Dealing with low self-esteem can feel challenging. But there are many people who have learned to change how they view themselves. It does take work and time but you can develop healthy self-esteem. Here are three women - one of them, me! - who did just that…
Changing your view of yourself isn’t an overnight process. There will be hard days and setbacks but keep moving forward. Forgive yourself for your mistakes and embrace the beautiful now.
I Had to Learn to Say “No”
In school, I was smart. Not popular, but smart. In fact I was ostracized and bullied much of my school life. Which meant no one really wanted to be my friend - until it came time to partner up for projects. Science projects. History projects. Didn't matter. When it was time for the next one, EVERYONE wanted to be my partner. Why? Because they were assured of a good grade. And they knew they wouldn't have to do any work.
I would regularly take on the whole project by myself, which often meant I took on more work than I could handle alone. And this habit continued into college and even into the beginnings of my military career. No one worried when it was our section's turn to clean the watch center. They all knew I would do most of it and not say anything.
Finally I realized that I was chronically tired. I reached out to the base chaplain, hoping to vent a little. Fortunately, the chaplain was also a trained counselor. And what he helped me discover shocked me.
I realized I was saying ‘yes’ to everyone in the hopes that they would like me because I was battling low self-esteem. As I began to learn to like myself, I discovered that in the military I was respected for my competency. It helped me develop a positive self image. And I learned that outside my small town where my family was looked down on (wrong side of the tracks and all), no one knew or cared that I had grown up poor. They only cared that I could be counted on when needed. And that I could do my job and do it well. That's when I realized I could say ‘no’ to others without guilt or fear. Because I liked who I saw in the mirror. And there were people who liked and respected me for who I was, not for what I could do for them.
Tishia Lee Accepted Herself
Tishia, from Shining Self, has struggled with her self-esteem since she was little. She says, “I grew up with so much negative feedback about who I was. I was told I was too fat, that I’d never amount to anything, that I could be pretty if I’d only lose weight.”
She spent years believing these lies and battling a negative self-image. But things started to change for her recently.
“When I moved to the West Coast, I found an amazing community of body positivity people and health-at-every-size advocates. All of a sudden I was given permission to be me. I realized I didn't have to lose weight, diet, or do things others (including the media) had fed into my beliefs.”
As soon as she gave up dieting and accepted her body, Tishia found a confidence and self-esteem within her that she didn’t know existed. She says, “To me, healthy self-esteem means being confident and comfortable in my own skin, knowing my value and worth. Now I’m confident in my abilities and I’m OK with all of it regardless of whether other people like or approve of me.”
Sandra Went From Resisting Change to Embracing It
My friend Sandra was a watch officer who feared failing at anything. As a result, she was rigid and wasn’t open to new ways of doing things. She resisted even the smallest of changes.
It wasn’t until our lieutenant challenged her to try one thing a week that Sandra realized how much control fear had over her. With the help of that same chaplain that helped me, Sandra traced the cause back to her alcoholic parents. She fought to say in control as a kid because it meant safety.
We went our separate ways shortly after and eventually lost touch with each other. But through the wonders of the Internet, we recently reconnected! I learned that Sandra retired shortly after I did. Now she travels all over the world, housesitting and pet sitting for people when they travel. "I’m an adult now," she told me, "and I’m not the same little girl. When I saw that, I was set free. I view myself differently now. I’m excited by new opportunities and new changes. I can’t wait to see what each new day brings!”