Like many women, Robyn Wilder often finds herself battling with low self-esteem. Here, she shares tips for ignoring the inner critic and giving yourself a little boost…
I’ve been a journalist for a while now, and sometimes novice writers ask me for advice. Specifically, they want to know how best to pitch ideas for articles to editors. I never know what to say. Because this is how I pitch articles to editors:
Me: Hello, would you like an article on [X TOPIC]? No, I didn’t think so. Okay, thank you, sorry for wasting your time, goodbye.
You might have spotted that my self-esteem isn’t towering. I have a habit of comparing myself unfavourably to my peers, not taking risks at work, and feeling as though I have to ‘perform’ to be accepted socially. It is exhausting.
I only really understood that my self-esteem was problematic while out for a walk in a local park walk. When I’m walking, I like to say hello to every dog I meet. On this particular day, I encountered a happy Labrador and a yippy Chihuahua, but my very favourite was a grumpy old rough-haired terrier who wasn’t having any of me. He looked cold and annoyed, clearly wanted to get home, and wasn’t interested in the slightest in being patted.
I loved him. And, crucially, didn’t think any less of him for his grumpiness. Was he any less of a dog because he wasn’t adorably offering his head for patting? Of course not. You don’t earn your place on Earth, and individuals don’t come with a value.
There’s no universal points system to fall short of – for dogs or humans – so why did I always feel as though I was falling short?
Well, in my case it’s a history of bullying, mental health issues, other personal trauma, and (it turns out) an astonishing lack of self awareness. My sense of my own worth is growing, slowly, and these are the steps I’ve found most helpful.
Identifying my negative inner voices
I’ve done a lot of “sitting and observing” my internal chatter – using the Clementine App is really good for this, actually; because I can notice the quality of my thoughts as I’m doing the sessions. It turns out I’m a really harsh judge, and I sound just like the mean girls who used to bully me in senior school. Just noticing this has started to undermine the negative beliefs these voices are trying to perpetuate, because – really – when have a bunch of boyband-obsessed 14-year-olds been good judges of anything?
Acknowledging my successes
Well, of course I’ll never feel as though I achieve anything if I don’t take note of the things I do achieve. So now, every time I do something I’m proud of, I write it down in a diary and make time to do something I really enjoy that day, to celebrate. I’m also extrapolating this to specific areas of my life – for instance, if I feel I’ve been a bad friend, I write down everything I feel I’ve contributed to that friendship to see if this is actually something I need to work on, or simply my own perception.
The concept of ‘loving yourself’ has always eluded me, because how does that work? I mean, I’m okay, but how do I go about ‘loving’ myself when I know I’m the type of person who will pick her nose when no one’s looking? It turns out, though, self-love is about the act of love: treating yourself as though you are someone you care a great deal about. So essentially I’ve started to parent myself well, making sure I am as fed, watered, rested and entertained as possible.
Checking in with myself
A decent sense of self-worth needs nurturing, and genuinely I find the easiest way to do this is by using Clementine’s confidence sessions a few times a week. Not only do they gently usher me into a calm, curious state of mind where I evaluate my thought processes and challenge unhelpful thinking, the sessions also count as a nap. Which, to me, is the pinnacle of self-care.