How's Your Self-esteem? 5 Booster Shots
for the Summer
by Janet Jacobsen
So many times when people talk about their own problems or the difficulties
in a relationship, they seem to conclude that an underlying cause is (or
was) lack of self-esteem or self-confidence. If only they (or I)
were more self-confident, they says, we wouldnt have
In most cases Im inclined to agree with the conclusion, but a bit
more cautious about the spirit behind it. Self-confidence isnt something
we get, like a new sofa, and then weve got it forever. Its
more like a plant - something we develop that is always going to require
some care and attention.
Its well worth the effort, though. When we increase our self-esteem,
we not only feel better about ourselves, but we also have more strength
and energy to contribute to our social life in general and our relationships
in particular, which generally leads to a better social life and better
Oh, sure, Janet, you say, and where am I supposed to go to get this? Well,
remember that its like a plant -something you grow - and what Im
about to offer you are some seeds that I know (not just from research
but also from personal experience) will give your self-confidence, social
life, relationships and summer a terrific boost if youll start growing
one or more in your life.
When youve learned something new - whether its a new skill
or new information - you just naturally feel expanded as a person, more
capable. Sure you can take college courses if you want, but its
not necessary to make such a big commitment. The community centers and
parks departments and community colleges always have one-shot or short
course programs to teach you something new. Or ask a friend, who has a
hobby youd be interested in, to teach you. Or read on the subject
- books, or even magazines. Your neighborhood librarian will be happy
to help you plan a short reading list to get you started.
Computers, foreign language, wine appreciation? Learning not only makes
you interested, it makes you more interesting.
Forget what exercise does for the weight and muscle tone. Think of those
side benefits. Regular exercise does incredible things for your mind!
Sharpens you up, and just knowing that youre out there doing builds
And dont grumble about expensive gym memberships. You dont
need all that. Splash in the city pool regularly. Or follow the advice
of the woman who wrote us a while back and said that just getting out
every morning to walk her dog had helped her health and her attitude.
I go for walks at the golf coursenear where I live, in the early morning
or just before sunset and theres always lots of other folks out
walking too. No promises youll meet someone (gyms are good for that,
though!), but definite promise that - from my experience - a half hour
walk 4-5 days a week for 6 weeks will definitely perk up your life.
Its so easy for singles - especially in the divorce recovery stage
- to get so focused on what we want and what we need and what were
getting or not getting. No wonder we start feeling like lifes a
vicious circle; turns out were chasing our own tails. The fastest
way to break the cycle is to reach out - and do something for others.
No need to join the Peace Corps or sign up to be a Scout leader for life
(though those are fine activities). If this is new to you, try the short
term. Look for a charity, church or nonprofit agency youd like to
help. Then call them and volunteer for one Saturday, or even one evening.
(Habitat for Humanity often will have a day where you can pitch in, no
building skills required.)
Its a start. Your political party, cause, or candidate will be happy
for whatever effort you can offer. Help out a singles group - or start
Listen to yourself. Are you fussing a lot about your life? This will fix
it; the more you give, the more you get.
Shake yourself up a little. We knew a woman who - as part of her divorce
recovery process - bought a couple of wigs. Shed wear one when she
was going some place new, so she could pretend she was a whole different
person if she wanted to.
Change your haircut. Change your hair color. The great thing about hair
- it grows back! By the time youre tired of the new look, your old
look is back.
I once bought a red, white and blue satin skating jacket in a thrift shop.
It was so not me that I really enjoyed wearing it; Id
always considered myself a woolen and tweeds kind of person.
Grow a beard; shave off your beard. Little changes can make a big difference.
Shake yourself up.
A friend of mine, who doesnt own a tv, had been sick and borrowed
a tv while he was convalescing. Some time later I asked him how his weekend
had gone and he answered that he didnt know; it just seemed to have
disappeared, life suddenly seemed to be passing him by. Since I have the
same symptoms under similar conditions, I recognized the illness immediately.
Have you still got that tv? I asked.
He knew where this was leading. Yes, he said, sheepishly.
And thats what you did this weekend, I said.
Thats what I did, he nodded.
Get rid of the tv, I advised.
Im getting rid of the tv, he concurred.
If youve never (or not in recent years) had the experience of doing
without television, its very difficult to realize how much it can
affect your life. The average American watches more than 27 hours a week
- more than a whole day, just watching.
If your first reaction is, What would I do without the television!?
then thats exactly the problem. What would you do? And whatever
it is you decide, its bound to offer a lot more for your learning,
doing, and giving than just watchingdoes for you.
If that is more radical than you can bear, then just give up watching
the news. Try it for a month. Youll be surprised how much brighter
the world becomes. (No, you dont have to miss out on whats
going on. Listen to the radio.)
Of course, these days it may be that your time is all going to the computer
- e-mailing, surfing the web, etc. Is it productive time, or killing time?
If its killing time, cut back.
Our sense of self is a living, growing thing that can suffer a shock or
a chill just the way a plant can. Or maybe its just suffering from
neglect. Any one - or combination - of the items here can give you the
boost you need. And the positive effects carry over into all of your relationships
Theres a certain air about summer that invites experimenting with
the new. Nows your chance. Go for it.