We all have our good days and bad days; that’s normal and expected.
But, how do you feel about yourself? (this is NOT the important question….it’s coming later)
I don’t mean how do you feel right now, as in your current emotion. I mean, how do you feel about you?
- Are you proud of who you are and who you’re becoming?
- Do you feel fulfilled and satisfied with your life?
- Can you look in the mirror and say, “I love you,” without feeling like a fraud?
- When you think about yourself and your accomplishments, do you smile?
If you’re like me, you feel good about yourself some of the time, whereas other times, you don’t feel good about yourself at all.
So, what’s going on here?
What’s the root of your higher esteem when you feel good about yourself, and what causes your lower self-esteem when you feel bad about yourself?
Before we get into the answer, let’s first connect with the emotions that tag along with our self-esteem.
The Emotions we Feel
What kind of emotions are in play when we feel good or badly about ourselves?
Wow! That’s a lot of emotions.
If you have to choose how to feel at any given moment, you’re definitely going to pick an emotion from the second table, right?
Absolutely. Hands down for me.
I want to feel good about me. I want to feel proud of my accomplishments, confident in who I am as a person and energized enough to follow my dreams and achieve my goals. Why? Because it feels good, and who doesn’t want to feel happy?
Feeling doubtful, guilty or inadequate? Ya, I can leave those out of my life whenever possible. I don’t want to be down on me and feel bad about me.
If you want to feel good about yourself more often, you’ll need to do a little work.
Always remember that your life is created by you.
The more you know about how to structure your life so you feel good about yourself more often, the better, right?
How to Feel Good About Yourself
When I talk about feeling better about yourself, I don’t just mean feeling good.
You can experience moments of joy, confidence and excitement, but underneath, and on a daily basis . . .
. . . can you look in the mirror and recognize your beautiful soul and know you’re awesome? (a really good question, but still, this is not the important question that’s coming)
If not, then don’t worry, you’ll be on your way to seeing your awesomeness soon.
Aside from the many general things you can do to feel better about yourself (repeating affirmations, exercise, self-care, see a therapist, etc.), there is ONE foundational concept that can make or break your self-esteem and how you feel about yourself.
Are you ready for the important question?
Do your actions (the things you do and say daily, weekly and beyond) ALIGN with who you really are, with what you deeply desire to your core, and with who you truly want to become?
The more your actions are aligned with what you believe and value and are aligned with what you say you will do, the better you will feel about yourself.
Being aligned with the true you may not be the only factor that leads to you feeling good about yourself, but I’ve found that living in alignment has the most impact in my self-esteem.
What do I mean by living in alignment?
Here are a couple of quick examples.
Let’s say you’ve started to think about how your health is important, and now that you’re getting older, you realize there’s no time to fool around. You want to get serious about your health; you read books and experiment with new recipes. You know you should eat healthier, and you say you’ll start eating healthy on Monday, with small indulgences only on the weekend. Then, after starting your week like a healthy-eating rock star, you order pizza Tuesday night. You fall into your old habits for the rest of the week.
In this situation, how do you think you felt about yourself by Friday?
Based on the example…
- What do you value? Being healthy by eating healthy food.
- What did you say you would do? Eat healthy food from Monday to Thursday.
Are your actions aligned with your values and what you said you’d do?
No. They’re not.
When Friday rolled around, you likely felt bad about yourself because you didn’t stick to what you said you’d do, and ultimately, you didn’t eat food that promoted your health. You told yourself you wanted to eat healthier, but you didn’t follow through. You might feel like a failure or a loser, or like someone who just can’t stick to anything.
That’s not a good way to feel, and I’ve been there . . .
. . . hundreds of times.
On the other hand, when your actions support what you value and what you want to accomplish, you feel proud of yourself for doing the hard thing and for doing what you said you would do.
Trying to eat healthy food on a consistent basis is tough for most of us in our modern society, which dangles tantalizing food in front of us everywhere we go. If eating healthfully all week is too difficult, then modify your goal by saying you’ll make a healthy homemade meal for dinners from Sunday to Thursday. Or start with just two nights a week and build from there.
2-4 dinners is more doable and could be a good place to start. When you accomplish that mini-goal, you’ll feel good about yourself, and you can then add another mini-goal.
A simpler example is you at work one beautiful afternoon. You’re inspired by the weather and decide you’ll go for a 3 km walk right after work. You know it’s important to move your body regularly, and your sedentary job keeps you in a chair most of the day. You want to look after your health better, and walking can help you do it. After you get home, you’re tired, and you don’t feel like walking for 3 km. You skip the walk and tell yourself you’ll do it tomorrow instead.
In the walking example, you value moving your body for health, and you say you’ll go for a 3 km walk after work to support that value. At the end of the day, however, your actions are not aligned with your true self. Your actions are not aligned with what you value nor aligned with what you said you would do.
By deciding to go on a walk the next day, you might not feel too badly about yourself because you’ve still committed to moving your body. Deep down, though, you might be experiencing negative feelings about yourself, especially if you procrastinate that walk and never get it done, or if you’ve made it a habit to put off exercise in the past.
Imagine how awesome you’d feel about yourself if you did do that walk?
A different approach to a goal like walking after work (so you can have more success and feel good about yourself) is to not put a firm number on it (distance, time, pace). Just say you’ll walk outside. Then, when you get home feeling tired and unmotivated, you can tell yourself you’ll just walk around the block.
Who knows, you may feel so refreshed and energized from the walk, you might stroll for longer than just around the block. Either way, when you get home, you will feel good about yourself. 🙂
Not just because walking makes you feel good, but because you did what you said you would do, which is an action that supports how you value moving your body for your health.
The healthy eating and walking examples are really only snapshots of how a person’s actions can be aligned or misaligned with their values and goals.
What about the bigger picture?
Let’s look at Rachel’s life.
Rachel’s True Self
Rachel loves animals and greatly values spending time with her children. She would like to get out in nature more and be more active. She works in a demanding corporate environment, where she can use her management skills.
The following two scenarios show Rachel’s life after she’s offered a promotion. Let’s see which situation is more aligned with her values.
How do you think Rachel feels about herself?
Although she was promoted at work (and can be proud of that accomplishment) and is able to now give her family a vacation each year (fun and exciting), that vacation is months away, and that vacation consists of only 7 days out of the 365 possible days in a year.
What about Rachel’s life, day-in and day-out? What about the big picture?
On a daily and weekly basis, Rachel is not aligning her actions with her values or with what she said she would do. She’s not spending quality time with her kids or getting out in nature. She’s not getting active or expressing her love for animals.
When Rachel goes to sleep each night, or when she reflects on her life, she may notice lots of good things. No doubt. It’s not like her life is a walking disaster.
However, deep down in Rachel’s soul, there’s a problem. She is leading a life that does not match with her values or who she really wants to be.
Let’s look at a second scenario.
What a relief for Rachel. The second scenario is much more aligned with her values. On a daily and weekly basis, she is living in alignment.
Rachel is spending quality time with her kids every weekend and getting outside with them in nature. She’s being more active and will be able to express her love for animals by fostering a dog.
Can you imagine how Rachel feels about herself in the second scenario? Happier, more self-assured and probably feeling much better about herself compared with Scenario 1.
It’s one thing to set goals and shoot for changes in your life that will make you feel better about yourself, but be careful here.
If you set goals or expectations for yourself that are too high, and unattainable or unsustainable, then you’re setting yourself up for not feeling good about yourself when you don’t achieve those goals.
Do you see the delicate dance at play?
- It’s imperative that you make changes in your life if much of what you do or much of how you spend your time is misaligned with your values and goals.
- It’s equally important to set realistic goals you know you can achieve (consider starting small and building over time), so you’re not setting yourself up to be once again, misaligned.
Are you living a life aligned with your values and goals?
I’d encourage you to take some time to discover your truth. To discover your values compared to your actions. It will be worth it, I promise, because once you know your truth, you can confidently work towards living that truth.
In your journal, or elsewhere, work through these 6 steps:
If you’ve subscribed to my newsletter, hold off on doing these steps; you’ll receive a workbook with more detailed instructions in this week’s newsletter. Haven’t subscribed yet? Sign up and receive your gift from me: Reading Food Labels Guide (over 50 pages!).
Finding Alignment Step 1: Make a list of all the things in your life that are important to you. Anything that comes to mind.
Finding Alignment Step 2: Look at your list and group similar things together into categories.
Finding Alignment Step 3: Give each category a title that is specific and that clearly states how that category represents something you value.
Here are some examples of how people might value travel by creating a specific title to represent the importance of travel to them:
- the joy of meeting people from around the world
- discovering unique locations in nature where I can hike and cycle
- playing with different languages when I travel to different countries
- visiting museums in major cities around the world, so I can expand my artistic horizon
- trying different cuisines from around the globe
- learning from different cultures
- studying the history of different places
Finding Alignment Step 4: Now that you’ve created specific values important to you (your categories are titled as what you value), rank them in order of importance to you.
Finding Alignment Step 5: Once you’ve ranked each value, take a look at your list and ask yourself if your life is aligned with your values. It’s time to observe you in your life and see where your actions do not align with your values. Spend time journaling, reflecting and having conversations with those you trust. See what you can discover.
Finding Alignment Step 6: Find ways to start making changes in your life to become better aligned with who you are. Start small and slowly add in things to your life that you value the most.
Let’s say you want to be more present when you are at home with your family. Pick one thing to commit to, that shows yourself you are living your values. You could:
- turn off your phone (or put it away) from 6 to 9 pm
- read Eckhart Tolle’s The Power of Now and begin to apply some of the principles
- plan a family activity twice during the week and once every weekend (go for a walk, play in the yard, play a board game, go to a movie, go to a park, etc.)
- research meditation and commit to trying it out for 5 min. a day for a week
Don’t put too much pressure on yourself here, but also, don’t ignore who you really are and who you really want to be. Over time, if you commit to making the changes you want, you will feel better about yourself. You can live a life aligned with who you really are, and without regrets.
In addition to living your life according to what you value, there’s also that other thing that makes you feel good about yourself.
Doing what you said you would do.
I’d like you to consider the idea that even the nitty gritty details of your daily life can be accomplishments, and they can contribute to you feeling great about you.
All the little things you accomplish in a day or week are YOU doing stuff and getting things done!
- YOU are going for a walk or going to the gym.
- YOU are eating a healthy salad.
- YOU are taking time to get at your child’s eye level and play with them.
- YOU are researching a new career.
- YOU are cooking a special dinner for a family member who is ill.
When you do the things you said you would do, or you just get things off your to-do list, you will feel good about yourself, maybe even giddy!
When you’re caught up in your busy life, even the smallest things can be accomplishments:
- Mowing the lawn
- Decluttering spaces
- Taking 2 minutes to do deep breathing
- Holding back hurtful comments
- Washing the dishes
- Doing the laundry
If you’re not used to looking on the bright side of things, or seeing the awesomeness in you, consider the idea of keeping an accomplishment journal.
Whether you get your own blank book to write in, or whether you use the printable Accomplishment Journal I created, please start noticing all the things you are doing.
Noticing your accomplishments can really help you feel good about yourself! As you build a regular habit of jotting down your small and big accomplishments, you’ll naturally begin to look for the positive, as part of a new habit.
If you need to make changes in your life to be more aligned with who you are, you may find it easier after a few weeks of keeping an Accomplishment Journal.
You have one life, and no one is going to create it for you. Dig into your courage reservoir, take a risk, and go after the life you want to live. Start small if you need to, but start.
If you do not like your life as it is right now, take the first steps.
Living your true life is the most important nourishment for your soul.
Live your true life,
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