How I Finally Rebuilt My Self Esteem Through Complete And Total Radical Acceptance

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Self-esteem is the hardest thing to work on.

Even when you spend years building it up, all it can take is a moment of self-doubt, one instance of bad luck, for it all to come crashing down.

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That's what happened to me.

Everyone has their own struggles in life. Something that can shake the very foundation of who they are and who they believe themselves to be.

For me, the moment came when I failed out of college. Twice.

It shook me to my core. I never had a great sense of self-esteem. And now adding a failure not once but twice, I couldn't see myself as anything more than a failure.

I know that's irrational because I'm definitely NOT the only one who has failed out of college. But then again, when are emotions ever really rational?

I felt the disappointment in myself, in my failure, leak into everything I had worked hard to build. My self-confidence was gone.

I couldn't see myself as anything but my failure. And even when I managed to accept that I was going to have to do college differently, I was ashamed of it and of what it said about me.

Then I tried the Radical Acceptance challenge.

Andrea Miller lays out the concept of "radical acceptance" in her new book Radical Acceptance: The Secret to Happy, Lasting Love. And it's pretty much what it sounds like — radically changing the way you think about yourself, love, and those you love in order to achieve the peace, happiness, and love you deserve.

So I took the 5 stages of Radical Acceptance and worked on accepting who I am— and loving that person.

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Week 1: Just Love.

I spent my first week just loving myself. I didn't think about my flaws or my strengths.

All I did was work on accepting that I am who I am — I can't change that — so I need to embrace it.

Of course, there will be some things I will want to change in my life and that's OK. But as a whole, I am me and I need to make myself the best me I can be and, more importantly, stay true to myself.

Week 2: Stop, Reflect, Introspect.

The first thing I did after accepting that I had to be honest with myself was actually being honest with myself.

That meant sitting down and writing a list of all the good things about myself. I put aside any weird feelings I had about being vain and complimenting myself and thought about what made me who I am.

Was I loyal? Caring? Kind? Intelligent? Creative? Well, you get the idea.

This wasn't a list I just sat and did in one sitting. Every day I started with three things I loved about myself and, by the end of the week, I had 21 positive things! 21 parts of me that I could now go back and prove to myself that I was a pretty awesome person. YAY!

Week 3: Creating a Safe Space to Be Heard and Really Seen.

Now that I knew who I was, at least the things I stood for, I promised myself not to compromise on at least those 21 things.

What that meant practically was being honest with how things made me feel. If something bothered me, I wouldn't keep it buried inside.

I also started to keep a diary, something I hadn't done regularly since high school. Every day, I would talk about some "big" moment that happened recently and get out all of the feelings I had been keeping inside.

A fight I'd had with my sister or how I really felt about this guy I knew or how work was going. It didn't matter what the topic was, as long as I was honest about how I felt.

It wasn't easy, but at the end of the week, thanks to the diary I had started, I was feeling better about myself. I felt more confident. I felt heard.

Week 4: Love All of Me — Even the “Unlovable” Parts.

I won't lie, this was the hardest week.

As someone with little self-esteem before this started, sitting down and writing a list of my faults wasn't hard to do.

What was hard was accepting them as positives, as pieces that were part of the whole of Estee and loving them.

Yes, I am a shy and loud person all at once. And yes, I can be a complete child at times. And why thank you, I do know that I can be quite stubborn in my beliefs.

Every day I would take one of the 7 faults — I limited myself to 7 — and I would work on telling myself how it's OK that it's a part of me.

Now, I'm sure I'll want to work on changing them at some point and I may even succeed with some of them.

But now I wear it like armor, to quote Tyrion Lannister, so it cannot be used to hurt me. Because it is a part of who I am and I've started to grow rather fond of who that is.

Week 5: Make Yourself A Priority.

Very often I do everything I can to help everyone I can— friends, family, neighbors. And very often that meant I was left with stress and frustration and no identity.

So the first thing I did was treat myself to my first-ever massage, something that both helped ease my stress and allowed me to have a moment that was just about me.

And you know what? It felt good (no, not just because the massage felt heavenly). But it felt good to have an hour where it was just me and peaceful music.

Now, I'm not saying you should go get a massage every week. I'm not doing that either!

But what I realized is that I spent so much time helping and doing that I never really had time to be with myself or appreciate myself. And since I'd never been with just me, I hadn't had a moment to realize, hey, I kind of like who you are! It's something we all need reminding of every now and again.

None of it was easy. Drastically changing how you see someone is hard.

But TOTALLY worth it. Because now, I feel free-er. I feel a sense of calm that I didn't even know I was lacking. And after spending some time implementing radical acceptance into my life, the world seems just a little bit more hopeful.

It's time to make yours brighter too.

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Estee Kahn is an Assistant Teacher at Rosenbaum Yeshiva of North Jersey and she is a former YourTango Editorial Fellow. 

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