how you think that other people may perceive it: singing karaoke, wearing a certain style, jumping in mud puddles, or becoming a stand up comic, to name a few!

Saturday I went to the park and borrowed the bicycle of one of my young friends… It looked like this:

Needless to say, I got a lot of laughs and I was having a blast! Let’s think about what stops us from doing some of the things that our childish side urges us to do. Fear? Fear someone will laugh? Fear someone will judge? Fear you will be terrible at the thing and thus be viewed as a failure?

When we boil it down, it’s fear. At it’s root – it is fear. Now, let’s consider how that fear is impacted when you are alone and no one is watching. I bet most of you sing at the top of your lungs when you’re alone. Perhaps, those same people wouldn’t be caught dead singing at karaoke. I bet most of you have had the urge to go play in the rain, but have subverted it… “what if someone sees?” How is it that we can be comfortable doing things alone but as soon as someone may be watching we are afraid?

Rocking it out to Chumbawamba at Jeff’s Bucket Shop (Charlotte)

It boils down to how we believe other people will think of us. And that my friends is due to not loving yourself enough to play like you are loved!

The first, second and third time I did karaoke I was petrified. Let’s get something straight: I am a terrible singer! I do a lot of things well, but singing is not one of them. But, I LOVE IT!! So, eventually, I just said, screw it! I’m going to do it. And eventually, I had a great time. Now, I don’t care at all! I’ll sing pretty much anything.

Kiss a Dragon!

I’ve had people approach me after singing karaoke (multiple times) and tell me that my being up there helped them to find courage to get up there themselves.

I suppose they are thinking, “Well she did it and didn’t die, maybe I can try.” Maybe it’s “wow, they clapped for that? I’m not nearly that bad!” Whatever it is, that’s what it really takes: just a little bit of courage. Okay… maybe a whole lot of courage. But each time you do the thing, you get a little braver!

Pose however you want to!
Dancing the Macarena

So, take a chance! Sing the song! Play in the rain! Do an open mic night! Kiss a dragon! Pose however you freaking want to! Dance the Macarena with some waiter named John!! Have the courage to listen to that little voice inside that says “do it!” And in doing so, you will also be loving yourself. Because in the end, it doesn’t matter what they thought about you — it matters what you thought about yourself. *MIC DROP*

Self-Esteem Boosting Affirmations

I’m sure you’ve heard all the hype about affirmations — positive statements about yourself or the future that can change your life. Some people believe affirmations are nothing more than a load of BS… but there is research out there that would suggest otherwise.

Recently, I was listening to a report on NPR about a study that was conducted regarding the power of the mind in the production of hormones that were not naturally present in the body. Essentially, the people who had the hormone present were told they didn’t have it and the people who didn’t have the hormone were told they did. What happened was that their bodies responded to this new information in their minds and the mere belief that the hormone was present resulted in changes in their physiology!! The people who previously had the hormone and were told they didn’t have it, stopped producing it! And vice versa! So, the belief that this hormone was present or not present resulted in changes in their body that mirrored what they perceived in their minds!

In short, what you tell yourself matters on so many levels. Emotionally and biologically! Why not give affirmations a shot?

Where do I start?

If you’re new to this, or your new to the self-esteem affirmations you may need some guidance. As I mentioned a few weeks ago, let’s start by picking one or two things you like about yourself and write them down. We will focus on present beliefs and the development of future beliefs about yourself. Answer these questions and write the answers down:

  1. What physical attributes do I like/love about myself?
  2. What personality characteristics do I have that I like?
  3. What compliments have other people given me? (Often times, people see more positive things in us than we are willing to acknowledge in ourselves. If you are complimented often about your eyes, or your hair or your kind spirit, these people are on to something.)

Future-Oriented Affirmations

Now that you’ve got down the current things you can acknowledge, it is important to focus on the future. By talking about what you would like to feel about yourself in the future as if it is already happening, you can strengthen those beliefs. For example, one of my future-oriented affirmations is “I am enough.” My brain likes to throw up this old belief that I am somehow not good enough, smart enough, successful enough… blah blah blah. So by telling myself in the present “I AM ENOUGH” I learn to believe it. When those other thoughts pop up, I can fight back with “I AM ENOUGH!!” Ask yourself these questions and write the answers down:

  1. What physical attributes about myself would I like to feel good about?
  2. What characteristics would I like to develop?
  3. What would I like to believe about myself?

Excellent job!! Now that you’ve got all those written down, simply put “I AM” in front of each of them. Bam! Self-esteem affirmations! It’s hard. I know. But tell those things to yourself every day and you will begin to see the truth. That you are beautiful. That you are strong. That you are enough!

If you need some additional help, here are some great examples from Affirm Your Life — my favorite spot for affirmations on the web:

By loving myself, I allow others to love me as well.

Every day I appreciate myself more and more.

Feeling appreciated is one of the top priorities in my life, and I practice this feeling every day.

I accept myself for who I truly am, and give myself permission to grow beyond this.

I acknowledge all I have accomplished and am proud of my achievements.

I am a beautiful person.

I am a good person just as I am.

I am a magnificent, radiant being.

If you like those, it’s just the beginning. There are thousands of affirmations about so many topics! Go check out more affirmations from Affirm Your Life! They even have an app!

Learning to Love Yourself

Learning to love yourself is not an easy thing to do. It may be one of the tougher things, if not the toughest, you do in your whole life. We put ourselves at the bottom of the list almost every time. When things are piling up, we sacrifice so others don’t have to go without — we eat poorly, we stay up too late, we run ourselves ragged — and this seems to be a reflection of how we feel about ourselves as compared to how we feel about others around us.

Last night, in sharing some wisdom with my beautiful niece, I recalled the first moment (after my self-esteem tanked in middle school) that I realized that maybe I was not 100% disgusting/ugly/fat/bound to be rejected for the rest of my life. It was 10th grade. But first, let me give you some context.

7 year old me

I grew up with teeth that I inherited directly from my father.

I’d call them quite “gappy” and on top of it all, I sucked my middle two fingers until I was 12 or something absurd like that…

11 year old me

So, I had a gap. I was very sensitive about this gap and I don’t know why. I can’t actually recall anyone making fun of it. But many of the pictures I looked through show me with a closed mouth smile — even today that’s my go to smile. Anyway… I digress. By the time my 12 year molars started coming in, the gap started closing – as you can see in the 2nd picture. But in my mind my teeth were still a train wreck, until that day in the 10th grade.

I was sitting in geography class beside this guy who I thought was super hot. He had braces and said something about how much he hated them. I made a comment that he was lucky to have them (because my mom could never have afforded braces for me) and that I wished I had braces. He looked shocked and said back to me “your teeth are perfect!”

Then I was the one who was shocked. You mean to tell me that other people can look at me and see something pleasant or perfect even? Even if it’s just my teeth… That’s somewhere I could start. So I began gently, by finding what I liked about myself. It’s hard. It’s almost excruciating to sit down and make a list of what you love about yourself. But do it anyway. I started with the fact that I liked my cute little nose and my pretty feet. Then I grew to find qualities about myself that I liked — I am kind, I am funny, I am loving.

As I acknowledged these things about myself, it became easier and easier to find other things about myself that I liked. Eventually, I began to believe my whole face was pretty. Not just my teeth and my nose. Recently, I have been able to feel like my entire body is beautiful (thanks to the others in the body positive movement).

Last night, I told my niece I loved her out loud. Then I told my mom. Then I told myself. Out loud. So other people could hear… that I loved me. It was a little funny but super important. And powerful. And it felt really good!!! Have you ever said that to yourself? “[Your name here], I love you!” Try it.

It’s not an easy process. It’s a long process. It’s been 23 years since the 10th grade… wow. But I’m here. And I love me. And if I can get here, so can you! Start with a list of just few things you like about yourself. Maybe you’ll struggle to find even one… but find it. Then look in the mirror everyday and acknowledge that you like it. Then listen to the people that love you and acknowledge in yourself what they acknowledge in you. Start praising those parts of yourself too. Eventually, you will start seeing more of what you love about you than what you don’t love about you. And eventually, you will start treating yourself as if you actually love yourself like you love those around you.

Give a Compliment, Take a Compliment

I stopped in a local restaurant a few weeks ago to pick up some take out (I was craving pineapple rice) and while I was making my selection, the hostess, who couldn’t have been more than 17 or 18 years old, just came right out and gave me the best compliment. She said “You’re so pretty.” I was taken off guard at first, but then I smiled and accepted her compliment by responding “Thank you. You’re so sweet for saying that.”

After that, I didn’t see her again. She just disappeared. And I got to thinking maybe she was embarrassed for saying that to me. Then I realized how long it actually took me in my life to be able to take a compliment graciously. Let me explain.

Have you been complimented by someone only to dismiss the compliment? I bet you have.

“You look super cute in that hat.”

“Oh, thank you. I’m having a bad hair day.”

Or what about this one: “I love your dress!”

“Oh, thanks. I got it on sale.”

It’s like we just can’t say thank you. We have to explain away why we look cute or why we are wearing this brand or that brand. As if it is somehow a prideful or egocentric thing to just say thank you to someone who is giving you a compliment. It is not! I heard a talk once about being a gracious receiver of gifts and I believe the message is similar.

If someone has gone out of their way to get you something, no matter how small, receive the gift with grace and a “thank you.” When you tell them “oh, you shouldn’t have” or “you didn’t have to do that” or “I can’t accept this” you are judging their chosen way to show their appreciation to you. They could have given you a hug or just said “Thanks,” but they chose gift giving and you should be ready to accept it. Making those kinds of comments, though well-meaning, can bite back.

Compliments are the same. If someone is making themselves vulnerable enough to give you a compliment, accept it graciously. Do not attempt to explain it away or minimize what they are saying in an effort to keep them from somehow feeling bad about themselves. Accept it and be grateful. Part of the reason this is so hard is because we are not complimentary of ourselves, so we cannot see how someone else could be.

What I want to challenge you with today is to go out and give compliments to others. Don’t just go out and compliment people all willy-nilly, but if you see some shoes you like, or an outfit you like, or a beautiful person, or a hairstyle — TELL THE PERSON!

Then give yourself one compliment every day. It can be something small but compliment something you’ve done or how you look or one of your wonderful characteristics. And then when someone else compliments you, just say “thank you.”

How Did I Get Here?

Have you ever been sitting there thinking those words: How did I get here? It could be about a variety of things in life, but if you’re human, I’jm willing to bet you have in fact thought those very words. What I want you to think about right now is how did you get to the place where you don’t love yourself, or maybe even like yourself? How did that happen? What I know for sure is that you didn’t start out as a little human not loving yourself. You were TAUGHT to not love yourself. Sit with that a minute and think back to the messages you have received through the years.

“You can’t do that.”

“That doesn’t look good on you.”

“That’s not good enough.”

“You’re too heavy/tall/thin/short/fat.”

“Did you even try?”

“That’s a crazy idea.”

The message comes in many forms. Sometimes it is obvious that it is a critical message. Other times it is more subtle. I like to think of us as having been contaminated by these critical messages through the years. Perhaps our natural state is to love ourselves and others and we are taught to hate others and ourselves through our interactions with others.

Think about this: Have you ever been watching a 2 year old play? It’s a lot of “look at me!” “Watch this!” “I’m super fast!” That seems to be the natural state of humans. A state where they think themselves to be amazing and love themselves for all of that amazing-ness. But then it starts to happen. Sometimes it happens in your own home. Sometimes it is not until you start school — but you start to become contaminated. People begin rejecting you. Judging you. Criticizing you. And all of a sudden you begin to question if you’re good or not… Maybe they are right. Maybe they know something you don’t know…

It starts off slowly and it just compounds on top of itself from there. In writing this, I had to think back to the first time I remember getting messages from peers about not being good enough or similar enough to everyone else that caused my peers to direct critical comments toward me. As I can remember, it wasn’t until the 5th grade (after I had gained weight over the summer) that people began calling me “fat.” That continued into middle school and seemed to tame down a bit by high school — mind you, looking back, I can see that I was not fat. But, maybe they knew something I didn’t know. Maybe they were right. Maybe I was supposed to look like those super thin friends of mine. That’s when the questioning starts. Then it is compounded by messages from the media and society. Eventually, we start saying mean, awful things to ourselves. And what’s worse is we BELIEVE those things.

“I’m fat.”

“I’m ugly.”

“My breasts/teeth/feet are the wrong size.”

“I’m not good enough.”

“No one will ever love me.”

“I’m not worthy of love/acceptance/friendship/kindness.”

Ugh! I hate even typing those things now! You see, I used to believe those things. I used to think that I was the ugliest and grossest person on the planet. That no one would love me and I was bound to die alone in a box down by the river. I feared rejection and judgment. I feared being vulnerable because I felt so vulnerable all the time anyway. And it wasn’t until I started talking to myself differently that I started feeling differently and acting differently. I started focusing on the people in my life that were supportive and uplifting. I started listening to the people who said they loved me and showed me they loved me in their own unique ways.

Then I started telling myself what I loved about myself. It started out small. “I like my cute little nose and my pretty feet.” Then it grew into believing that my face was beautiful. Then it progressed into realizing that I don’t have to look like everyone else for people to find my body beautiful. I embraced my curves & my bulges (that’s the harder part, by the way… there are still some of those that I don’t like so much — but I’m working on it). And each day I look in the mirror and tell myself at least one thing I like about myself. Over the years, those messages people gave me in 5th grade and throughout middle school have quietened & I can hear my natural state again. The state that loves everything about itself. The state that says STAND UP AND DO SOMETHING. The state that knows its own power and worth. That state is present in you, too. Let’s find it! And don’t let anything “dim that light that shines from within!”

Celebrating You, Celebrating Me, Celebrating Us

Monday was my 38th birthday! For years I have tried to find ways to celebrate that give back to others; donating blood, volunteering, raising money for a cause.

Hello 38!!

This year I wanted to do something that celebrated by giving back all year… and maybe even longer than that! I want to take myself on a new journey this year; a different kind of journey. A meaningful journey. I’ve set out on many journeys through the years, some have been intentional. Some I have stumbled upon. This year I want to take a journey that impacts the lives of others in a meaningful way. I want to bring you with me on this journey.

It’s a journey to improving the way we look at ourselves. We are constantly bombarded by messages from others and from ourselves about what we should look like, what we should have accomplished thus far in our lives, the roles we should be playing, etc. With all these messages, which start at such a young age, we have lost sight of the fact that we are beautiful creatures, inside and out.

My goal is to help encourage you in your development of a greater sense of appreciation for yourself. To be transparent about the struggles that go along with loving yourself, caring for yourself and flourishing in a world that screams ‘you are not good enough’ by sharing my own struggles and thoughts.

You might be asking yourself what makes this blog any different from the other body positive blogs or self-esteem blogs. The answer is nothing really. I’m no different from any other woman out there looking to build up others, empower people and edify humanity. Use as many tools as you can to find your way. I have over a decade of experience in psychology but for me this is a human issue. No one is immune from feeling insecure or fearing rejection based on how they show up in the world. So, if you’ve struggled with that, this might be the place for you.

Let me start with this simple fact: you ARE enough! You are good enough. You are strong enough. You are worthy enough! You are more amazing than you realize and I would like to invite you to come along with me in growing your appreciation for yourself. The journey to loving yourself and caring for yourself in a compassionate way — let’s call it living THE RADD LIFE. So if you’re down, let’s do it! Watch out world! Here we come!