The Ups and Downs of Self Esteem

A few tips on how to keep it balanced.

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By Mimi Greenwood Knight

Are you your own worst critic or your biggest fan? If you’re like most people, you go back and forth between the two. Slip on that little black number and you feel like Gisele. But catch a glimpse of yourself in a window and you’re George Wendt in a dress. Turn in a report thinking it’s the greatest idea since seamless stockings. Five minutes later you want to snatch it back before the boss can see it. Add to that a little hormonal volatility and it’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde meet Siskel and Ebert every morning in your bathroom mirror. If your self-worth often feels like an up and down stock market, consider these exercises to find the sweet spot between raging narcissism and abject self-flagellation.

Get Out of Your Head

No matter how you’re feeling about yourself today, ask a friend, coworker, or family member what you can do for them. Attend a networking event and focus on how your skillset can help others. Attend a social gathering and talk to someone you’ve never met, these can shift your focus externally.

Clarify What Matters Most

Imagine someone delivering your eulogy. What do you hope they’ll say about you? If it’s not yet true in your life, take the first step toward making it so. Stop trying to be all things to all people and decide who you want to be, who you should be, who the world needs you to be, and be that person.

Stop the (Self) Talk

Look for patterns of thought that take you to a place where you under- or over-think. Imagine if your best friend went through that same thought process and it held them back. What would you say to snap them out of it?

Clean House

There are 7 billion people on the Earth. If someone in your life makes you feel small, let them go. Take the first step toward overcoming a bad habit. Clean out one corner of your life that needs cleaning. Celebrate, then proceed to the next.

Put the Past in the Past

Stop right here, right now, and decide this is a new day. You can’t rewrite the past, but you can resolve to move forward. Don’t beat yourself up over squandered opportunity or bad decisions in the past, but look forward and do the next right thing.

Learn Something New

Broaden your horizons with a new hobby, a night class, or a daring DIY project that takes you out of your comfort zone. If you’re naturally athletic, try something crafty. If you’re a bit of a bookworm, take on a physical challenge. Seek out mentors accomplished in the field and humble yourself enough to learn from them.


Think of a time when you felt like you were firing on all cylinders. What was right about your life then that might not be right now? Consider where you were then and where you are now, so you can begin to advance with healthy self-confidence toward where you want to be. 

There are many different elements and thoughts that are shared by people who suffer from fluctuating self-esteem, but there’s only one element that is identical for everyone, themselves. The greatest things that can be done for you can only be done by you.

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