Self-Esteem: How to Cultivate It



“Self-esteem” is one of those buzzwords we’ve heard so many times that we almost forget what it really means.

And yet, self-esteem is one of the most crucial foundations for living a pleasurable life and feeling good in the world.  

As women, we receive so many messages from advertisers, magazines, media—and sometimes people in our lives—that tell us that we’re not “enough.” We’re told that we’re supposed to fit a narrow beauty ideal in order to be gorgeous, that we’re supposed to stay young forever (literally impossible!) in order to be sexy, that we have to check certain boxes in order to feel like a success. 

Over time, all those messages can undercut our self-esteem. They can make us feel like less than the gorgeous, courageous, strong, vital creatures that we really are.

So how do we combat these messages of “not enough” that we’re bombarded with, and keep (and cultivate) our self-esteem? There are a lot of practices out there that can support this process. Here are a few of my favorites…

Start with radical acceptance.  

If it feels like a leap or “fake” to go from your current mindset to believing that you’re incredibly fabulous and awesome!, then don’t worry.  

Cultivating self-esteem doesn’t have to be so dramatic. (And actually, the pressure to feel fabulous and awesome! all the time can turn into just another drain on self-esteem!) 

I find that practicing self-acceptance leads me naturally to self-esteem.  Whatever is happening in this moment, how I look in the mirror on this particular morning, whatever I managed to accomplish on this specific day—it’s all okay. 

It doesn’t have to fit an externally imposed ideal in order to be okay—it can be okay just because it’s what’s happening.

Make any changes from THAT place. 

I find that if I try to change something about myself from a place of “not enough,” it reinforces feeling bad about myself. 

But if I practice a little radical acceptance first, accept and stop putting down where I currently am—I can choose to make a change from there.  

Going through that extra step—acceptance before trying to change—makes a huge difference in how I feel about myself. 

Then, any changes I make in myself are empowered and intentional. 

Practice in the mirror. 

The mirror is tricky for a lot of women! 

We’ve been bombarded with so many messages about how we’re supposed to look that it’s easy to repeat those messages to ourselves every time we look in the mirror. 

But what if we just choose to say something different to our reflection? It might feel funny in the beginning, but we can make a choice to talk nicely to ourselves (whether we believe it at first or not!). 

The mirror is a perfect place to practice that. The next time you’re standing in front of the mirror, see what happens if, instead of picking apart or evaluating your appearance, you intentionally think something nice about yourself. 

Find whatever you can appreciate about your face or body—and notice it on purpose. Even 30 seconds of this practice every time you look in the mirror can radically improve how you feel about yourself.

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