Cultivating Self-Esteem: A Grown-Up’s Guide

September 28, 2011

Spring Bouquet As a culture, we seem to spend a lot of time attempting to cultivate self-esteem and confidence among young women still in their teens.  We seem to think this is the most vital time to do so- when we figure out what a bra is and that we need to wear one, when boys are just starting to notice, when we apply makeup for the first time and try to walk in uncomfortable shoes to our first school dance.

Self-esteem isn’t a one-time entrance fee …or an exam we pass or fail at 15.  

I would argue, as we age, we have to cultivate our own sense of self-worth and self-esteem in more abundant, holistic ways as we age.  There territory isn’t new persay, but still foreign to us- our boobs have grown in, but they’re not big enough, or perhaps they start to sag or worse, we realize they can give us cancer.  The boys are grown, but now they’re coworkers- we work with them, and sometimes, we marry them (even as they oogle our younger counterparts).  We are no longer filled with the girlish hopes.  We tell ourselves that we have to use makeup as our salvation, not just for sparkle. Heels are still just as uncomfortable, but now they come with sexy red soles and cost more.    We have wrinkles of varying depths, muffin tops and hair color becomes less and less about experimentation as it is self-preservation.

As women, no matter our age- we need to learn to cultivate self-esteem more than ever.



More than our teen years, we need to learn to love ourselves for who we are, and the person we’ve become.  This is what God {or genetics} has given us, and without surgical modification, it is what we are stuck with- no more hope that we’ll grow into a different body, but we have to teach ourselves to grow to love it.  This is it…with our fleshy childbearing hips, our underperforming cup sizes, or our overperforming backsides.   Many of us women are dumbfounded and quite frankly dissappointed that we didn’t develop into the super model icons of our youth.  We are very human, we are gorgeous, but we are human.

It may seem trite that a 25 year old of all people is taking on this subject.  I haven’t had to deal with creaking hipbones, scars of childbearing or had to fight age and disease with science.  I haven’t had to go through these things to know that these things simply matter to us as women and that we simply need to be proud of ourselves despite these things.   Regardless of our physical size, ethnicity, age or the whiteness of our smile, as adult women we are contending with the ageless, fatless, flawless, eternally blissful images in the magazines- and those unfair comparisons impact us all.


It doesn’t matter our age, we are still terrified of our own beauty and how it will, or will not stack up.



If there is anything I’ve learned in this last year, is that many women are trapped in yearning.  We are starving ourselves physically and figuratively of the beauty and love we know we deserve, in the hopes that someone else will give us nourishment, validation, value.  We have somehow subconsciously bought into the idea that self-esteem is something that is cultivated in the teen years, and that it is somehow enough to give us sustenance when we feel ugly, failed, alone, lost years later. We know it wasn’t enough then to get us through awkward lunch table conversations of high school, much less the more awkward blind dates of our college years, but somehow we tell ourselves we’re “fine” now, since, at least now, we can afford fancier face creams.


I’m writing this because I’ve been through it.  I came to Chicago a year ago foolishly assuming I was “done.”  All the confidence I’d ever need was already developed, my destiny was unveiled. Perhaps, someone put a quarter in the self-esteem machine, years ago when I was a little girl saying “Aren’t you pretty!” and fed the meter.  I foolishly thought  I’d had enough self-esteem in the tank to get me through adulthood.

I don’t even need to tell you how horribly that failed.   I remember the day last fall Mr. Dreamboat dumped me, I plopped down on the carpet and sobbed like an ashamed child.  I was in a graduate program that didn’t provide me with the “Yes, you’re smart now,” validation I sought, and I felt burned out without a prayer.  I was still reeling in the saddness and self defeat of my friend Kassie’s passing (and oddly comparing my life to hers cut undeservedly cut short).  I sputtered to a stop.

Nobody had put a quarter in the meter, my self-esteem had run it’s course and I desperately needed a recharge.

What will your self-esteem recharge be?


In the last 9 months I began pouring myself into writing.  I began journaling and reading every book on business, writing, inspiration and development I could.  I got back into Yoga and I adopted a pug.   I created beauty outside and it grew within me.  I experienced divinity within while in Child’s Pose and touching my toes.  Beauty sparked whenever I hit “submit” for a blog article or went on a date.

Beauty and self-esteem was still within me, but I had to cultivate it, to truly work on my ability feel beautiful, empowered, loved.   You need to do whatever it takes to cull that glory forth.  Whatever your beauty is- whatever strengthens you and garners your self-esteem, you must be dedicated to cultivating it.


Remember, you are beautiful, worthy and desireable.  You are accomplished and you have survived, and even thrived in adversity.  You are here because I love you, and you deserve to be happy.  Go cultivate the confidence behind your awesomeness.  Bring it out, I know you can!


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14 comments so far.

14 responses to “Cultivating Self-Esteem: A Grown-Up’s Guide”

  1. apockylypse says:

    Great post, Shannyn!

    I'm 32 & I still struggle with self-esteem (& all the scars that high school put on me). I've got to say that I'm finally happy with my awkward ways & appreciate who I am. But it is hilarious that all the things I got ridiculed about as a teenager are now "the thing" to be…nerdy, geeky, crafty. Funny how things change!

    • Shannyn@FruBeautiful says:

      As a teen I used to LOVE Converse shoes but always felt like I didn't fit in for wearing them- that they were too boyish and I wasn't cute in them. I'm 25 now and it's so funny because I've seen girls wear them with tulle skirts, dresses, jeans and they look adorable! I appreciate my needy, geeky crafty self too now and didn't then!

  2. Jana says:

    I'm 34 and self-esteem is the thing I struggle with the most. For every quarter that gets put in, I take out fifty cents. It is a constant battle with myself to see the things in me that others seem to see. But–I'm getting there. My bank, some days, breaks even. Especially when I look at my daughter because when I look at her, I see all the things that I did, and do, right. I'm learning to love myself in order to set a good example for her, that even with flaws she's still perfect.

    • Shannyn@FruBeautiful says:

      Jana, that is great you are setting an example! I know my Gram (who was like a mom to me) struggled with her body image for years and years- even before I was born. She used to cut her faces out of pictures or hide them from us so I don't have too many pictures of her as a young woman. She tried to develop my self esteem as a teen and young woman, but it was hard to believer her compliments when I know she didn't think much of herself, so kudos to you for leading by example- even if it's a struggle (sometimes the struggle is exactly why we have to keep pushing forward since it's that important!) Thanks for sharing 🙂

  3. Kellen says:

    I'm 24, close to your age, and just finished my first year of work in the "real world." Turns out we're all still figuring things out a lot more than I thought we would be! It's hard, and I find myself comparing to the others around me so often, trying to make sure I'm doing okay, but I'm trying to get to a point where I just can accept that I'm doing well, working hard, and that I don't need to compare to anyone else to validate that.

    Lovely post, and hopefully the self esteem keeps developing 🙂

    • Shannyn@FruBeautiful says:

      Hey Kellen, I printed out the most poignant saying and framed it for my wall… "Comparison is the thief of joy." -Theodore Roosevelt. I saw it as a free printable on and knew it was something to look at since I struggle with the comparison game myself. There's a point where it's helpful to look at others and see what you'd like to aspire to, and a point where it becomes detrimental and hurtful as we start to blame ourselves for not "stacking up."

  4. janinenicolee says:

    I love this! Keep your chin up, you are an amazing writer and keep doing the things that you love and make you smile!

  5. I loved this! It's a great reminder for all women young and not. Great post Shannyn. 🙂


  6. Kathy says:

    Thank you for writing this post. At age 44 I still struggle with self-esteem. I have to remind myself daily that 'the grass isn't always greener on the other side of the fence'.

    A friend once told me that she was in awe of my self-confidence and tried to be more like me in that area. It shocked me to my core; who me? self-confident? uuh..I think you have mistaken me for someone else. Nope….it was me. Apparently, I was doing a very good job of appearing self-confident. When I let her in on my 'little secret' of faking it, she was floored.

    And, the most ironic thing was that I always felt the same about her. We talked about our mutual misconceptions & laughed.

    So, years later, whenever I think about that conversation, I pull myself up and remember that most people are faking it too.

  7. Alexis says:

    Great post Shannyn. I totally agree. I do think, though, it is still necessary to pour way more than the normal "Aren't you pretty" into teenagers. I got plenty of that too at that age, but I feel if I had some type of empowering and positive community to be a part of, most of my early twenties would have been filled with a lot more confidence. I didn't start really cultivating my self-confidence until my late twenties and it was because I found myself struggling with the same things you described. It's definitely important and beneficial to stay committed to all things that make you feel beautiful and happy. 🙂

  8. Thank you. This is great.
    At 20, I was at a pinnacle of self-esteem. I quit college and moved to NYC to become the next Great American Artist.
    At 31, I graduated with honors from the Fashion Dept at OTIS. That was one of the hardest things I’ve done.
    At 37, I quit my lucrative job designing Barbie Dolls to become a full time fine artist. Yup, still good.
    At 56, I have beat cancer (yay me) and am still working on being happy with who I now am. I’d say it gets MORE difficult as one ages. We live in a youth-centered culture. Respect must start from within. It’s not easy.

  9. link says:

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  10. Marissa says:

    Thank you so much for writing this! I am about to turn 27, and this exact same question has been swimming around in my head for the past couple of years: “Why does the self-esteem boosting for girls seem to stop in the teen years?” It is no doubt important during this time in one’s life, but it cannot stop there.

    To me, it seems like a switch is flipped in the early/mid-twenties. Up until then, we seem to get all the encouragement we need from parents, mentors, and peers to become whatever it is we want to be. We are gorgeous just the way we are. The sky is the limit.

    But at some point, the encouragement turns to advice to look a certain way, to be sensible with our career, to marry, to have children, etc. Don’t get me wrong, those are not all bad things, but it seems that at some point we lose the encouragement of others to be who we truly want to be. Instead we may find the push to conform to a certain ideal.

    The key, I’m slowly but surely learning, is to truly learn about yourself – what you enjoy, what you want out of life, and what you’d like to contribute – and stay true to that in everything you do. We can no longer rely on other’s to feed our self-esteem meters. It’s up to us to encourage and empower ourselves now, and we must surround ourselves with people help us do this.

    It ain’t always easy, but we can do it! 🙂


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