Everything Else

Why building self-esteem involves building up everyone else’s first

I’m standing in the queue at H&M.  I only popped in to “have a quick look” but whaddya know?  In the space of twenty minutes I’ve managed to rummage the rails, make not one but two trips to the fitting room, snap an awkward mirror selfie and ended up in the queue for the tills with half the shop draped over my arm.  And that’s when it happens.  There are a couple of girls at the head of the queue who are talking and laughing.  They’re looking my way, I’m sure of it.

Thirty seconds ago my full attention was on the pink off the shoulder top I picked up and whether it’s going to make me look like a bottle of Pepto Bismol, but now it’s 100% on the girls and the way they’re laughing.  At me?

Oh God.  It’s my hair isn’t it?  They’re laughing at my hair (who isn’t?), I think to myself, running a self-conscious hand through the back just in case it’s sticking up.  Nope.  Okay, well maybe there’s something on my face?  I did inhale a Lidl cinnamon bun earlier and what’s the betting the icing is all over my chin? I wonder, as my tongue takes a sneaky swipe at my lips.

I come up empty.  They could be laughing about last night’s episode of Love Island for all I know, but no, they were looking at me so immediately in my head I wage war.  I laugh inwardly at them, taking pot shots at their bad eyebrows, their clothes, the claw-like fake nails and even faker fake tan.  I’m throwing thought-daggers at them until they pay for their stuff and walk away, without even a glance in my direction; completely unaware of the poisonous thoughts I’ve been brewing.

For a long, long time, that’s what I did.  Throughout High School and my early twenties I was obsessed about what other people were thinking about me and I automatically assumed that whatever it was and without any evidence, it was bound to be bad.  I dealt with it by doing exactly what I thought they were doing; I thought bad thoughts about them.  It was a quick way of reassuring myself, of feeling better about my own “faults”.  I poked fun of badly blended foundation to feel a little bit better about my terrible acne.  I pulled faces at people’s clothes to feel a bit better about what I’d thrown on that morning.  I snorted at bad writing and sloppy grammar and assumed stupidity to make myself feel more confident about my own words and feel better about being a “swot”.  Of course, I never spoke those thoughts out loud, though.  Honest.  I was far too shy and uncertain of myself to do that.

I thought that in doing this I was building up my own self-esteem, but in fact all I was really doing was just making myself more and more insecure.  Distrustful of others and spewing negative thoughts – and negativity in general – all over the place like vomit.

Then, in my late twenties something clicked.  Call it Saturn’s Return or the impending approach of the big 3-0, but something changed.  It wasn’t so much that I stopped caring about what other people thought of me, I was just tired of going to war over it.  I was bored of wasting my time and energy in pursuit of something I’d never know, and wasn’t really any of my business anyway!  I wasn’t ever going to be able to root around in people’s minds and find out what they really thought of me.

So I gradually changed my mindset.  Instead of throwing mental daggers at someone when I thought they were talking about me, or thinking about me – I shook it off and countered with a compliment.  I thought something nice about them.  I complimented their smile, or their attitude, talents, clothes, makeup.  They were just thoughts to begin with, but soon enough I started to say them out loud too.

Soon, instead of assuming that everyone was thinking bad things about me, I started to realise that it was entirely possible they might be thinking nice things too.  If I was doing it, then other people must be too, right?  Suddenly, I wanted to know what those nice thoughts could be.  Maybe they thought my hair looked good, or that I’d killed it with my liquid eyeliner for once?  Maybe they liked what I was wearing or – who knows – maybe they thought that I was funny, pretty, smart… talented even?  Wow.  People are actually really nice!  (…Mostly.)  And maybe I am all those things.

By building up everyone else’s self-esteem, I’d somehow inadvertently built up a great big tower of self-esteem for myself.  The truth is, if you go shooting negative thoughts at others, you’ll be just as wounded by the kick-back.  So send out some positive ones instead and maybe you’ll get some positivity back 🙂

Have a good weekend everyone! ♥

15 replies on “Why building self-esteem involves building up everyone else’s first”

I’m the same! I used to always think people were looking at me in a certain way (and still do sometimes) but after a while I started to realize everyone is there for themselves so why am I focusing on what they might be thinking about me and not on feeling good for being myself and not being so shy (I don’t think I’m making sense 😂) I over analyse the situation and try to stop it and live in the moment and enjoy myself. Great post! 😄💗

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Great article! I also had those same thoughts for years. I am in US so this idea must be universal. I will be 70 in a few months & I still have to change my thought patterns. Even though I’m concerned about my looks if I asked someone what I had been wearing the night before…they would have no idea. Anyway I could go on forever but the main thought is that the only one judging me is me. Women need to love ourselves.
I met your parents years ago in Florida & still stay in touch. They must think I am OK!!!

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They do! Dad said you still email back and forth! 🙂 They still go out to Florida every year but head down to Naples these days. Thanks for commenting!


Spot on. But it’s so hard and any progress is riddled with relapsing everything you get a knock… I like to be alone but am conscious when I’m out and about alone and it results in frankly mad behaviour and unnecessary thoughts and behaviour!! Xxx

Ps I stare at you because I think you are wonderful – if I thought you had something in your teeth etc I promise I’d tell you!!! Xxx

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Wow this was one of the best posts that I have read in a long time! Everything you said totally resonated with me. ” Throughout High School and my early twenties I was obsessed about what other people were thinking about me and I automatically assumed that whatever it was and without any evidence, it was bound to be bad”.. This is still me but something I am tirelessly working on. I always compliment people wherever I can because I often find myself eyeing up people in cute outfits and if they’re anything like me they would be thinking “omg is she looking at me because my clothes look shit?” so I feel a little duty to let girls know when they look amazing!! xxx

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Thanks so much! 🙂 I think we all project our insecurities onto other people now and then, assuming they’re inwardly criticising all the things we worry about the most when the truth is they’re probably doing the exact opposite!

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[…] As always, I love mindfulness and ‘deeper’ posts. Harriet is one of the loveliest bloggers I know and I love speaking with her now and then on Twitter. She recently posted about confidence and I thought it was great. I love how open and honest Harriet is and I totally identified with everything she said. Harriet’s post is here. Next is Chanelle’s 50 More Things That Make Me Happy. As you know, I love Chanelle’s gratitude posts and this one was no exception. What I loved was that she mentioned a lot of things we don’t always think about, such as memorising lyrics or the joy of getting a badge at work with your name on it. Chanelle’s post is here. Finally, I wanted to mention Nia. She did a really important post this week about self-esteem and I think it is something we can all relate to. I love how she writes and it really adds to the overall message of her post. We need to stop caring about what others think of us and focus on bringing each other up rather than down. Nia’s post is here. […]

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This is such a brilliant post, and you’re totally right, both about self-esteem being a gradual process and about sending out positivity and build up others as well. Thank you for sharing!  ♥
Caz x


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