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  • Writer's pictureSonia Neale

Five Ways to Improve Your Sense of Self and Live the Life You Deserve.

Self-esteem refers to the identity of who you are. Personality traits, skills and talents, passions, special interests, values, beliefs, likes and dislikes, ethics, ability to set boundaries, ability to say no and your motivation level. These make you unique and original with much value to yourself as a worthwhile person.

There are a large number of people who cannot strongly identify with who they are. Here are five ways to help you reconnect with your self-worth.

Profuse apologies: I know people who constantly apologise. It’s ok to apologise just once if you need to. Then stop. Why do you feel the need to continue? You don’t need to apologise for existing, or taking up space and oxygen on this planet. That is your universal right.

Being true to yourself: Do I say yes, to make other people feel happy? If you want to see this movie and someone else wants to see that movie, are you able to state why you prefer this movie, give reasons for and stick to your preference? This is a good level to start being assertive as the stakes are lower. Can you at least negotiate and compromise rather than saying a blanket yes for “fear of offending?” Reflect, and ask yourself questions on how you are good enough to assert your preferences. Once you do this, the next time will become easier as you will have a sense of mastery and reward for your assertion.

Following your passion: People with Borderline Personality Disorder have energy, sometimes excess energy. As a psychotherapist I ask clients with BPD (and others), “where do you want to put your emotional energy?” I ask them to channel their favourite activity and see if their passion will create something new. Focus, tenacity and perseverance on passions, hobbies and past-times, are all character (identity) building.

What do you love? Go-karting, ice-skating, roller-blading, photography, painting, drama (acting classes for that) writing, dancing, singing, hiking, gardening, bike-riding, boot-scooting, tennis or bridge. My mother will be 78 next month and is actively involved in the last four activities. I don’t think she has ever been bored in her life.

Taking risks: This involves committing to something that you might not quite think it is you but doing it anyway to see if it is for you. I did a water-colour paining course and found out I didn’t really like it, but I’m glad I tried. I took up bike-riding and thoroughly enjoy it and try to go a couple of times a week. If you don’t get it right, then reflect on why, how, when, where and why this happened. Reflection is good for the soul. I’ve learned more from my mistakes than I have my successes.

Asking to get your needs met: I have clients who say their goal is “to be happier.” What does that even mean? It can involve changing the dynamics of how you relate to people, and to yourself, especially yourself. If you are not assertive, as a consequence, you might drift along unhappily, which leads to resentment, discontent and even bitterness. Identifying what you are unhappy about, in real terms (ie, my job sucks, my husband/wife/partner and I fight a lot, my children won’t do as they are told). Changing something about yourself can change the dynamics of how you relate, and even sometimes your circumstances.

These things can help you build up a strong identity, a sense of self, a connection to yourself, others, your community and the planet. All involve change, which can be scary, but prove worth-while in the end.

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