Lesson #5: Rebuild Your Self-Esteem


Heartbreak can take a toll on self-esteem if you’re not paying attention. If you’ve experienced it, you know that on your worst days, heartbreak can cause you to question your own worth and agonize over how a person you loved so dearly could so suddenly be out of your life. In order to move forward and let go, these thoughts must be combatted by strengthening the self-esteem. When you’re working on building up self-esteem, make sure you are as progressive as possible. You want to continue to advance and move forward in life rather than slide backwards. Engaging in activities that don’t honor your strengths and primarily highlight your weaknesses can stifle your progress. Simply put, try to spend less time on the things that you suck horribly at, and spend more time doing what makes you feel competent, strong, beautiful, and energized.

Take in Positive Reinforcement

Taking in positive reinforcement is like taking medication. It supports the immune system by helping to fight off whatever is attacking the body. In the same way, positive reinforcement supports the self-esteem by helping to fight off negative messages and experiences that can attack us from day to day. Positive reinforcement can strengthen a weakened self-esteem. And just like medicine, positive reinforcement is also available in many forms. It can come through supportive friends, the words you speak to yourself, or activities that simply make you feel great about yourself. All forms of positive reinforcement help to combat negative feelings and beliefs that can weaken and break down the self-esteem.

For starters, it’s absolutely essential that you are careful about the words you speak to yourself. This is not the time to call yourself stupid, lazy, pitiful, pathetic, or whatever other negative words you may be tempted to speak. This is a time when you have to be intentional about speaking positively about yourself. “I am awesome.” “I rocked in that meeting today.” “My life is on an upswing.” “I am on the verge of greatness.” Don’t wait for other people to tell you these things, say them to yourself. Work them into your conversations. It won’t be long before the people who love and respect you begin to echo these affirmations for you.

Avoid Negative Energy 

I assume that you’d never go mountain climbing in the snow while fighting the flu, because that certainly wouldn’t build up your immune system. It would make you feel worse. The same applies to building up your self-esteem. This is not the time to pursue projects or initiatives that bring more stress and frustration than peace and satisfaction. If at all possible, avoid activities or situations that bring you down until your self-esteem is stronger. Of course, this is easier said than done, as these tasks can’t always be avoided, especially if they are a part of how you make a living. If you can’t avoid doing the grunt work, do the best you can to go heavy on the feel-good stuff while keeping the feel-bad stuff to a minimum. Rebuilding your self-esteem should be a priority. Do whatever you can to protect and support it.

Just as it is important to avoid activities that are draining and highlight your weaknesses, it’s also important to avoid activities that compromise your dignity. For many of us, going through a breakup can be a very vulnerable and unstable time. Some people respond with anger and are tempted to take revenge by keying cars, slashing tires, or using the kids against the ex. I’ve seen situations in which men and women alike become consumed with jealousy and expend a great deal of energy investigating what the ex is doing, who the ex is seeing, and in some cases, attempt to sabotage the ex’s future relationships. Some people even turn on themselves and become involved in self-destructive behaviors such as excessive substance abuse or sexual carelessness.

All such responses to a breakup, no matter how liberating or justified they may feel at the moment, compromise your dignity. This only causes more to harm to your self-esteem because if you’re on the road to living a more empowered and productive life, you’ll eventually feel like crap for causing a scene or sleeping with all of those guys or becoming obsessed over finding out about the new person in your ex’s life. Your dignity comes from knowing that you are the bigger person, that you are growing each day (rather than regressing), that you are stronger than the voice that tempts you to do something that is just flat out stupid. It’s simply not worth risking your self-esteem over. Hold on to your dignity with both hands and both feet if you have to. Do nothing – nothing at all – that will compromise it.

Your self-esteem is priceless. It is the single most important aspect of yourself that makes letting go and moving forward possible. A strong self-esteem will tell you that you are beautiful enough to attract someone who sees your beauty, that you are intelligent enough to create an amazing life for yourself, that you are secure enough to enjoy that life to its fullest, that you are strong enough to thrive during difficult times, and that you are irresistible enough to surround yourself with equally irresistible people. When you believe in yourself and feel good about yourself, your whole world view changes, and in turn, your whole world changes.

The idea is to build up your self-esteem so that you can live out your life purpose and be a positive influence in the lives of others. Be proactive about it. Because until you get on board, there is absolutely nothing that anyone outside of you can do to build you up. If you take medication for a fever and your immune system refuses to get on board, that medication is totally useless. In the same sense, you could be the finest chick in the room, getting compliments left and right. You could have friends that wish they were as funny or intelligent or professional as you are. You could have the greatest therapist ever. But if you are not on board – if you are not proactive about rebuilding your own self-esteem – none of those outside forces will matter. It’s up to you to make it happen. Build yourself up, so that you can let go and move forward!

Pamela Antoinette
This Hopeful Romantic

Lesson #4: Hustle, Then Flow


For My Hustling Sisters…

I can’t control everything. And recently, I’ve come to realize that I don’t want to control everything. Controlling everything takes an obsessive amount of time and energy that I would much prefer spending on activities that I enjoy, like going to the movies, writing books, or falling in love.

The Hustle

I spent the last decade and a half of my life in straight-up hustle mode. Even before my son was born (who is now 15), I was hard-working, driven and determined. As a 19 year-old freshman in college, working and playing on the softball team, I was hustling nonstop, trying to make it all happen, and happen well. My goal was to be the best at everything. And I mean EVERYTHING.

Then, just after my freshman year in college, I got pregnant. And I learned quickly what it really meant to “get your hustle on”, because I was not about to stop progressing. As soon as I could, I got back into school. I consistently worked two jobs and did everything I could to keep food on the table and a roof over our heads; late nights studying, carrying my toddler with me to class, even taking on a third job delivering pizza at night just to make rent one summer. I sold Avon, did hair on the side, and cleaned houses to make that extra money. There were no breaks for a young single mom-slash-college student, and I didn’t expect any. I saw no other option. If I didn’t make it happen, who would?

Women are pretty amazing. I LOVE being a woman, and thank God every day for those two phenomenal X chromosomes that graced me with curves, emotions and the strength of a lioness! We work hard. We hustle. We accomplish our dreams. Women are doing exceptionally well in a world that has tried so hard to keep us down. We have always pushed the envelope. The problem? We don’t always know how or when to step OUT of hustle mode. That same “make it happen” strategy of determination and control that worked to snag that degree or land that awesome job can absolutely crush us when we try to apply it to other areas of our lives. I’ve lived it, I’ve seen it happen… and the total sense of confusion one can be left with after hustle mode fails to work can be devastating.

The Flow

We cannot approach our relationships in hustle mode (if we want them to be successful). This knack for control that has worked so well in other areas of our lives can drive a deadly wedge between ourselves and those who we love. When in hustle mode, sometimes it’s easy to forget that people do have free will and, whether we like it or not, we need to respect that free will. People are free to decide what they want to do with their own lives, even if it doesn’t match up with what we want. If someone does not want to be in your life, this is a choice that they have the right to make. If someone’s life dreams do not line up with yours, you cannot resolve to change them, rush them, force them to align themselves with your agenda and then expect to be happy in the end. Relationships simply do not operate that way.

Hustle mode has its place, but equally important to the hustle is the ability to simply flow. As tough as this concept may be to understand for hustlers like me who are used to making things happen, it is important to learn the difference and to develop skills in both areas (hustling and flowing). If you exert your hustling strength and control over a man who is just as strong as you are, get ready to bump heads and possibly drive him away. If you are a woman like me, you want a strong man in your life. The catch, though, is that another strong person will resist your attempt to control everything. That hustle can actually kill your spirit and douse your opportunities for true love.

A woman who is used to being in control may find a man she wants – regardless of whether or not he is good for her – and use her hustle and control skills to keep him in her life, when really, she should be relying on FLOW. Rather than trying to change him or take great measures to keep him around, she should simply let it flow. Flow does not dictate what will happen or how the story will end. Flow does not get pissed off when things don’t go as planned. Flow walks in faith and allows for the natural order of life to unfold. Flow is confident enough to know that what she brings to the table is excellent and if her assets compliment the other party in the relationship, she does not need to force anything to happen. Hustlers, we must release the need to control everything and allow nature to take its course. If he’s the one, it will flow without our grand orchestration skills (our skills are pretty grand, aren’t they?). We will not have to design everything to “make sure” it all works out. This is one of those rare situations in life in which we can truly relax and enjoy the ride.

You can’t force someone to love you. You can’t orchestrate a relationship that simply isn’t meant to be or isn’t ready to blossom in the way that you want it to. When other people are involved, you’re no longer dancing alone. If you’re unable to flow with the music, if you find yourself trying to control the beat and the tempo, along with all of the dance moves, you may find yourself losing dance partners. Relax. Let the music play, and allow yourself to flow with it.

This flowing business ain’t easy. Take it from a recovered control addict. But it is very necessary and key to your happiness that you learn how to stop hustling at times and surrender yourself to the flow. It can be scary. But it can also be quite freeing. It can enable you to let go of the need to control the outcome and simply enjoy the music, enjoy the sway of two bodies flowing in sync, enjoy the absence of anxiety. You’ll find that when you flow with other people, rather than try to control them, you enjoy their company more. You learn about yourself. You pay attention to what is actually unfolding, rather than attempting to alter the unfolding to get to the results you want.

Of course, we all want what we want. But when it comes to love, the best way to get what we want is to slow down, listen, and surrender yourself to the flow. Your instincts will take care of the rest. If you’re paying attention, you’ll know which way to flow – even if that means flowing away.

And then, sister friend, when it’s time to take care of business, get that degree, close that deal and make that money… by all means, go get your hustle on!

Pamela Antoinette
This Hopeful Romantic