“Self-esteem is the reputation we acquire with ourselves.” Nathaniel Branden
From birth, I used to live in the most dangerous city in the world. Medellin, Colombia. Every single day, there was some kind of violence on the streets. As soon as they could, my parents moved us all out to California and that was where I grew up. Even though my childhood was undeniably a happy one, I grew up to be an addict. Drugs and alcohol. First liquor at 12, first joint at 14, first meth at 19. At 23, I spent 2 years in jail. When you do so many things that you cannot deny are wrong, morally, ethically and legally, it is hard to look at yourself in the mirror and see someone of worth and value looking back at you. However, that I why I am writing this. Now 8 years sober and clean, having previously seen both a jail cell and a small room in a rehab during my life, I know the importance of looking in that mirror. I know the importance of what you see and what you feel.
Self-esteem can be defined as the belief and confidence in your own ability and value. If our experiences in life are negative, where we view our actions and worth in a bad light, our self-esteem slips away from us. As addicts, we are masters of internalizing our negative experiences. Therefore, it is essential for us to build our self-esteem during and after recovery. And essential to never stop doing this. Here are your 8 simple and effective ways for improving your self-esteem after recovery:
#1. Simply Saying “No”
Do you remember the “Just Say No” anti-drug campaign? Easier said than done, right? As addicts, we are patterned to just say Yes. We do so to please and to gain positive recognition, even if it may be to our detriment. We lose ourselves in the needs of others, losing ourselves in the process. Saying No frees you from this patterning of the past and allows you to concentrate on you and your needs. Believe me, you will meet people from your past who remember the oh-so agreeable you, they may even feel rejection by your non-compliance. It’s their issue, their problem – not yours.
#2. Comparison To Others
Described once as the “thief of joy,” comparing is something we all do – human nature, if you like. And it’s destructive. It can (and often does) make us feel more worthless. Look upon it as your enemy. Stop doing it for one day, consciously. You will soon see its negative effect. Additionally, you will also see the more worthy, more valuable you.
I remember my first birthday as a sober person. I gave myself a good, hearty slap on the back, honestly proud to be one year older. Before then, birthdays were either a blur or best forgotten. Yes, before that particular birthday, self-compliments weren’t something I did. Compliments were for others. Now, it’s very different. I keep a journal of sorts, a diary, where I write down my self-compliments. I even tell myself in the mirror. And it’s great as a boost for my self-esteem. It’s not instant, but it’s good for your soul.
#4. Focus & Forgiveness
Maybe this idea should have the words For Yourself added to its title. Because that’s what it’s about. Everybody, from the President to the guy sleeping in the alley, makes mistakes. Unavoidably so. Don’t punish yourself for them. That is the true destructive nature of the addict. It’s part of learning, nothing more. So forget mistakes, think of achievements and accomplishments. Just writing this for you is something that will make it into my journal and something for me to focus on. Not that I spent so long self-editing because of my spelling…
The respect you have for yourself is pivotal in your need to build your self-esteem. Pivotal. You cannot feel of value if you have no respect for yourself. Getting as far as you have done warrants respect. From your family, your peers, me and, most importantly, you. Stop this guilt about how you got here. It’s where you go now. Respectfully, go now.
#6. The Simple Smile
I cried once in a NA meeting when I was at a rehab in Idaho. Everything just got to me – the sharing, the emotions, the stories. A guy sitting opposite, who had never spoken, not one word, looked me square in the eye and just smiled. We became friends in the months that followed. Just one smile, at the right time. Add in the fact that it is scientifically proven smiling produces a good chemical reaction in the brain and makes us feel positive, and you can see how effective the simple smile can be.
As addicts, we lose the hopes and dreams that flourished in our younger selves. We begin to live the life of another. The younger self is just something to wipe away from the memory. Recovery for me had a lot to do with returning to that younger person, those hopes and dreams. Put simply, it is why I am now where I am. Happily so. Find what drives you and captures your heart. Re-discover and capture those memories. They are all you.
#8. Qualities List
So, what are you? Honest? Generous? A loving parent? For many years, the belief that such qualities existed within me was looked upon as stupid. By me. Not one positive thing. How wrong could a person be? Regularly writing a list of your qualities is a great way to build self-esteem. It isn’t easy at first. Fine, no problem. But work on it. The rewards will come.
When you do so many things that you cannot deny are wrong, morally, ethically and legally, it is hard to look at yourself in the mirror and see someone of worth and value looking back at you. My words at the beginning of this article. I know. I’ve been there. It was once my mirror too. Following these 8 simple, effective strategies will enable you to build your self-esteem and self-positivity and help you remain substance-free. So, remember – say “No,” forget comparisons, compliment yourself, focus and forgive, respect, smile, re-discover, and list your qualities. If you have another way, or find one is far better than any other, please feel free to share in the comments below.
Look again in that mirror. Soon, the person you see will be smiling right back at you.
Bio: Hi! I’m Andy. I have been 8 years clean. Since then, I have learned to love myself, take full control of my life, focus on growing my business, and helping others.