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How My Approach to Self Esteem Has Shifted

And the realization that changed everything for me.
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How My Approach to Self Esteem Has Changed1

Low self esteem has been something that's plagued me for the majority of my life. And while it feels almost pompous to admit, people are often surprised to hear that. I had a wonderful childhood (adoring parents, straight A's, excelled at sports) and love being an adult (I run a successful business, have a beautiful family, and lots of friends), but despite how much "success" I have, I've always felt less-than and as a result incredibly hard on myself. What I never completely understood, until only recently, is that self worth needs to come from within.

I can't pinpoint the exact moment I began to feel different from all of my friends, but it became increasingly clear once I got to high school. I was deeply affected by small losses—a breakup, a bad grade on a test, getting cut from a sports team—because they felt like confirmations of the insecurities I already had. It was almost like those small setbacks substantiated the idea that nothing I ever did was good enough. And for most of my adolescence, I thought I was the only one struggling because I internalized all of those thoughts and didn't share them. I felt isolated and alone, even though in retrospect, I now see that we were all dealing with similar situations.

I've begun to realize that slip-ups and so-called failures are not only part of life, but excellent opportunities to learn from. And as soon as I embraced the idea that mistakes were okay, instead of aggressively trying to avoid them, that's when I noticed the biggest shift. I suppose it makes sense—if your main goal is to do everything perfectly, anything short of that will feel like a failure. But on the contrary—if you account for (and even welcome) those missteps, you're able to make drastic improvements and better yourself.

I think about this a lot in terms of raising Sloan and how to deliver praise without having it be something she relies on. As an only child, the attention was all on me and when I did well, I relished in that attention. To this day, my love language is centered on "words of affirmation," something G says is difficult at times to maintain. He likens it to a planter that has holes in the bottom of the pot. He can water it regularly, but it will still seep out the bottom and need constant attention. It's helped me understand how my self worth shouldn't be dependent on a specific accomplishment or what others say, but rather an overall acceptance of myself. So here's to acknowledging insecurities (but not letting them define me), allowing room for mistakes, and treating myself with the grace and kindness I deserve.

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