5 Ways to Improve Yourself and Your Self-Esteem

In 6 THINGS I LOVE TO DO SOLO THAT MY FAMILY AND FRIENDS TOTALLY JUDGE ME FOR, I talked about how much I absolutely enjoy taking myself out on playdates. Whether it’s to the movies, to dinner, or to a concert, I take good care of myself on these solo-outings. 💃

One of these playdates took me to a weekly get-together that includes painting, meditation, and jam sessions. I knew no one the first time I attended, but every week, there are new faces who I not only expect to see, but who also expect to see me.

One week, there was an unfamiliar face that did not strike my fancy. She was awkward—not the artsy, intellectual, or intriguing kind of awkward. I mean, just really terribly awkward. Like me, she had attended the event alone, but unlike me, she spent most of the night tucked away in a corner of the room clutching her bag for dear life.

Most of us don’t battle with this level of social awkwardness and shyness, but we have all taken a blow or two to our self-confidence that led us to do silly things, like settle for less than we deserved at work or in relationships, get a ridiculous haircut, or spend an unforgivable amount of money on everything from shoes to ice cream to tech gear.

These moments are short-lived for me, and I very quickly come to my senses. Nevertheless, I am inspired by the youthful confidence of the other people at this weekly event—especially the ones who have the guts to get up on stage during jam sessions, and belt out nonsensical lyrics on purpose, without giving a flying fig what others think.

If you’ve felt your confidence slipping for any reason lately, I’m not here to reiterate generic motivational mumbo-jumbo i.e. you are beautiful and unique and perfect as is. I’m here to provide tips I used myself for creating a you that you don’t need to be brainwashed into liking. Keep in mind that I am not a life coach, personal trainer, nutritionist, or psychologist—just a happy person spreading my source of cheer.

1. Work Out

Working Out

In my opinion, there are two times a woman is most concerned about her appearance. The first is when she is barely a woman, ie a teenager or young adult. The second is when she begins to feel her years upon her.

Men, I think, care most about their appearance from their teens until around their middle-aged years when they begin to let themselves go, especially if they’re already married or in a committed relationship—just as we’re ready to perk up again!

Whether male or female, however, when we begin to feel uncomfortable in our own bodies, I believe working out can make all the difference. As we all know, during workouts, the body releases chemicals known as endorphins that boost your mood. You’ll also feel good knowing you’re doing something about your dissatisfaction, and will feel even better when you—or those around you—notice the results of your efforts.

If the mere thought of the gym makes you want to free-fall off a cliff, then keep in mind that there are plenty of other ways to work out. You can go kayaking, paddle boarding, snorkelling, running, biking, hiking, climbing, and dancing. There’s no need to ever set foot inside a gym, if you don’t want to.

2. Eat Healthy

Coffee and Pastries

Working out alone, however, often does not bring the desired results. This is especially true when our concerns are more related to health than cosmetics. Maybe you have high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or diabetes. These conditions tend to require special diets.

But, even without health complications, eating healthy is a necessary part of being healthy. This doesn’t mean that you must always skip dessert—I certainly never do—or stop eating carbs. It does, however, mean that you should make healthier choices when preparing or ordering meals. For instance:

  • Substitute carbs with veggies, when you can.
  • Pick white meat or seafood over red meat.
  • If you go for the salad, don’t then douse it with salad dressing, sour cream, and cheese.
  • Drink less soda and juice; drink more water.
  • If you know you love to snack, develop a taste for healthy snacks, such as mandarins, strawberries, and almonds.

3. Read More

Black Man Reading

Have you ever been to a social gathering and there’s that one guy or gal who always has something meaningful to add to a conversation? I don’t mean the ones blabbing about sports or reality TV. I mean the people who seem to know not only what’s going on in world affairs now, but even how it parallels with events that happened a hundred years ago. You can almost bet your life savings that these people are readers.

If you’re not keen on reading every history book in your library and you’ve lost track of all the current political melodrama, fret not. According to Keith Oatley, award-winning novelist and cognitive psychology professor emeritus at the University of Toronto:

People who read fiction may understand people better than others. A work of fiction is a piece of consciousness that can pass from one mind to another and that reader can make it their own.

However, reading has more value beyond navigating social obligations, or even enriching the mind. It’s also a great way to quell the self-doubts you may have as a parent. Several studies in America and Australia have confirmed that reading aloud to children strengthened the relationship between parent and child, and increased parents’ feelings of competency.

4. Try Something New

Black Woman Coloured Smoke

Sometimes you may start to lose your zest for life with no clear reason. You may feel confused or even ungrateful. Your finances are alright, work is good, the kids are doing great, and you have a happy relationship—or you’re perfectly happy with being single!

Whenever I find myself in this rut, I know I’ve fallen into a predictable routine, especially one that involves far too much work and far too little play. The ultimate cure, then, is to switch things up a bit by trying something new.

However, there is no reason to wait until you hit that rut to try new things. I generally keep adding new tweaks to my schedule every so often to keep things interesting. Here is a list of some of the new things I did in the past year alone that may inspire your own list of things to try:

  • I took a solo trip to New England last fall.
  • I wrote and have almost published a novel (available for pre-order!)
  • I took up painting and now go every week.
  • I bought a bike and have been taking it around the block and on trails for about a month now.
  • I bought a car (significant because I had never owned one before)
  • I’m going on a cruise this year (never been!)

5. Choose Better Company

Diverse Women Friends

Recently, on Facebook, one of the my friends joked about how in America people will say, “Yeah, let’s hang out!” and then in the bottom was a picture of Pinocchio’s nose growing to incredible lengths. I’m sure this happens to some degree in every culture, but I’ve noticed that particularly in America, people seem to have a hard time saying “no”. It’s better to be perceived as polite than honest, is the cultural trend I’ve noticed.

This causes many people—American and otherwise—to hang on to bad relationships, or feel responsible for childhood friends who can never seem to get it together. No one wants to be that person accused of deserting another friend during a tough time, or of moving up and cutting ties. However, don’t allow other people to manipulate you into sacrificing your peace of mind. If it’s no longer a healthy connection and the person isn’t taking responsibility for their actions, cut them loose.

Just as important is filling those vacancies with people who genuinely motivate and encourage you and want to see you at your best. Often times those people are already in your life, but it’s easy not to notice them when the toxic people have so much drama to heap at your feet.

And, even more important than finding positive people to populate your social circles is learning to appreciate your own company and to become a positive person, yourself. After all, yours is the one company you will never get rid of. You might as well make it the best company you’ll ever have.

Have you been battling with feelings of insecurity lately? Did any of these tips work for you in the past? Or, do you have other effective ways of killing your Debbie Downer alter ego when she shows up? Tell me all about it in the comments below!

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34 thoughts on “5 Ways to Improve Yourself and Your Self-Esteem

  1. This was a very good read. I’ve been trying to work on my self esteem a bit more this year. Eating right, getting more into my hobbies, etc. I’ve been thinking about ways to make new friends too. Most of my friends now are only interested in clubbing or drinking, which is fun but I want to do some more interesting actives.

  2. I think I engage in all of the above. I will be starting Latin and Ballroom classes again because after my breakup I do feel like I am in a rut sometimes. Working out and Yoga has been helping and they are great.. but I miss dance classes.. Thank you Alexis, great piece!!

    1. That sounds like you’ve been having a lot of fun! One of the guys at the painting studio recently just ditched us for dancing too, haha.

      Sorry for the late reply! It’s the last few days before publishing my novel, so I’ve been tied up with that. Wish me luck! 🙏

  3. According to your experience, I’m on the right path. Yoga, weight training, new friends, I’ve started reading more, now I just need to step away from the Twinkies😁
    Thank you for sharing your experience, strength, and hope, Alexis; it is helpful to me because it motivates me to keep at it😙

    1. Thank you, Cynthia! I’m glad you found these helpful and a dose of confirmation. Kudos to you on the yoga. Yoga is so difficult!

      Sorry for the late replies. It’s a few days to publishing time so been back and forth with the typesetter. He’s that final step!

      1. Hey, I’ve been following you & commenting for long enough that I totally understand that you reply as quickly as you humanly can. So no apologies, you keep kicking ass😙

      2. Thanks Hun! 🙏 Also! While I have you here, the ebook has been delivered to almost everyone who pre-ordered. You’re one of 6 I think who hasn’t confirmed their book format yet. If you need help picking one, let me know. Happy to help! 😃

  4. At my age the most important thing is to get out and together with other people, no matter the setting. I was surprised to hear my doctor say the same thing at my last physical. Once retired, I had to become intentional about being social. Kind of the opposite of solo!

    1. I agree with that. I think that’s what convinced my grandma to go back to church. That’s her social circle now.

      I wonder if I’ll still want to be running around solo when I’m in my 60s onwards, especially since I’m not keen on having kids.

      1. I do have a serious heart condition, but I can probably still have kids. I just don’t want any.

  5. Alexis, you are wise far beyond your chronological age; I would expect that kind of advice to come from a much older person and you are absolutely right. Over the years, I have done all of the above, always exercising and having a balanced diet. The hardest thing to do is to walk away from toxic people, but with all our travelling, that has become a lot easier too and I have removed so called friends from my inner circle. I would simply die without my books; in fact, I can’t go to sleep unless I read for about an hour every night and I made sure my son grew up loving books by making reading part of the bedtime routine. I read to him until he was good enough to read by himself and that included the first 3 Harry Potter books and by the time the 4th was out, he was good enough to read it himself: I felt suitably proud.
    May I add having a personal hobby as a form of self-gratifying activity, good for the mind and the soul? Adonis fishes and I crochet! 👍❤

    1. Thank you, Fatima! I’m flattered 😃😄

      I did have hobbies on the original list but removed it because I had already hit near 1500 words and didn’t want to put anyone to sleep 😂 My hobbies would be writing, hiking, biking, and painting.

      I feel it for everyone who finds it hard to cut out toxic people. After having to cut off an entire side of my family in my teens to preserve my safety, it got easy for me. I figured if I can lose a father, several aunts, uncles, cousins, who can’t I give up? 🤔 Friends are usually welcome to return when they get it together though. I just refuse to babysit anyone or their emotions. It’s too easy to begin to feel responsible for toxic people because we believe we can help them, when they don’t want to be helped. And you’re right, travelling (and moving!) makes the process a lot easier.

  6. That last one is a big step! It’s hard to let go of people, even if they aren’t the best- simply because of how long you’ve known them

    1. I can understand that, but personally I don’t find it very hard. When I was a teenager I had to cut off the entire paternal side of my family for my safety and peace of mind. That’s when I realised how freeing it is to remove toxic people from my life! It got a lot easier to do people cleanup after that. 🙃

    1. LoL there is always enough time to workout 💃 Just gotta find something you can sneak into your schedule. Have you tried those 30-day challenges? I’m thinking of doing one next month.

      1. Oooh I did Jillian Michaels’ Ripped in 30 in March and it was awesome in a brutal way haha. 30minutes for 30 days (well I took about 6 rest days). And i actually saw some results. Was to take on a 8 week challenge after, going by the momentum of completing a previous one but didn’t make it past week 3. Was thinking to start that one back up after my exams in the first week of November

      2. I’m taking one of those easier ones in November. Like a 30 day plank or squat. Yours sounds brutal 😅

      3. I win my wars by knowing which battles to fight 😅 I already go mountain biking, hiking, swimming, and the gym. Gotta pick my battles. 😂

  7. Very good and insightful post!!! Great tips….and so true, the “Let’s Hang Out” is so common, it’s one of those sayings that you just say because it seems like the right thing to say at the time, which is easy – the follow-up is the hard part.

    1. Thanks Roshonda! I used to be so confused when people did that to me at first, here. It was even more confusing because meeting up was their idea, not mine. Why suggest it? 🤷‍♀️ Now I know to take those words with many, many, many grains of salt 😂

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