When life is busy or challenging, most people get so caught up in what goes on in their head that they forget all about the rest of their body. But problems and difficulties are best addressed with the whole of you. If you focus on your issues with a strong sense of self - rather than only your mind - your confidence and inner compass have a solid base for operating in the world. This is enhanced by being fully present in the here and now - rather than dwelling on the past or projecting thoughts into the future.

The term ‘sense of self’ relates to the perception you have of yourself, your self-image. You know who you are, and are okay with it. But if your view of yourself is dominated by the inner critic, your sense of self is compromised. Your authenticity, confidence and vitality will suffer.

To develop and strengthen a realistic sense of self, focus on the following qualities:

Know Yourself.
Realistic self-knowledge and self-awareness are a prerequisite for operating from a position of authenticity. Make sure you know how you tick: your values, beliefs and traits, how you are in the world and interact with others.

Accept Yourself.
Self-acceptance is one of the most important qualities to develop. Self-esteem feeds off performance and achievements, boosting feelings of self-worth when there is something to be proud of. The problem is, that once performance drops, self-esteem plummets, as many retired athletes have experienced.

With self-acceptance you do not only focus on the ‘good’. You know the whole picture of who you are - good, bad, indifferent. You do not shy away from acknowledging your talents, skills and successes. But more than that, you also accept shortcomings, failures and hiccups without trying to hide them or engaging in serious self-recrimination.

Self-acceptance knows that imperfection is an unavoidable part of being human. It is about being realistic and honest - with understanding, self-compassion and the willingness to face those parts of yourself that might require a tune-up.

Affirm your Boundaries.
If you have a tendency to compliance, you might fit in with your current tribe but it will damage your sense of self. Denying your own opinions and inclinations for the sake of pleasing others, undermines your integrity and individuality. Of course, all relationships require compromises to function well, but that is not the same as letting your boundaries be violated.

To stand your ground with grace and ease, practice setting limits, negotiation, assertive communication, saying ‘no’ and handling criticism.

Mistrust your Fears.
There is much to be apprehensive about: the state of the world, the unknown, your personal future, unforeseen and uninvited changes. But fearful thoughts have a tendency to exaggerate and catastrophise. They also seem terribly convincing and so true that you might be led into fearful retreat. However, avoidance does not conquer fear. Only facing and taking action regardless of it will give you strength, confidence and self-assurance.

Be at peace with yourself.
Is your mind often tuned in to radio Triple F? Glued to the scary stories about Fears, Flaws and Failure inside your mind? What is that doing for your motivation, get-up-and-go, your rational thinking? Going through life can be fraught with difficulties and turbulence. There will be moments of uncertainty, rattled confidence, instances of making mistakes and anxiousness. But radio Triple F is the wrong station to listen to. It will sabotage your best efforts and prevent peaceful living.

Practise being comfortable in your own company. Trust that you have got what it takes to manage life’s difficulties. Take time out from striving and doing and tune into yourself. Slow down for a little while, breathe and remind yourself that you are okay just as you are. You are as worthy as everyone else and deserve to experience yourself with self-love.

Live a Self-directed Life.
Much of what happens in life is beyond your control. But giving in to helplessness or lack of hope, procrastination or passivity, following what others want you to do, uncritically believing what you are told, are sure ways to sabotage any sense of personal power. Irrespective of the circumstances, you have the ability - and the right - to choose how you respond to life’s events and map your own way forward.

When you live with self-awareness, know and accept yourself, stand your ground when needed and walk your own path through fears and obstacles, you have a solid inner compass. You are not easily bowled over or deny who you truly are. Claim the only real anchor anyone of us can have - a strong sense of self:

Today you are you, that is truer than true.
There is no one alive who is youer than you.
Dr. Seuss

What is your sense of self about? How have you been able to develop or maintain it? If yours needs boosting, what key will help you most?

Author's Bio: 

Christiana Star (BA Hons Psychology, BA Hons Education) is a registered psychologist and writer with extensive experience in private practice, as a corporate consultant, critical incident counsellor and workshop facilitator. Combining professional expertise with a spiritual outlook on life, she now specialises in creating self-help materials for personal growth, empowerment and mental health. Her articles and upcoming book "Recover, Rebuild, Thrive" offer new perspectives, insights, practical tips and easy strategies that can be applied straightaway.