When you think of the term self-esteem, what comes to mind?  Do you think of things like confidence,  strength, or resilience?  Or maybe you think of arrogance or someone that is self-absorbed.  For many people, they will put theirs or others self-esteem in one of the following three categories – inflated self-esteem, high self-esteem, or low self-esteem.

However, no matter where you fall along the spectrum, you most likely recognize the value of the idea of having healthy self-esteem, whatever “healthy” means to you.  For example, you might believe that when your self-esteem is high, you not only feel better about yourself, but you’re also more resilient when faced with various challenges, both as an accountant and a mom.

Unfortunately, when it comes to accountants and self-esteem, it's often assumed that it’s not an issue because of our intelligence and the challenging work that we do.  For example, if you’ve ever been in a social situation and someone asks you what you do for a living, saying that you’re an accountant or a CPA often comes with admiration and respect from others, leading to the unspoken assumption that your intellect must be in direct proportion, or at least influence, your self-esteem.

The truth is that more often than not, one has nothing to do with the other.  You might be incredibly smart, exceptionally capable, and maybe even wildly successful, but still have issues with self-esteem for one very important reason – self-esteem doesn’t come from the actions you take or the results you’ve created.

From the outside looking in, you might see someone who carries themselves with dignity, who sticks up for themselves, or who doesn’t seem to get frazzled too easily, and believe they must have healthy self-esteem.  But don’t let outward appearances fool you because how someone seems to you, often doesn’t match how they really feel and vice versa.

It’s also important to point out that self-esteem is not the same as confidence or self-confidence.  For example, there are a lot of very famous, successful people that are confident in their ability to do their skill set that they excel at, but don’t think highly of themselves so they turn to drugs, alcohol, sex, or obsessing over their craft in order to feel better.

While it can sometimes be obvious that someone lacks self-esteem by things like the way they talk about themselves, their need to people-please, or by their lack of boundaries, it’s also not always so obvious.  The interesting thing is that the more validation someone needs via money, status, titles, awards, grades or praise, the less self-esteem they actually might have.

For accountant moms, having healthy self-esteem is really something worth exploring because of one very important factor – the healthier your self-esteem, the less vulnerable you are to anxiety and stress.  You may not have considered this, but the reason that healthy self-esteem reduces anxiety and stress is because with healthy self-esteem, the stress hormone, cortisol, is less likely to flood your bloodstream when handling situations that would normally trigger anxiety or stress.

Of course boosting your self-esteem can also come with a hefty price tag like narcissism, but I’m going to bet that if you are listening to this podcast, you’re not looking to go over the top with your self-esteem.  Like most of the accountant moms I speak to and coach, you’re probably just looking to improve your self-esteem in order to feel better about yourself, maybe set some goals, or make some wanted changes in your life.

This week I’m going to discuss where self-esteem comes from and 4 steps to take to boost your self-esteem.

Where self-esteem comes from

As I said before, self-esteem doesn’t come from the things you do or the results you’ve created in your life, so where does self-esteem actually come from?  If it’s not from being really good at something or from the accolades received from others, then what can you do to get it?  And more importantly, why does it even matter whether you have healthy self-esteem or not?

As with a lot of the different aspects of what it’s like to be a human, such as having a successful career, supporting a family, and having a happy life, there are so many subtle and not so subtle nuances that can support, or get in the way of, having all those things; self-esteem being an important one.  When your self-esteem is healthy, it helps you navigate the challenges of life; when it’s not so healthy, it can become a major obstacle.

In psychology, the term self-esteem is used to describe a person’s overall sense of worth or value; basically it’s how much you appreciate and like yourself.  Your self-esteem includes all the various beliefs that you have about yourself, including how you look, how you feel, how you act and how you compare to others.

Before I explain more about where self-esteem comes from, it’s important to know that self-esteem isn’t something we’re born with.  It’s something that develops over time, with a great deal of it coming from the messages you received from parents, teachers, friends, etc., as well as the way you were treated by others.

For example, if you were loved unconditionally and given positive messages no matter what your level of success or failure in school or in other activities, then your self-esteem would most likely be pretty high.  On the other hand, if you consistently receive critical or negative assessments from family, friends or others, you are more likely to experience low self-esteem.

It’s really important for you to understand that if you have low self-esteem, it’s not your fault.  You’ve probably just never been taught that self-esteem isn’t fixed; that it’s changeable and that it’s worth the small investment of your time to address it.

The reason that self-esteem matters is that it’s so essential for having a successful career, healthy relationships, and feeling fulfilled in any aspect of life.  Self-esteem also matters because it’s the respect you have for yourself; it’s believing in your own worth and abilities, which then allows you to seek opportunities to grow, evolve, and go after goals that might seem like an impossibility at first.

Just know that you are worth the investment in yourself and that your self-esteem is 100% within your power to build and boost.  No matter what your starting point is, you CAN boost your self-esteem.

4 steps to boost your self-esteem

One of the things that confuses a lot of women is the difference between self-confidence and self-esteem.  The easiest way to delineate between the two is to think of it this way – self-confidence is expressed by saying “I CAN”, where you believe in your ability to do something or figure things out; self-esteem however is expressed by saying “I AM”, where you believe in who you are.

For example, you can have self-confidence and think something like, “I CAN figure out how to get my child the education that they need”, yet also have low self-esteem where you think something like, “I AM not a great mom”.  It’s totally possible to be self-confident, yet struggle with self-esteem because they are two different things and “I CAN” doesn’t often translate to “I AM”.

This is especially true for accountant moms because, as I said before, your education and intelligence might make you feel confident in your abilities and might make you a great accountant, however that doesn’t mean you have healthy self-esteem.  The reason this happens for a lot of accountant moms is again because your intelligence and your abilities do not create self-esteem.

The good news is that you can improve your self-esteem no matter what environment you grew up in or what life situations you’ve dealt with in the past.  The truth is that your self-esteem is 100% within your control because it is only created by your beliefs about yourself and those beliefs are within your power to change and mold into whatever will help you boost your self-esteem.

If you’d like to learn how to boost your self-esteem, here are the 4 steps that I suggest:

  1. Step 1 – Awareness – if you don’t know where you’re starting, you’re going to have a hard time figuring out what you need to work on.  You’ve got to be honest and clear about what you currently believe about you; what you believe about your value and your worth.  Remember, self-esteem is “I AM” beliefs, so I suggest that you make a list of at least 10 things that would complete a sentence that starts with “I AM”.  For example, you might have things like “I AM not as organized as I should be at work” or “I AM always procrastinating and then stressed out”.  In order to create awareness, you have to understand that you have over 60,000 thoughts a day and most of those thoughts you are completely unaware of which is why in order to boost your self-esteem, you need to first become aware of what you believe about you.  What are the negative things you say about yourself?  What does that “mean girl” in your head say after “I AM”?
  2. Step 2 – Value and Worth – in this step, you need to get clear about where your value and worth come from.  For most accountants, this can be challenging because once again we most often associate our value and worth with our intelligence and our careers.  Plus for most mothers, this can also be challenging because we more often than not associate our value and worth by comparing ourselves to other moms, as well as making our worth dependent on how well our children do in school, in their other activities, and in their behavior.  Basically, we place expectations on ourselves and then measure our value and worth against things outside of us, whether it’s personally or professionally.   When we place our value and worth on things that are outside of us, we wind up working harder, putting more pressure on ourselves and our children, and then riding an emotional roller coaster ride.  In order to boost your self-esteem, you need to begin to stop looking for things outside of you like your accomplishments, your relationships, your job, or your children’s successes to prove your value and worth.  You need to start looking for ways to like yourself more, that have nothing to do with what you look like, what you’ve accomplished, or what other people think of you.  You need to start acknowledging that you are valuable because you exist; period.
  3. Step 3 – Accept What Is – in order to boost your self-esteem, you have to start accepting what is, especially when it relates to the past.  You have to accept things like the fact that your childhood wasn’t idyllic, that it took you 4 times to pass the CPA exam, that you got divorced, that your neighbor was wrong for touching you inappropriately, and that your daughter got a DWI even after you warned her many, many times.  These, and much more, are some of the things that I needed to accept about what is, in my own life.  My biological mother was a drug addict, but that doesn’t diminish my value.  It took me 4 times to pass the CPA exam, however, that doesn’t change my worth.  My first marriage ended in divorce, but I AM still an awesome person.  My neighbor touched me inappropriately when I was a teenager, but that has everything to do with him and nothing to do with me.  My daughter got a DWI despite my best efforts, however, that doesn’t change her worth or mine.  We all have circumstances in our lives that we need to accept, but nothing that has happened in the past, or will happen in the future, can diminish your value.
  4. Step 4 – Do The Work – in order to boost your self-esteem, you have to do the work to improve your relationship with yourself.  Just like any relationship you’re in, you have to work on nurturing it, not taking it for granted, and giving it some attention.  To give you a little boost, here are a few things you can do, to do the work:

  • Spend more distraction-free time with yourself; listen to your thoughts; acknowledge your thoughts and feelings
  • Have more fun; schedule more fun time; remember what brought you joy when you were younger and start reintroducing some of those things back into your life
  • Be open to help; work with a therapist and/or a coach that you can share what your self-esteem challenges are; someone that can give you a simple tool like the Manage Your Mind Model that i teach my clients, that can help you boost your self-esteem quickly
  • Remove the word “should” from your vocabulary; this is especially important for working moms because we tend to have a lot of unhealthy expectations of ourselves and when we don’t meet those impossible expectations, we beat ourselves up; stop telling yourself that you “should” do something that you’re not; what you do or don’t do is perfect for now
  • Wink at yourself more; when you are in front of a mirror or catch your reflection, give yourself a little wink of acknowledgement; this may seem awkward at first, but start giving yourself some appreciation in a light-hearted way
  • Ask one or more people who care about you to share one positive thing they see in you; take one of those things and begin practicing “I AM….” statements; for example, if your girlfriend says you are helpful, don’t let your negative-biased brain tell you otherwise, and just start repeating “I AM helpful” as often as you can
  • Talk you yourself more often; whether it’s in your head or out loud, direct the conversation you have with yourself rather than letting your lower, negative-biased brain control the conversation without you even being aware of what it’s saying
  • Spend equal air time telling yourself what you did right, as you do telling yourself what you did wrong; I’m going to bet that if your self-esteem needs some improving, you’re probably spending much more time looking for ways to beat yourself up than you are ways that you are great

So whether you need a little boost or a big boost to your self-esteem, just know that it’s perfectly normal to not have a healthy self-esteem if you haven’t yet gotten there.  By taking these 4 steps of creating awareness, knowing your value and worth, accepting what is, and then doing the work, you will have a much better relationship with yourself and will begin to like your “I AM” statements much more.

Summary  

  • Unfortunately, when it comes to accountants and self-esteem, it's often assumed that it’s not an issue because of our intelligence and the challenging work that we do.
  • For accountant moms, having healthy self-esteem is something worth exploring because of one very important factor – the healthier your self-esteem, the less vulnerable you are to anxiety and stress.
  • The reason that self-esteem matters is that it’s so essential for having a successful career, healthy relationships, and feeling fulfilled in any aspect of life.
  • Just know that you are worth the investment in yourself and that your self-esteem is 100% within your power to build and boost.