Let’s be honest, the last year hasn’t been a cakewalk, and it often feels like things that used to be easy (or at least manageable) now take a Herculean effort to complete. Multiply that feeling for months, and your self-esteem can start to take a hit.
We spend lots of time as parents focusing on building strong self-esteem in our kiddos, reminding them how awesome they are and how to give themselves grace, but we frequently forget to extend that same grace to ourselves. I struggle with anxiety even at my best, and I have developed some tools to give my self-esteem a boost when I’m feeling low:
Work toward a new hobby or skill. Yes, I know, “With what time?” you ask. Well, I’m glad you asked! There are at least a couple of minutes you can carve out of any day for just yourself. Maybe it is keeping a pocket Sudoku book in your purse for carline with a goal of finishing the book by the end of the school year. If you are fitness-oriented, maybe it’s a new gym skill (my goal for the year is figuring out how to do double-unders with a jump rope). Setting a long-term goal with small, manageable steps that can be done incrementally shows your progress when you may otherwise feel stagnant.
Change how you talk to yourself. If it isn’t something you’d say to your best friend or your child, you shouldn’t say it to yourself. You are just as worthy of validation and encouragement as everyone else in your life, and if you don’t get those words of affirmation from anywhere else, then give them to yourself. Trying something hard for the first time? It’s not that you can’t do it — you just can’t do it yet. You are constantly in a growth phase, and evolving takes time and patience. Be just as patient with yourself as you are with your 2-year-old who insists on putting on their own shoes.
Set reasonable, specific, achievable goals — and mark them off when they are done. I always have a master to-do list, and I do this for both work and home. Anything that needs to happen for the week goes on the list, and as I finish it, I highlight it in yellow. I am a visual person and keep a meticulous work calendar of tasks as a full-time corporate working mom. My goal for each week is to have most tasks in yellow, with as little orange (unfinished tasks) as possible, which helps me plan my time for the upcoming week. It also shows me, right in my face, all that I accomplished that week for those moments I’m feeling like I didn’t get anything done.
Surround yourself with people who lift you up. I am lucky to have amazing friends that I can go to and say, “I’m feeling bad about _______,” and their response is typically “Do you want validation or a solution?” Sometimes I just want someone to tell me that it’s okay, but other times I need a problem-solving sesh with some of the smartest women I know. Either way, I know they have my back, judgment-free, whatever it is I’m feeling down about.
Do something for someone else. In college my sorority’s creed, recited every week, were the words, “To those whom my life may touch in slight measure, may I give graciously of what is mine.” I always thought it was a beautiful tribute to the impact of generosity, even as a college kid living on junk food and alcohol. There are times I just can’t shake the weight of feeling insignificant. Maybe it is my anxiety, but if I focus too long on all the things I can’t fix (starting with simple kid problems and catastrophe-spiraling all the way to climate and pandemic issues) I get overwhelmed and end up doing nothing. So, instead, I choose to do something (literally, anything) as a small action. Sometimes it is paying for the car behind me at Starbucks. Sometimes it is dropping off flowers to a friend. It can be sending a kind text, taking a minute to email my kid’s teacher telling them they are doing a great job, or donating to a Kickstarter campaign. There are lots of ways to be generous that don’t involve money but instead may be a kind word. This reminds me of the impact I can have, which in turn, makes me feel good, too. And, honestly, sometimes I give the love that I want to receive just because it can never hurt to put more kindness in someone’s world.
These are some basics that have helped “pick me up” when I’ve felt down. When all else fails, I look at my sweet kiddos, my awesome wife, and the best circle of friends I could have ever dreamed up, and I remind myself that I love these people more than words, and to have that is a gift — so I must be doing something right.
What do you do when you need an instant pick-me-up?