Ask All4Women is a feature where we partner with an expert to answer your burning questions about different topics. For the next few weeks, career coach and personal growth expert, Lori Milner is answering our readers’ questions about personal growth and how to take action on things that matter.
The reader question: How does a 53-year-old fix her low self-esteem and confidence?
Lori’s answer: Thank you for sharing your question – trust me, you are not alone in feeling like this. In my experience, feelings of low confidence and self-esteem stem from a lack of self-love. More importantly from a lack of unconditional self-love. We tend to have double standards for ourselves but not others. Here are some thoughts to start moving forward to a place of self-love and confidence.
Own your headspace
Confidence starts in the mind with the thoughts we tell ourselves. Our internal dialogue, what we communicate to ourselves, has a huge impact on how we project ourselves to the outside world. When you find the inner critic showing up and feeding your mind things like ‘you don’t deserve this’ or ‘you’re not enough’, be aware of it. Then practice these three steps – stop, challenge and choose.
- Stop yourself when you become aware of this kind of thinking.
- Challenge the thought – is it based in reality or is it my own irrational thinking? Most of the time it is our irrational thinking.
- And lastly, choose a different thought to replace it.
I’m not saying tell yourself something you don’t inherently believe, but find a thought that better serves you. For example ‘I am enough, I am doing the best I can’.
This ties into the story we tell ourselves. Think about your story – is it ‘I’m too old, too young, I’m an introvert’? Remember your mind is always eavesdropping, and if you fight for your limitations you get to keep them. Change the story to one of growth and positivity.
Brene Brown has a beautiful quote ‘If you own the story, you get to narrate the ending’. Acknowledge your previous wins and successes as the starting point to remind you of how capable and amazing you are. Just because you may have had a few bad chapters, it does not determine the rest of the story.
This means you have to be your why. The reason why you want to make a shift. Don’t do it for someone else or rely on motivation. Often we find ourselves so caught up in the various roles we play, we forget who we are. What spikes your curiosity? What makes your soul sing? Now take your calendar and start to include these kinds of activities so you can reconnect with yourself again.
Comparison is the thief of joy
We tend to compare our lives to others and are convinced they must be doing something right that we aren’t. Remember, everyone is living a life you know nothing about and never get sucked into the façade of curated images and manicured lives on social media. All you can do is your best with the tools and resources available to you in the moment.
This is the purest way to build your confidence because you are taking time out for you. Just the simple act of doing something nice for yourself reinforces that you are enough and you deserve it. It could be having a long bath, taking up that yoga class you always wanted to, taking yourself for a blow-dry – fill in the blank of what would make you happy. Schedule time in your calendar for these sorts of things and always show up to them. Don’t get caught into the trap of guilt and putting everyone else’s needs above your own.
This is where the magic happens. When you can show yourself that you can do something, you ignite an enthusiasm inside that propels you forward. A lack of action on the things that are important to you will only reinforce your story. We are motivated by progress because that’s how we move forward – one win at a time. Even if you dedicate 15 minutes a day to your goal, it will compound over time. Every time you take a step forward, you start to build confidence and resilience.
One of the greatest gifts of being human is the ability to choose what to focus on. Gratitude is the experience of counting one’s blessings, and is the best way to start rewiring your brain. Write down 3 to 5 things you are grateful for every day. Don’t only get stuck on the big things, getting a well-rested night’s sleep or a beautiful sunset can be equally rewarding. When we focus on what we have instead of a sense of ‘lack’, we start to live a life of appreciation and not expectation.
Avoid negative people
This is easier said than done, but life is short and we need to ensure the people around us are encouraging and supporting us. If someone keeps reminding you that your dreams are unrealistic or constantly criticising you, find a way to cut them out. My late dad used to call them toxic people. Instead, surround yourself with positivity and like-minded people who have your best interests at heart.
Confidence is cultivated
Confidence is not something you have or you don’t. When you feel stuck or a bit low, remember your goals and find a way to take action, even the smallest step forward.
You can remind yourself with post-it notes on your fridge or computer. Set reminders in your phone to keep you going through the day. But most of all, just love yourself. Look in the mirror deep into your eyes and tell yourself how special you are. It feels strange at first, but it’s a cliché for a reason that we can only give to the extent that we give to ourselves.
More than anything, start to strengthen the muscle of courage. Courage supersedes confidence – it is the driver that gives us permission to try something new or put up your hand in the meeting. Once you know you can do it, your confidence begins to build.
Lori Milner is a facilitator, mentor, entrepreneur and author, known for her insightful approach to balancing being a modern woman with a fulfilling job and leading a full life outside of the office. Lori started her consultancy, Beyond the Dress, to empower women with the tools and skills they need to fulfil their potential in both their careers and their own lives.
In Kruger National Park