I recently learned the definition of “co-dependence”. It used to seem so scary and threatening that I avoided what it meant for many years, trying to overcompensate by being fiercely independent.

It actually means putting the wants and needs of others ahead of our own. This creates enmeshed relationships that breed helplessness and low self-esteem and so many women do it!

They do it in their careers, with their kids and in interpersonal relationships, dropping their own priorities totally for the sake of taking care of others. Womanhood in many ways has become synonymous with “self-sacrifice” and martyrdom.

However, just because this is the mindset we’ve been bred to believe is ‘the right way to be’ – it doesn’t mean this is the way we need to operate as women in the 21st century. We can change this way of being. We can break the self-care taboo and boost our self esteem in the process!

But we can’t lay waiting for others to change it. We must take some steps to change it ourselves and the first step is recognising the signs that your self-esteem needs a boost.

7 Signs Your Self Esteem Needs a Boost

1. The daily presence of fear + anxiety at a severity of 5 or greater out of 10

In our fast-paced world, it’s normal to experience some anxiety and fear, but chronically high levels are an indication of something else going on. Namely, lower than ideal levels of self-esteem. Especially when self-esteem is influencing self-efficacy. AKA: your belief in your ability to achieve something.

2. Feeling Inadequate or like you don’t fit in around others

If you’re in a room with others and you don’t feel good, pay attention to your self-statements. What are you focusing on? What are you thinking about? Likely the internal dialogue will be negative and self-directed, hence the self-consciousness.

It’s normal for women with lower self-esteem to feel this way in rooms with others, so treat this as a sign for a bit more self-care and self-acceptance.

3. Scared to share your opinions or ideas with others

Those with healthy self-esteem don’t let the opinion of others stop them sharing their ideas and opinions. They know what others think is about the person thinking those thoughts. They’re respectful of opinions that differ from their own and speak their own ideas with confidence and self-assurance.

Therefore, if the idea of sharing your ideas with others freaks you out, it’s time to fill your well of self-love to the brim!

4. Keeping quiet to ‘keep the peace’

Those with low self-esteem are afraid of “bothering others” with their own wants and needs. They worry that speaking up will upset others (and mistakenly believe they’re responsible).

5. Comparing yourself to others (and coming off second best)

Comparison is a scarcity mindset that says, “There is only so much love to go around”. If someone else is worthy of love and we judge ourselves less worthy by comparison, we risk our needs for love and acceptance not being met.

There is more than enough love to go around and there is no limit to the level and abundance of love you can give to yourself when you know you’re worthy of it.

6. Uncontrollable behavior that is self-defeating

By uncontrollable behavior I mean emotional reactions or bouts of behavior where it feels like something or someone else takes you over and you can’t stop. This comes from the “fight or flight” response to threat, usually when we fear we’ve broken the conditions our love and belonging are determined by.

When you experience behavior that is not in alignment with what you want for yourself, self-compassion is the answer, because the behavior is a coping strategy from a deeply held early experience where your emotional needs weren’t met. So, know it’s not your fault, you’re not a bad person and you can absolutely do something right now to take better care of yourself so that these unhelpful emotional reactions don’t continue.

7. Unable to find the time to take care of you

In my days as a personal trainer I mainly worked with women with young children, and one lady sticks out in my mind as a shining example of what’s possible. She has 4 kids and would still make the time every day to go to the gym, as did her husband. They would “tag team it”. Meaning that one would stay home while the other went to the gym and then they’d swap.

I find it’s a matter of priorities as well as a matter of time. Now, this being said, with chronically low self-esteem you often feel incapable of getting your needs met, so it’s perfectly understandable that you won’t see this as possible for you.

The work here is not to get to the gym, and beat yourself up when you don’t, but rather to work at what’s causing the lack of time to take care of you.

3 Simple Things You Can do Today to Increase Your Self Esteem

1. Bookend your day with self-serving activities

Take between 2-20min twice a day to turn your attention inward. It can be anything from meditation, yoga, journaling or just pausing to focus on your breath. The most important thing is the regular act of giving yourself the time and attention you need.

2. Cut the Comparisons and Increase Your Self-Compassion

Any time you notice yourself comparing yourself to others, pause and self-reflect. Remember what you see as great in others is in you also, so close the magazine, stop scrolling through Facebook and do something that totally nourishes the perfectly imperfect you!

3. Speak your Truth and Set Effective Boundaries

You have a right to ask for what you want and need and a right to have them met. So, speaking your truth and standing up for yourself can become a very valuable self-esteem booster.

When you do this you say to yourself, “Hey, I’m worth this!”

And that alone may be the most powerfully transformative act you can do.

Author

Mel Houghton is a 3 time world championship medalist for swimming, international speaker, published author, national fitness model champion and works with women globally to help them overcome the internal struggles that hold them back from achieving their true potential in love, career, wealth, health and relationships (it’s all connected).

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