Be honest: You know you’re a great woman/friend/wife/mom/yogi. Pulling research from quizzes taken on YouBeauty, we found that 80 percent of you recognize your own worth. (And why shouldn’t you? You rock.) But are you actually treating yourself like the rock star you know you are? That’s another story. According to the stats, 63 percent of YouBeauty readers wish they respected themselves more.
The golden rule says to treat others the way you would like to be treated. Yet many women fail to give themselves the kindness and consideration they deserve. Fortunately, you can learn to do unto yourself as you do unto others.
“A good place to start is by asking ourselves: Are we compassionate and forgiving to ourselves? Or do we criticize and say negative things about our appearance, intelligence and overall life that we would never say to a friend or loved one?” advises Silvia M. Dutchevici, a psychotherapist and founder of the Critical Therapy Center in New York City.
MORE: Learn Self-Compassion
Why are we so hard on ourselves in the first place? According to experts, there are a few common things that reduce even the most confident woman to self-abuse and defeatism. First is the array of messages we get from magazines, reality television and Pinterest that make it seem that, no matter how good our lives are, we could always be skinnier, happier, calmer or more organized. “We’re bombarded with expectations of what we should look like, how we should act and what we should want,” says Dutchevici. “That’s why attaining self-respect can be a continual struggle for women.”
But before you go blaming “society,” it’s essential to take a hard look at your own habits to identify patterns of self-(esteem)-destruction. Skipping a yoga class to take on carpool duty, doing your coworker’s share of an assignment rather than confronting her about her sloppy work habits, or allowing a party guest to take over a conversation may seem minor, but they all add up to you expecting to get the shaft, and accepting it time and again. Once you get into the habit of treating yourself like a C-lister, it’s hard to expect, let alone demand, others to treat you like a VIP.
To paraphrase Aretha, here’s how to give yourself your propers when you get home.
Look under the hood. Say you’re mad at yourself for skipping the gym. Instead of punishing yourself with no dessert and hitting the gym extra hard tomorrow, take a moment to figure out the root of your disappointment, suggests Tina Tessina, Ph.D., a psychologist in California. Is this really about one workout, or are you resentful that your work schedule ate into your workout time? Are you jealous of your friend who always looks great, no matter how hectic her life is? “Think of these emotions as the little lights on the “¨dashboard of your car. When they light up, they’re telling you something “¨you need to know to keep life running smoothly,” she says. Maybe your feelings are a sign that you want to make working out a priority in your life, so you need to schedule training sessions on the calendar. Or perhaps you’ll realize that it’s not as big a deal as it seemed at first—you had an overwhelming week and that hour you took to spend time with your girlfriends instead of the elliptical was time well spent. Maybe it has nothing to do with the gym and everything to do with an unresolved disagreement between you and your naturally skinny friend. Whatever the case, you have to diagnose the problem before you can fix it.
Pare down the to-dos. In a quest to do everything, some women simply don’t give themselves the time necessary to accomplish all they set out to do. Not only that, but a lot of things you might feel you have to do are things you really don’t want to do. So, don’t. You’d be surprised by how many seemingly mandatory things are actually optional. Before you agree to head up a committee at your son’s school or go on a double date with your awkward across-the-street neighbors, ask yourself what you think or feel about it, suggests Tessina. If you’re already dreading the prospect of trying to hold a conversation with your neighbors, it’s ok to say no. Eliminate the extraneous and devote your energies to the stuff that makes you feel excited, not exhausted.
Lean on friends. “When we are setting and achieving goals in the company of others, we’re more likely to make progress and thus more likely to recognize just how strong and talented we are,” says Jennifer Stone, founder of Goal Groups International, a collaborative work consultancy in Burlington, V.T. In your mind, come up with a group of people who’ve got your back no matter what. Then, make sure to keep them in the loop about what’s going on in your life—both the positives and the negatives—and make plans to catch up in person. “When we talk face-to-face with our friends about our accomplishments and struggles, our stress hormones decrease, our memory increases and our overall mood lifts,” explains Stone. “We also benefit greatly from nonverbal displays of encouragement, empathy and enthusiasm that come from nods, smiles, eyebrow lifts, a tilt of the head.” Can’t get together with your crew? Even an informal e-mail chain with your college friends where everyone is encouraged to share minor accomplishments—like a successful meeting with your boss—can help you appreciate your talents.
QUIZ: Do You Need to Work on Your Self-Esteem?
Make a list (and check it often). Write a list of all the things you love about yourself, suggests Carolina Caro, a life coach in Los Angeles, and put it somewhere you can easily access when your confidence feels shaky, like in a note on your phone. The list can range from physical attributes to accomplishments to compliments you’ve gotten in the past. “Women are quick to find the beauty in others, but we forget to do that for ourselves,” she says. Making a point to notice and appreciate the positives—and repeating them to yourself—will make the behavior more automatic over time.
Summon your inner Sasha Fierce. Beyonce has a confident, sassy alterego—and you should, too, according to Elizabeth Lombardo, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist and author of “A Happy You: Your Ultimate Prescription for Happiness.” Lombardo suggests you give your confident self a name, and when you’re in a situation that makes you feel unsure, ask what she’d do in the same situation. Then do it. “This trick takes the focus off yourself for a moment and can give you the push you need to stop thinking and take action,” she says. No alterego immediately springing to mind? Think of someone whose self-confidence you admire. This role model could be a celebrity, it could be an old boss, or it could even be your always-cool-in-any-social-circumstance grandma.
In no time, people will be summoning their inner you.