Strengthen Your Confidence
By Judi Sheppard Missett
Left unattended, self-esteem is a fragile thing. In today's fast-paced, competitive environment, our confidence is often beaten down by our own perceptions of our abilities, appearance, acceptance by others and sense of self (separate from our spouses and families). We live in a society that begs comparison to artificial ideals and gives wing to self-criticism at a surprisingly young age.
Women especially tend to berate themselves for perceived character flaws, i.e., a lack of self-control if they gain weight or a sense of inadequacy if a relationship fails, and the trait starts early. It's alarming how many girls are already dieting by the time they are 10 to 12 years old!
Fortunately, we can strengthen our confidence, as we do our bodies, by exercising a few strategies:
Get to know yourself.
This sounds simple, even obvious, but we are trained at an early age to look outward rather than inward. Take an honest inventory of all the positive aspects of your appearance, skills and relationships. Keep the focus on yourself and avoid any negative comparisons to others. You may have great eyes, an ability to put others at ease, a quick wit or a knack for organizing. Look to the gifts you possess, and find ways to express yourself through them. Make a list of these if necessary and read it from time to time.
Establish a sense of control.
If there are things that you wish to change, such as your weight, chart a course for success. Plan an exercise program. Research low-fat recipes. Find a support group. Likewise if you're overwhelmed by current responsibilities, set priorities. Decide what obligations are most important, and let go of the rest.
Surround yourself with positive people.
Attitude is contagious; so don't make time for naysayers. When you learn to see the glass as half full and challenges as opportunities, your self-esteem is bolstered, too.
Reach out to others.
Nothing is quite as powerful a self-esteem booster as when we use our skills to help others.
Carve out time for yourself.
Alone time is crucial for re-establishing a sense of yourself outside of your immediate family. Reconnect with the hobbies you enjoy and the goals you hope to achieve.
Get and stay healthy.
Diet, sleep and exercise have a tremendous influence on mood, as well as appearance. Get plenty of sleep (seven to nine hours nightly); eat a low-fat diet rich in fruits, vegetables and whole grains; and exercise regularly. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends a minimum of 30 minutes of moderate physical activity daily.
Strength training is a terrific way to tone muscles and feel empowered. A study conducted at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, found that women who lifted weights three days per week experienced greater body image and emotional improvements than those who engaged in other activities.
Judi Sheppard Missett is CEO of Jazzercise Inc., an international aerobic-dance instruction company.
(c) 2002, Jazzercise Inc. Distributed by Los Angeles Times Syndicate International, a division of Tribune Media Services.