Allow Your Authentic Self to Shine

Someone recently said to me that she wanted to make a big difference with her life, but she struggled to accept herself exactly as she is. One of the things I’ve learnt is that all of the qualities you would like other people to embody, you need to embody yourself, so if you want to be kind, you need to start by being kind to yourself. If you wish people were more accepting, you need to accept yourself.

Being authentic means to be real or genuine. Whenever someone asks you what you think, how often do you give a polite response? You may think you are being kind, and there are instances where you may choose to be, but most people act in this way to avoid potential conflict. Being authentic doesn’t mean being cruel or rude, it simply means saying what you really mean in a way that matches the person you choose to be. You don’t have to explain your actions to others, if you are going to refuse an invitation you can simply say, “Sorry, I can’t make it.” Telling the truth, doesn’t mean being blunt, it’s often not what we say but the way we say it that people react to.

Being authentic means being honest with yourself. How often do you push your needs aside and do what you feel you should do? Do this often enough and it’s natural to feel resentful.

One of the things I love about authentic people is that you can trust them. You may not always agree with them, but you can always respect them, because you know exactly where you stand.

Alcoholics are encouraged to attend 90 AA meetings in 90 days as this helps them change their drinking habits and who they associate with. So if you choose to focus on loving yourself more, consider spending the next 90 days with people whose words and actions support you. You may not always be able to do this with people you work with but you can certainly choose who you spend your time with outside of work.

There is a big difference between loving yourself and feeding your ego. Loving yourself is feeling good about you. It’s about looking in the mirror and liking the person who is looking back at you, not because of your achievements, or the way you look, but because of who you are.

Your ego can tell you that you have to look a certain way, or achieve a certain amount of success in order to be good enough. Your ego may encourage you to talk about yourself all the time and be totally self-absorbed. Your ego may want you to not even try in case you aren’t as good as everyone else. But ego takes you away from loving your life whereas self-love takes you towards loving your life.

Self-love is knowing that you are not your body or your accomplishments, because the body ages and success comes and goes. Self-love is not about being perfect. It’s about knowing that you have made mistakes, and will continue to make mistakes, but that you’re okay exactly as you are.

A Simple Formula for Building Self Esteem

Not long after my first book was released a book reader came to me for advice. The first words out of her mouth as she entered my office were, “You don’t look the way you are supposed to look!” It wasn’t a compliment. Not long afterwards I was the keynote speaker at a conference and my talk was enthusiastically received by the audience, after the talk that same woman walked up to me and said, “Who would have thought you had that in you!”

Although I wouldn’t have described myself as someone with low self esteem I struggled to feel good about myself whenever someone made such a comment. During that time I received some great feedback from people telling me how my book had changed their lives but I focused on the criticism. I gave up public speaking because I didn’t want to live my life always feeling as if ‘I wasn’t good enough’.

We can have high self esteem in one area and not in others

My mother always told me I could do anything and I attribute my ability to go outside my comfort zone, and try something new, to my mother’s belief in me. She always made me feel as if she really believed it.

My father, while very loving, was a perfectionist. His way of protecting me was to try to help me ‘be perfect’. One of the statements that Dad regularly said was, “No decent man will ever love you if…..” and the long list of ‘ifs’ ranged from having bad table manners, talking too loudly, to letting a guy kiss you on the first date. The beliefs I took on from Dad became a self fulfilling prophecy. I have always considered myself emotionally healthy but the mixed messages I received meant I was always waiting for the next rejection. So these are the steps I followed to build my self esteem.

1. Break free from the tribe

The tribe is made up of family, friends, co-workers, church and the media.

When we are bonded to the tribe all our choices are influenced by what others think of us.  And sometimes keeping up appearances saps so much of our energy that there’s rarely enough left over for the things that are really important to us.

The problem is that once we establish a habit of responding in a certain way it’s often hard to recognise when we are being influenced by others.

I know my Dad meant well, and his comments were said to help me be accepted by others as Dad always worried about what other people thought, what he didn’t realise was the damage those comments did to my self esteem.

Now it’s one thing to know what we should do and another to do it, so I consciously chose an affirmation to help me and whenever I felt embarrassed, hurt, or worried about other people’s opinions I would say, ‘What I think about me is more important than what anyone else thinks about me’.

2. Decide who you want to be

My life changed dramatically when I consciously chose to be a kind, loving, generous person. This one change had the greatest impact on my life, more than anything else I have ever done. Of course there were times when I forgot but as I focused on being kind, loving and generous every day, over time I became a nicer person. You cannot help but elevate your self esteem when you like yourself.

3. Make amends

I started reflecting on all of the people in my life who hurt or annoyed me and started forgiving, I also forgave myself for all of the stupid mistakes I had made, and there were quite a few.

I thought about the times when I had acted in ways I wasn’t proud of and I wrote to a few people apologising for my behaviour. This exercise made me feel good about me.

4. Establish the habit of asking yourself questions

I reflect daily and when faced with a choice I’m not sure about I ask myself,  “Does this choice make me feel good about me?”

That’s it. Stop worrying about what other people think. Act in a way that makes you feel good about you, forgive and make amends. Such a simple formula but one that is guaranteed to build your self esteem.