“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment,” said Ralph Waldo Emerson. Self-confidence is a struggle for many. The lens in which we view ourselves is unforgiving, critical and demoralising. Every day, when we look in the mirror, we see someone ordinary, instead of an individual who can reach for the skies and beyond. Instead of being US, we are as Emerson said, trying to be a version of what people want us to be. We are easily swayed by people’s words and actions and as social creatures are on a continuous crusade to please people. It is hard not to, as a 30 something old, I too have spent my entire 20s being something I am not. Yet we can all learn and change from our past actions and choices. I have learned over the years, what we really need to instil to achieve success by any measure is to respect ourselves. If we do not create an environment of self-love and respect, nobody else will do it for us. If we do well for ourselves, we can do right by others minus the resentment and unhappiness. Here are five ways I have found to work for me;
1. Adopting Self-Care
“It is so important to take time for yourself and find clarity. The most important relationship is the one you have with yourself.” – Diane Von Furstenberg
What better way to start valuing yourself than to take guardianship of your mind and body’s needs? People may believe that it is indulgent and selfish to spend time or effort on ourselves, but as we occupy ourselves with daily tasks, time gets away in the wink of an eye. Particularly when you have kids or run a business, there never seems to be adequate time. It is like being a hamster on a wheel, we keep going around and around, but never really get anywhere. It is frustrating and exhausting to face your ‘busy’ day and feel like you have accomplished nothing. You feel less than, and your esteem takes a hit. The good news is that the change is in our hands. The bad news is habits are hard to break. So, start small, do little things every day, and eventually, it will add up to progress. An excellent way to start is to actually look like you feel good. So even on the worst of days, dress the part. When you are feeling down, force yourself to wear vivid colours. Do your hair and wear makeup if that is your routine. You will find that at the end of getting ready, you will feel a little better about yourself, confident and prepared to take on the rest of your day. Devote at least 30 minutes or an hour each day, just to be with yourself. Go for a run, cook yourself a nice healthy meal, clean the house, get dolled up and paint the town red, read voraciously or sign up for that class or workshop you have always wanted to! Life is forever travelling to be busy, what we have is the present moment to take action and reach the decisions that help us grow meaningfully, so make the best use of it. It is in the everyday actions that we have to remind ourselves that to have and to hold others, we need to start with caring for ourselves first.
2. Embracing ‘NO’
“Don’t sacrifice yourself too much, because if you sacrifice too much, there’s nothing else you can give, and nobody will care for you.” – Karl Lagerfeld
The hardest thing to say to someone is No, we fear the repercussion of our ‘rejection’, and so at the expanse of our well-being or time, we say Yes. Much of my 20s was a haze of Yeses to people I did not care for and who are not in my life anymore. Proving that despite the time I devoted to them, they did not withstand the test of time. It was degenerative behaviour that I regret. I spent a good ten years pleasing people who did not appreciate my time nor effort. In fact, they took advantage of it. Having said that, learning to say No also applies to the workplace. The word No seems harsh, but really it is self-preservation. You are saying No to something that does not bring you joy. Enough of doing work that simply does not pay enough or benefit you in any way. We tell ourselves that we are paying our dues, but really who is paying our bills? Our mind needs to say No to work assignments that don’t make sense monetarily or to our well-being. This way, you can dedicate that time to work that is significant to your personal growth. Social gatherings are another pickle that we frequently get ourselves in. In our 30s, most of us are happy to stay home, cosy up to a show on Netflix. So how do we politely decline invitations? Firstly, think about how you feel when you get that invitation, does it feel like a chore? Do you enjoy the company of the people who have invited you? If you don’t, then politely decline.
On the other hand, don’t always say No to the family and friends whom actually care for you. Make time for them because time invested in people who actually make you feel loved and happy is showing yourself the respect, you deserve. When you do have to say No to a loved one to take time for yourself, trust that they will understand because they have your best interests at heart. Otherwise, a heart to heart conversation goes a long way to helping them understand the steps you have taken to move forward in your life.
3. Don’t Apologise all the Time
“Respect is for those who deserve not for those who demand it.” – Paulo Coelho
Sorry, maybe the hardest word for some, but for some it is an escape word. Ever meet someone who profusely apologises for everything? Like when they are 5 minutes late, but they apologise like they have been an hour late? Or when they want to say something but start with “Sorry to interrupt…”. Well, that person was me; it was not until recently that I found myself apologising all the time. Where was this coming from? I then asked myself, what was I saying sorry for? Is there a better way I can diffuse the situation, rather than say sorry? I have learned that I should not apologise for situations that I did not have a say in or that were not within the circumstances of my control. We often do that to make an awkward situation go away, like to please a client. The sorry makes it go away, but where? When we say sorry, we think we have allayed the concerns of a negative situation, but instead, we have exacerbated it, for no solution is found. Well, instead of apologising, accept the situation for what it is and instead ask yourself what can be done to resolve this. Be honest and ask for their patience while you find a solution, often you will find that people respond better to honesty than self-depreciation.
We should not apologise when standing up for what we believe in. Don’t share your thoughts by saying “sorry for saying this”, it devalues the opinion you have. Instead, be firm in your words and have an open mind to the impressions as a consequence of your ideas.
An apology, when used for the right reasons, is powerful and forgiving. When used at the correct times, it shows the value you place in the relationships you have with your loved ones. Don’t degrade the word and yourself by using it freely. People will respect your words, views, and apology when you accord it the respect it demands.
4. Trust in Your Abilities
“Life is not easy for any of us. But what of that? We must have perseverance and above all, confidence in ourselves. We must believe that we are gifted for something and that this thing, at whatever cost, must be attained”. – Marie Curie
We are on the same journey called life, but we all possess a different blueprint. Our challenges, circumstances, ambitions, goals and needs and wants in life are unique to who we are and where we come from. While we may share similarities with the next person, we cannot completely identify with their wins and losses in life. Yet we do, we often compare ourselves to people and think that we don’t deserve to celebrate our life, because “what have I achieved to do so?”. Respecting yourself begins with acknowledging your strengths and weaknesses. Most of us have no trouble being self-critical, but find it hard to accept praise or celebrate the milestones or goals we have attained.
It is imperative to recognise the small goals and accomplishments because those give rise to the success we seek. They are the stepping stones to fulfilling the dreams we hold. Respecting our abilities and the hard work that we have put in every step of the way allows us to be proud of what we have achieved and push our potential further. When weakening our accomplishments, we wallow in self-pity, and that is a slippery slope. Don’t be afraid to let the world see what you have to offer. Express who you are and what you can bring to the table. There will always be naysayers, but there will also be those who are willing to take a chance with you. Shine for them to see!
5.Don’t Be Reactive
“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent”.– Eleanor Roosevelt
It is in our nature to take a fight or flight approach when in a threatening or uncomfortable situation. Well, we don’t live in the wild anymore, and we have learned over thousands of years that we can be mindful of our personal thoughts and actions. Don’t become explosive and react in quick time to situations. It does not bode well for your image nor your mind. Responding poorly to conditions that do not go your way is a sign of weakness, or rather that is how people would see it. It is one thing to be vulnerable but another to be yelling at someone. Breathe through any situation that gets you agitated, count to five or excuse yourself from the situation at hand to collect your thoughts. This way, you are less likely to say or do something that you will regret and hence feel less about yourself. So, this one is a no-brainer; respect the person you want respected, which is you. When you respect yourself, you will respect others, and it is a delightful civic-minded Ferris wheel that we can all get on board.
Bringing it all together
“The challenge is not to be perfect — it is to be whole,” said Jane Fonda. As a Grace & Frankie fan, I felt that it was fitting to draw inspiration from a group of thespians who live life on their own terms. Hard to believe that Jane Fonda, Martin Sheen, Sam Waterston and Lily Tomlin are all in their late 70s and early 80s. The collective experience of their lives and decorated careers is reason enough to believe that when we love ourselves enough, we can conquer anything we set our minds to. We have in our hands, the greatest gift anyone can have, we are alive. So, let’s revel in that and respect the person we are meant to be.
Happy Valentines’ Day Everyone!