This article is by Mike and Hope Bundrant, although it is written with a singular voice. You can guess who is talking and when!
Many of us, including myself, suffer with boughts of low self-esteem. I can be going all day feeling great, confident and then, BAM! Something gets triggered and I start feeling bad about myself. Then, I’m stuck and it can take a while to get out of it.
Like many people who want to feel better quickly, I use positive affirmations. I tell myself good things about me. I put on makeup and do my hair. I trace my thoughts back to what happened right before I dropped off the self-esteem cliff so I can climb back to higher ground.
These are all helpful things to do to fix the moment. But the problem is, I have to do these things way too often. So what am I missing? (Hint: The things listed are all “I” things).
Maybe the part that’s missing is the other side of the human equation. Maybe there’s a way to raise my self-esteem without trying or even focusing on myself.
It boils down to human nature. People are social beings. Philosophers such as Martin Buber have long taught that each of us is psychologically connected to others. No one becomes an individual without heavy social intervention. You are not merely a person, but a person among people.
The “other people” that contribute to your identity play a huge and often overlooked role in self-esteem. Not surprisingly, most people go about raising their self-esteem by focusing on themselves. They try to figure out what they need to do, think, feel and believe as an isolated individual in order for higher self-esteem to kick in.
However, most people never consider the counter-intuitive, other-oriented ways that boost self-esteem automatically, without needing to dive into your psyche.
Below are two types of self-esteem boosts. One is the “me” boost and other is the “you” boost. Both are important for achieving a healthy level of self-esteem. Most of us already know and use the “me” boost. However, for long-term success we need the double shot!
Me-boost: Do the necessary internal work, usually with a coach. The inner work to increase self-esteem has to do with your past, the messages you have internalized and your personal beliefs.
You-boost: These boosts are actions that indirectly raise your self-esteem or self-respect, without your trying to boost self-esteem. What follows are some examples of you-boosts.
This simple formula should be a given, but most people realize that they can make huge improvements in their lives just by deciding to do what feels most morally right in every situation. In other words, say “yes” when you feel yes is right and “no” when you feel no is right.
In my years suggesting this to clients, some amazing things have happened. People tend to make better decisions, create closer relationships, become better parents, be more generous and even sleep better.
People also report feeling much, much better about themselves when they consciously know they are doing what they believe is right.
If you can put yourself in another’s position and have an idea what their life is like, you are a mature person. Immature people don’t know how to identify with others deeply or even see others as real people.
To get the self-esteem boost from this, just listen to another person closely. Imagine what is must be like to be him. As you expand your mind beyond your own boundaries, your perspective automatically broadens. Because of this, your own problems disperse in the broader context and your own resources expand (because you are making a connection).
According to research, the average American lies 11 times per week. Studies show that when people lie less, their physical and mental health improves without having to do anything else.
Decide to tell the truth and lie less often. Your self-esteem will grow automatically and your physical health may improve as well.
This one is my favorite because most people are not used to being spontaneously appreciated. In the midst of their struggle to get recognition or acknowledgement, you show up with a pleasant surprise. When you do, the other is blown away by your kindness and you like yourself more, simply.
One client of mine was so taken by this idea that he put it to use within an hour. His wife, who hated stepping out of a warm shower into cool air, was blown away one morning to find him standing there with a warm towel in his hand. While she was showering, he threw her towel in the dryer to heat it up.
The unexpected thing does NOT have to be big, just thoughtful. Again, most people are not used to being thought of, so they won’t see you coming. How could you not feel great about yourself when you make someone else happy?
Volunteers are the happiest, most empowered people on earth. The benefits of volunteering come automatically, without having to figure yourself out. Volunteering even boosts your mood, which has been validated via MRI research.
When you help the less fortunate, you give your mind something to be grateful for, your own good fortune.
So there you have it. Even just reading this list makes me feel better because now I have new ways to improve myself. Oops! There I go talking about “me” again!