I was having a conversation with one of my sons recently. It took me back to a memory of myself in high school. A memory of how much my self-esteem was tied to my academic achievements.

I was really uncoordinated so I didn't do well in sports but I knew from early on that I could do well in school. I wasn't good at Sciences so I focused on languages. I was really good at Spanish and French.

It was during high school that I developed a love for these two languages and I did the work to pull straight As. I kept this up throughout high school and on the rare occasion when I got a B+ instead of an A, I'd be devastated. It was as if my world had fallen apart.

Fast-forward to high school graduation. I had done well on all my exams and had the top grades in my class for Spanish and French. We were told that prizes would be given out at the graduation ceremony and I felt sure I would receive the prizes for Spanish and French.

Well I was right about one of them. I did receive the prize for Spanish but the prize for French went to another student and I was so crushed I couldn't breathe. I remembered feeling a tightness in my chest. I felt so ashamed. My Inner Critic was saying over and over again: "Shame on you. You're a loser. You couldn't even win two prizes? How hard is that? You're not smart at all. If you were smart you would have won those two prizes."

It was such a devastating blow to my self-esteem the rest of the graduation ceremony was a blur. I remembered taking a few pictures with my family but I felt so sad. I felt like I didn't have a future. I felt like a failure.

I never told anyone in my family but while they were celebrating my high school achievements I felt like I had nothing to celebrate because I had lost the French prize. What was there to be happy about?

Fast-forward to 20 odd years later. I was searching through some old pictures when I came across my high school graduation program. In it was my name and next to my name some text acknowledging my achievement of gaining the top award for Spanish. Of the hundreds of students in that graduating class, I had won the top prize. Why didn't I see it then?

Because I had very low self-esteem. Because no matter what I had achieved, as someone with low self-esteem I didn't think it was enough. I didn't see myself as whole the way I was. My sense of self was tied to what I felt I could achieve. And when I achieved I was so busy looking for the next thing to achieve, I never celebrated the previous achievement.

When I didn't achieve the goals I had set for myself, I felt like a total loser.
And I'd get mad at myself.

Do you find yourself beating up on yourself for what you didn't achieve?
Do you get mad at yourself and call yourself names like stupid, dumb, loser?
Do you take time to celebrate your successes or do you immediately notice what you consider the failures and get depressed about them?

High self-esteem is about liking ourselves. It's about accepting ourselves and recognizing that we're okay just the way we are. That means I don't have to win the top prize, get straight As or be recognized as the best in my field to be okay.

High self-esteem is not about our achievements. It's about self-love, self-acceptance and self-confidence in ourselves just the way we are. It's about recognizing our strengths and approving of ourselves.

Many of us look outside of ourselves for someone to say "Great job!" We even complain about not being appreciated yet when we get a compliment
we deflect it by saying: "Oh, I didn't do anything" or some other excuse.

When we begin to love ourselves, we're comfortable giving ourselves that compliment. And when someone else compliments us we're comfortable accepting the compliment with a simple "Thank you."

High self-esteem allows us to look at our day-to-day achievements and take time to celebrate them. In order for us to get to this level, we need to start at the beginning.

Some people may consider this mirror exercise a little weird but if you can bring yourself to try it, do. It will make a world of difference to your life.

To begin to develop your self-esteem pick up a small mirror, say your name out loud and "I love and accept you exactly as you are." Look into your eyes and say something positive to yourself every time you pass a mirror this week.

Get a 79 cent notebook and label it your Self-esteem Journal. In this Journal write 10 positive things about yourself. Every morning when you wake up before you rush off into your day and before your Inner Critic starts telling you all the negatives about yourself, open your Self-esteem journal and read the positive things you wrote about yourself.

Reflect on them. Take them with you throughout your day. Write them on index cards if it's more convenient and take them out at intevals in the day to remind yourself of who you are.

Every night before you go to bed, write in your Self-esteem Journal 5 things you are grateful for. Yes, gratitude lifts our spirits and helps build self-esteem. Gratitude also brings more of our good to us. Try these exercises for 90 days and you'll be amazed at the difference they make in your life!

Author's Bio: 

Lorna Blake is a Life Coach and Speaker. She has over 10 years experience in helping people take charge of their lives. She coaches clients on self-empowerment. Using her personal story of overcoming obstacles she facilitates empowerment workshops and seminars. She has written an e-Course on Assertiveness Training and an e-Book on tips to take charge of one's life. For more info check her website www.lornablake.com or www.mpowerurself.com