Salam alaikum sisters! Alhamdulillah, we have welcomed in a new year. The beginning of a new year is a great time to shed old baggage and to reach for new goals. Do you know someone who doesn’t set any goals at all? Is it because they seem completely content with life? Or is it because they feel that they can’t really have what they want, so there’s no real point in trying? It is of course recommended that we give thanks for what we have, but it is also important that we continuously develop and improve ourselves.
A healthy sense of self-esteem is the foundation for our development. It is what allows us to carve out dreams and goals. Imagine if you didn’t believe that you could achieve something, would you even try? Most likely not!
Self-esteem is generally defined as the estimation a person has of themselves or of their abilities. However, each one of us has a unique definition and a set of standards gauging how we measure healthy self-esteem. For example, do you know a sister who gets really upset if she feels someone doesn’t like her? Perhaps she spends days worrying about whether she said or did something. On the other hand, another woman judges herself on how well she keeps the house clean. If something is out of place that means that she has failed. These are somewhat extreme examples, but not altogether that uncommon. We will explore some strategies that can help enhance our self-esteem. Before you begin, clarify your own unique definition of self-esteem. Remember, it is your own unique definition, so there is no right or wrong. Take a piece of paper and fill in the blanks by answering the following questions:
“Self esteem is …”
“A person has healthy self-esteem when …”
“When meeting someone for the first time, I assess that they have a healthy sense of self esteem because …”
“To me, a healthy self-esteem means that I …”
These questions will give you clarity on what self-esteem means to you. Underline what you feel is the most important aspect of self-esteem. Write down these words where you can see them clearly, and they will serve as a reminder of what you’re working to build. So let’s get started.
Step 1: Determine where you are right now!
Before you can improve something, you need to know where you are before you start. This is essential because it will give you a concrete way to measure your progress. Draw a line on a piece of paper and divide it into ten small sections, like a ruler on a scale. Label this scale “healthy self-esteem.” Now ask yourself the following question: “On a scale from one to ten, with one being the lowest and ten being the most empowering level for me, how healthy is my self-esteem right now?”
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
Look at the number that you have chosen. Write down the reasons for why you believe that your self-esteem is at the level you have chosen. For example, “I know that I am at a four because I don’t feel good being 20 pounds overweight.”
Next, choose the level where you want your self-esteem to be, and write down this number. Next, write down some of the things that will let you know that your self-esteem has reached this level. For example, “I know that I am at 8 when I am exercising every day, and I prioritise my health.” Write down two or three things that will let you know that you’ve reached your desired level. Go back and look at this once a month to measure your progress.
Step 2: Set a context
How do we know our self-esteem is low? We recognise low self-esteem when we feel unable to do something we really want to do. This also shows up in the results we achieve. If we are unhappy with a few areas of our lives, it is due to what we believe we deserve, or are capable of achieving. To work on our self-esteem, we must have a context that we can see results in, otherwise just trying to work on self-esteem alone would be setting ourselves up for goals that we may never be able to measure.
Just imagine that your life is abundant. You have a loving family; plenty of money, good friends and your health is excellent. Just imagine that you achieve what you set your mind to. What does this say about your self-esteem? It would indicate a healthy self-esteem wouldn’t it?
So how do we improve our self-esteem? By focusing on what we want to achieve, and then achieving it. Imagine doing what you said you would do, and that resulted in something positive. How would you then feel about yourself? Achieving something we set our minds to has a remarkable impact on self-esteem. This begins with the very first time you keep your word and take action on what you have committed to do.
Now choose an area to work on such as your health, work, or finances etc. Choose the area that you feel would make the most difference to your level of self-confidence. Write it down. Now imagine, how you will feel once you achieve what you set your mind to.
Step 3: Choose only up to three actions
It is critical that we set specific targets that we want to achieve. Goals should be small enough to be achievable as they are, and large enough to give us a sense of accomplishment when we achieve them. For example, “I will be 2kg lighter in 3.5 weeks,” is a goal that could be large enough to challenge, yet achievable in the time frame. Write down up to three small goals/actions that you will now take to improve this area of your life. Once you have written them down, go back and check if it will feel good to achieve them. If not, then make any required adjustments. This way, not only are you taking action towards achieving your goals, but you’re also enhancing your self-esteem.
Step 4: Achievement list
Low self-esteem is a sign that we don’t recognise our accomplishments. We have to train our minds to look for the little (and big) things we do achieve. Feeling good about our achievements is an essential part of enhancing self-esteem. So here is a simple way to begin recognising your achievements. Take five minutes at the end of every day to list all that you achieved that day. List every thing that you feel is an accomplishment, even if it is something small like getting the school run done on time or making a good breakfast. Noticing all these little things we do helps raise our confidence to take on more.
Step 5: Be consistent
It takes a minimum of 21 days of consistent action to build a habit. Building self-esteem is also about building new habits. Take consistent action and notice your achievements on a daily basis. Soon these actions will develop into empowering new habits, insha Allah.
Sayeda Habib is a highly qualified professional coach. She coaches Muslim women to help them feel empowered and create results in their lives. She coaches clients one to one and also runs group workshops. She holds the Professional Certified Coach (PCC) credential issued by the International Coach Federation. She is the author of “Discover the Best in You: Life Coaching for Muslims.” She also contributes to various online and print publications. She has been featured in the media in various countries including Pakistan, the UAE and the United Kingdom. To find out more, log on to www.makelifehappen.com or email at Sayeda@makelifehappen.com