Posted on March 25, 2012 in Fulfillment, Self Improvement by Sandra Bienkowski
If my self-image had a gauge like a gas tank, the warning light was on and I was almost empty. When I think back to those years, I cringe. I got my opinions from others. I determined my worth by how much the man I was dating was into me. I thought I should only read books with the words “self-help” somewhere on the book jacket cover. I felt incredibly flawed. There were reasons why my tank was near empty—but regardless of that childhood tale—I knew it was my job to fix it.
You can tell a lot about your self-worth by taking a look at your life. When I began therapy, my life was messy. I was fearful to pursue journalism, so I worked as a waitress. I spent money as fast as I made it. My dating vetting process could have used some actual vetting. I was bad at boundaries. I lacked a solid sense of who I am.
Throughout the process of talk therapy, I watched my life improve in each area. I slowly transitioned from empty to whole. As the saying goes, Life works when you do.
Therapy gave me the insights, resources and tools to repair my life. Here are three fundamentals …
Comfort yourself. When this came up in therapy, it sounded so simple, but I didn’t do it. I’d beat myself up, criticize myself, let negative thoughts run wild, and brood about everything. Learning to comfort myself meant being on my own side, showing compassion to myself (even when I make mistakes) and building up my internal support system. When life throws you a punch, you can take it. You offer comfort to yourself just as you would to a relative or friend who is in need.
Set boundaries. Boundaries are a great indicator of self-esteem. Boundaries are your limits for acceptable behavior from those around you. I had to figure out where I begin and end. Boundaries mean no one else can ruin your day because there isn’t a blurred line from that person’s life to yours. Setting boundaries means you determine how you are treated. You make decisions even if it means other people might be upset with you. You don’t set aside your values or how you feel to keep others happy. You live according to your own terms.
Know your worth. Go full tilt. I joke with my husband regularly telling him he’s lucky to be married to someone as fabulous as me. Sometimes I glance in the mirror and say, “Damn, I look good.” Or he will give me a compliment and I will respond with, “I know.” And these days, I’m only half joking. When you successfully fight to construct your self-worth, it becomes a precious jewel. You fiercely protect your investment. You notice the ways you are fabulous. You can laugh at yourself. You readily take compliments when they are given. You find the real joy and resilience that comes from loving yourself. It’s the greatest gift you can give to yourself and to your life.
Once your self-worth is on solid footing, you no longer need validation from others. One day I was in a work meeting where two associates boasted about how rehashing their childhoods isn’t for them; instead, they believe in pushing forward to achieve goals. They laughed and slapped each other on the back like it puts them in a cooler, stronger camp than those who seek therapy. I smiled to myself. It’s the most courageous among us who face our pasts so we can be whole and strong going forward.