Self esteem is very important in our day to day lives. Without self-esteem there are very many things in life you will not be able to overcome. Successful people have very high self esteem because they have trained their mind to believe fully in themselves. They believe that even when they fail, they will rise stronger. Long post disclaimer; grab your popcorn.
When I was 11 years old, I moved to a better school. My experience at the beginning was very daunting. I was from a school with a humble background. In the ‘better’ school, life was very different from what I knew. What mattered to the kids was having good grammar, being wealthy and behaving rich if there is something like that. Everybody would speak about their trips to famous places and famous restaurants. I had not had the opportunity to experience any of that. When it came to English, I was among the last in class. In short, I could not fit in. What did that do to my life?
Everybody would talk about shows on DSTV that I had never even heard about leave alone even afford to pay the DSTV fee. Do I speak of the cars that people were being dropped to school in? I can go on and on but bottom line is I would totally feel left out. Not once did I wish that I would go back to my former school where life was easy and tasty. I looked forward to going home as soon as I had arrived to school. Where I grew up, we do not speak a language of self pity. As days went by, I realized that I needed to survive. As much as I hated everything, I had gone to school to learn and that is exactly what I focused on.
What was interesting is that I never tried to fit in. I knew that we could not afford too many luxuries at the time. I was okay with that. The kids at school nevertheless, would never stop talking about their experiences. I learnt to live through them and pray that one day I would get to experience such, to laugh with them and be comfortable. I was taught by experience to believe in myself.
Just because I could not afford my friends’ lifestyle did not mean that I feel inferior. The fact that I had never been to a particular restaurant did not mean much to me. What mattered at the time is to do well in my exams and make my parents happy because they were sacrificing so much for me. I learnt to accept my status and I loved it. Interestingly, the next year, I was appointed class prefect. That was shocking considering I was really nobody.
Whats my point?
Self esteem is a key instrument to making it in life. I went through so much but if I allowed myself to feel inferior and not worth it, I would not be where I am today. As much as you do not have what others have, when you believe in yourself, they will respect you. For me, people thought that I was just quiet. I think to some extent they thought I was also very wealthy but I just would not want to talk about it.
That whole period nobody knew that I had not experienced a lot of things and even if they got to know and gossiped about it, I never really cared because stuff like that is beyond your control. Till today, I appreciate that experience because it taught me a lot. Here are some things that helped me out at that time:
1. Know and accept your current situation
I knew that even if I cried (though I did sometimes) and begged, there was nothing much I could do about my situation. The only thing that could make my life better was to deal with myself. Even if I wanted to take a flight and experience what my friends were experiencing, it was impossible. Since it was very clear that I could not live a higher lifestyle than where I was, I began to appreciate my lifestyle. I derived joy from the little things in our lifestyle, like the fact that I felt we had the strongest bond in our family. I began to see the finer things in life.
Likewise, it is important that you understand that it is necessary to live within your means. Do not go buying expensive stuff and posting on social media to prove that you too are rich. My friend, life is not a competition, you better start living your own life and appreciating the little things. Chase depression away.
2. Avoid fitting in
Just like I mentioned in the previous point, life is not a competition. Live your life like it is yours. Do not live a life belonging to somebody else. Do not do things because people are doing it. Stop being a crowd person and be an individual. A major warning is that you will have very few friends. But, I always ask myself, what is the need to have thousands of friends who are just making your life terrible leading you to depression? Have few friends that matter. The friends that appreciate the little things.
Instead of taking a loan to take a trip to Dubai, find friends who will tell you, let us start saving up so we can take a trip to Dubai next year. The later are good and extremely awesome friends, the rest are just a waste of time.
3. Say no to self pity
Honestly, I never really know why people feel sorry for themselves. Loving yourself means being real with yourself. If you have to do something and all odds are against you, find a way to do it. Stop finding excuses as to why things cannot be done. Give yourself ambitions, goals, dreams. Find a purpose in life and fulfill it.
Feeling like you are not fit for something, like you do not deserve things and basically feeling inferior is telling yourself you are inferior. The world is an expert of mirroring what you think about yourself. If you think you are inferior the world will show you how inferior you are. If you do not pity yourself then you have an advantage over everybody else. You have gained control over what you accept in your life and will sometimes take the hard road to prove that you can make it.
4. Focus on what is important
This one is important. I was in a ‘better school’ to perform better. I did not go there to realize that my lifestyle was not equal to my classmates. My parents had sacrificed the world for me to be there. On top of that, I never found it fair that I punish them by craving a higher lifestyle instead I wanted to reward and appreciate them by getting good grades. Getting good grades showed me that I have made it through the tough struggle and also I had not let down my parents.
In life it is good to ask yourself, why am I doing this? Stay focused on that reason because challenges will come and that reason will help you remain focused. People will try to show you what a failure you are, or even how well you do not know English. That is not the reason you are where you are. Let those people and their comments or actions not affect you. Believe in yourself. Honestly, if you believe in yourself, the world will also believe in you.
5. Do not give up
This one is tough. I cried a couple of times, I ranted sometimes, I even asked God why. It will happen and it is normal. As soon as it happens, snap out of the phase as fast as possible. It is normal to feel helpless but you need to stand and start walking again.
Stay persistent on the road. One of the reasons why you will not give up is because you will remain focused on what is important. Find a good support system (family, relatives, close friends) who will encourage you and always remind you that you have a purpose.
The sweet reward of not giving up is when you eventually make it through the storm. The happiness cannot even be described.
I gained a lot by believing in myself. The choice of deciding to feel bad about myself or to try and fake that lifestyle was there but I did not take that road. I stayed true to myself. Young as I was, I learnt my lesson. I got very sweet rewards such as being chosen class prefect (that time it was cool, it felt amazing considering I was just a common student), I performed to my expectations (because I focused on what was important) and I made it through till I completed school.
To you, stop feeling bad about yourself. What you have nobody can take it. My experience was a test of my self esteem. Even if you are in school, at work or wherever it is, you feel it is not where you belong, gain the courage. Stick to your values and live by them. Even if you know you do not belong, focus on the reason you are there (hopefully the reason is not to fit in). When you believe in yourself, everybody else will believe in you and that is all you need to keep improving your self esteem.
Stay in your element even if the environment does not favor you.
Do not allow anybody to make you feel inferior. I tend to feel that our self esteem decreases each time we allow experiences such as mine to affect us. Hold your head high always. Believe in yourself. You are the steward of your life. Whatever you allow to change your life, make sure it only makes you better and increases your self esteem.