“Dr. Mantell, what is it that keeps me back from reaching my goals in life?” I”m often asked about what is the single most impacting block to success. I ask in return, “What do you think of yourself?” No, not what do you think others think about you? But what do you think about you? Your personal opinion of you is what matters. After all, what others think about you is not your business. “Why should we worry about what others think of us, do we have more confidence in their opinions than we do our own?” asked Brigham Young. If your answer is, “yes,” it’s time for a large dose of radical self-acceptance.

What do you think of yourself? No, not what do you think others think about you? But what do you think about you? Your personal opinion of you is what matters. After all, what others think about you is not your business. “Why should we worry about what others think of us, do we have more confidence in their opinions than we do our own?” asked Brigham Young. If your answer is, “yes,” it’s time for a large dose of radical self-acceptance. After all, where’d you learn to be ashamed of yourself?

“You’re always with yourself, so you might as well enjoy the company,” Diane Von Furstenberg said. Easier said than done for so many, like the actress Sally Field who revealed, “It took me a long time not to judge myself through someone else’s eyes.”

Want your life to be more enjoyable, happier, easier and more positive? Ready to stop seeking validation and attention from others? Looking for a stronger sense of inner stability? Look no further than the value you place on yourself, your accomplishments and your negative self-rating. Those are three killers of self-worth and self-esteem.

Mark Twain observed, “A person cannot be comfortable without his or her own approval.” It’s time to stop unscrewing your eyeballs from your head and screwing them into the heads of others and then looking back at yourself in disapproval. If you don’t, you’ll continue to believe the untruths that others hold about you, the erroneous categories they put you in and the names they call you, and illogically believe that you aren’t sufficient as you are. You are the perfect you, always have been and always will be. Doesn’t mean you don’t want to continue to achieve and expand. It’s self-esteem, not other-esteem. “Wanting to be someone else is a waste of the person you are,” Marilyn Monroe wisely said.

You would do well to tell yourself that you are a work in progress. You are not a finished product. What follows your “I am_____”? Do you tell yourself, “I am – not as good as her, or as I should be?” Do you finish your “I am” with negative words or do you tell yourself you are fully equipped and ready to accomplish whatever you put your mind to? Mindset is everything.

I was coaching a young man who was labeled with “autism.” His teachers, counselors and even family members were convinced of the limits on his life. Not me. What limits? He is a bright youngster who, after he began thinking differently about himself and others, began overcoming those self and other imposed limits. He’s on his way to becoming whatever it is he wants to become – his talent is in numbers and has a remarkable memory. Watch out banking, commerce, economics – this young man is about to explode on the scene with more self-esteem than anyone would have predicted! Autism? No, it’s not a limit on ones’ self-esteem at all. What is?

Here are five steps you can start to use as soon as you finish reading this article to raise your wellbeing, improve your self-concept, grow healthier and more productive.

  1. Marcus Aurelius taught us that “our life is what our thoughts make it.” I teach my clients, “The link is what you think.” We all face situations that we trouble ourselves about. Identify those triggers. Got a business presentation coming up? Dealing with a relationship conflict? Can’t find a new job?

  2. Catch your negative, self-downing, self-doubting, thoughts you think in these situations. Pay attention to patterns of your thinking such as “mental filtering” in which you seem to dwell on negatives and downplay anything positive. You may view your life as either all good or all bad, called, “all-or-nothing” thinking—miss a day at the gym and you believe, erroneously, that you are a failure.

  3. Challenge those beliefs you see are creating self-doubt. It’s been observed that, “doubt kills more dreams than failure.” Is what you THINK, True, Helpful, Inspiring to you, Necessary to think, and Kind to yourself? If not, step four is next. These thoughts are creating fear, shame, self-negating criticism—the inaccurate thoughts you’ve been taught and have held on to as truth.

  4. Change your thoughts. Use self-talk that’s hopeful, forgiving, self-compassionate (would you tell a dear friend about herself what you tell yourself about you?), encouraging and empowering. The word “can’t,” may be the biggest self-esteem killer you harbor. “Should” or “must” are close seconds. Replace these with more accurate, positive descriptions. You don’t want to? You don’t know how to? You’d prefer rather than demand?

  5. Your friends with positive self-esteem first and foremost don’t convince themselves they are failures. They exercise regularly for the link between exercise and mood, they fully enjoy activities, they focus on self-care, they journal daily, forgive and reward themselves easily, avoid procrastinating, are always learning, and create relationships with other positive people. They focus on memories of victory and shrug off defeat. Associate with those who inspire you, lift you, not just drag you down. If it doesn’t lift you up, it doesn’t belong in your life—and here I’m talking about your thoughts, not just other people.