In my study of how successful people navigate the gap between potential and performance I have talked to over 1000 people. It is interesting to see that there are only a handful of things that come up all the time. One of the most common traits that people site as a reason for success is their ability to believe in themselves. The details are phrased in different words, but the end result is that if you want results you have to appreciate yourself. But my guess is most of you do not know how to appreciate yourself.
Getting to a point where you are both confident and comfortable in self is not easy. Most of us have little voices in our heads that hold us back and keep us from achieving. Some self-sabotage. Others worry too much. Some let doubts paralyze them. For me it was letting the words and actions of other people (people I cared about) create a story in my head that I was not worthy. Screw that. I am worthy and so are you!
I spent 14 years with this narrative running in a loop in my brain. The story I told myself allowed me to feel small. Most people around me had no idea I was struggling so much. I had a moderate level of career success and a happy family life. But I was being crushed by negative my thoughts that had little to do with me. I let actions (and words) of others convince me that I wasn’t as good as I wanted to be in all areas of my life. The reality is the other people had no clue they had this harsh impact on my soul, and were clearly dealing with their own struggles. Being raised in a stoic family that did not discuss problems much, I just went on with that stiff upper lip mentality.
Additionally, I recently learned that when you do share your hardships with others, they often do not want to hear about it. Those closest to you look the other way and do not even hear your pleas for guidance. So that made solitude more of a necessity. Self reliance is key to how to appreciate yourself.
Over the past few years I have done work to get past this internal disapproval in self. I have changed my intentions and my actions. It has not been easy, but if you want to appreciate yourself, you have to do the work.
In retrospect I wish I had sought out professional help or communicated better with key people in my life. But I did not. I was not in my wiring. The journey out of my confusion would have gone faster if I had not tried to do this alone. 14 years is a long time to waste. That said, it was not all bad and I was not wallowing in the lowest levels of thought. My depression (if that is indeed the right word?) or sadness was hidden. Often from myself.
There is much written by professionals about this (Check out Dr Margaret Rutherford and others). I am not a trained therapist, so I cannot promise that my advice is good advice. However, below are my 7 Tips on How To Appreciate Yourself. This is what I have done over the last few years, but especially over recent months. I am no longer hearing the fake narrative in my brain, and I have internally forgive the people who sent me down this path of questioning my self.
7 Tips on How To Appreciate Yourself
- Grant Yourself a Fresh Start. In learning how to appreciate yourself you have to believe in the idea of a fresh start. Draw a line in the proverbial sand and decide to move forward from that point. The internal criticism of your self-esteem has to start at some new point. You cannot hold onto things you said or did 14 years ago. That was a lifetime ago and you are not the same person. Those around you are not the same either. People grow and change, and you have to see that in yourself long before anyone else will.
- Forgive Others. The people who have wronged you have most likely moved on. They may not have done it on purpose. It is possible they were fighting their own demons and you got caught in the crossfire. You can forgive them in person, or in your own mind. But either way be 100% committed to that forgiveness. Then let the power of the past wash away. Do not bring it up again to others or yourself. There is amazing power in absolving others from whatever you are holding onto inside.
- Be Honest With You. We all have positive and negative qualities. You will never be perfect. Everyone has quirks. Each of us has made mistakes. Know who you are and work to improve in areas where you have come up short in the past. To appreciate yourself you have to know who you are and admit the good and bad.
- Eliminate Negative People. This may, or many not, be the same people who wronged you in the past. If the people who created your self doubt are still adding to that, you have to move on. If they are working to keep the relationship alive and positive, then you can stay in the friendship. Yet anyone who is continuously difficult, judgmental, or wants to see you stumble must he removed from day to day life. If they are a family member who you cannot fully cut off, then eliminate their ability to bring you down.
- Surround Yourself With Do-ers. The old saying “You are the sum of the five people you spend the most time with” is true. If you want to do more you need to be with people who are accomplishing things. Make new friendships with people who are creative and creating. Support them. Talk them up. Be the type of friend you want to have. And learn from them at the same time.
- Create a Gratitude Journal. When you are fortunate, and I believe we all are (or can be), then you need to keep the good things up front in your mind. Do not let that negative voice in your head win. Write down the best parts of the people and opportunities that bring you closer to your goals. Look for what is good in your life and remind yourself of what else could happen in the future.
- Try New Things. This has become my personal mantra the last three years. I have discovered that for all my life I tended to reject activities that I doubted I could dominate. I did the things that came easy. Now I am committed to collecting new experiences in my work and personal life. Seek ways to say “Yes” instead of “No” and pay attention to the results. Not everything you try will go well, and that is okay. The success comes from the trying and learning.
As you look for ways on how to appreciate yourself, feel free to have bad days. I spent too much time projecting that each day was “great”. But they were not. Over 14 years it became exhausting to pretend that I was not effected by the story in my brain that undercut my self-esteem. Now I am reminding myself that I LIKE MYSELF. It is not conceded or weird. It is my reality. While a good distance from perfection, I am overall a good guy who is trying hard. That unto itself is amazing and a foundation on which I can build my future.
In my work with sales training and other groups on how to navigate the gap between potential and performance, this topic seems to hit home with many participants. It is not uncommon to have internal wars over your own value. My goal is to win, and to help others do the same.
Thom Singer is a conference keynote speaker and professional master of ceremonies / EmCee. He is the host of the “Cool Things Entrepreneurs Do” podcast and the author of 12 books.