5 Tips For Maintaining A Healthy Self-Esteem

Author: Marche Barney
April 12, 2018

smiling woman

Self-Esteem and The Purple Sock Syndrome


When I was 7 years old, I experienced something that would make me question myself and my self-esteem the rest of my growing years— I was cast as a purple tulip in the school play. I can’t quite remember the name of the play. I only remember – quite clearly – the moment before going on stage, and what I had on.

My mom was in the hospital with appendicitis and my dad had left it to my aunt to take care of the details and logistics of getting me all set for the play. Aunt Thelma was, and continues to be my favorite aunt; but why she would trust a seven-year-old to tell her the details of wardrobe for the play, I will never know! I was one of perhaps a dozen tulips who donned flowing purple and lavender tissue and crepe tutus atop pink leotards.  With my hair pulled up into a ball and having on the handmade costume the teachers had created, I remember feeling particularly excited about the opportunity to have been cast in this play.  Even as a speechless tulip, I had a role – and I was proud!

Everything was perfect backstage – maybe even magical – as the school principal and director of the play held my shoulder to await my timely release paced with the music’s tempo. Just before it was my turn to waltz out, though, she looked down at my little legs with my new purple socks and stopped me right in my tracks. She whispered quite loudly, “Where are your tights?!”  And right before releasing her now grip on my arm, made sure that I understood I should have had on pink tights, not socks.

Only in that moment did I notice all of the other tulips on stage had on pink leotards and pink tights. In the course of about six seconds, everything changed. In that instant I saw myself differently; I was no longer even faintly interested in being a part of what was such a thrill just moments before. Simultaneous to my new self-awareness and deep concern that I would be a mess of a spectacle on stage, she pushed me into the flow of tulips with words of what I might now consider persevering wisdom.  She said, “Just go on anyway!”

That, my friends, would be the pivotal point in my subconscious where I must have vowed never to stand out.  It would become the foundation of self-consciousness and self-doubt for me. I think I subscribed at that moment to an ideology that in life it’s best to blend in and maybe be invisible. Even if there’s something I think might be good in me, I learned to think again; keep it covert. After all, “it” or I might not be right.

Until my mid 20’s, I would opt out of anything that might remotely make me feel like I didn’t compare to others in any environment in which I found myself. My comfort and my assessment of myself was always gauged by how similar I was to everything and everyone around me— similarity was my internal validation. How sad to think of the greatness in me that I suppressed all those years because of self-doubt!

Interestingly, I really enjoyed my formative years, mostly because I had parents who ceaselessly reinforced positivity and love; and constantly reminded me that I exuded beauty from the inside out. I was also quite rich in friendship. Yet, I probably made my friends involuntary motivators by constantly asking for their reassurance on whatever I might have been lamenting over – whether it was if I looked too skinny in my jeans (everyone in high school seemed to have been developing except me); or if my poems made sense and were good enough to submit for  publication. I checked constantly with my team of friends because my confidence was absolutely not what it should have been.

Confidence is a by-product of healthy self-esteem. Self-esteem is self-certainty; it is the truth about how we see and value ourselves, and it’s a pretty darn important part of our lives because it plays out in our accomplishments, relationships, opportunities, emotional well-being, and our self-actualization in general.  A lack of healthy self-esteem can cause us to live life more concerned with people pleasing than living fully, when in reality whatever we do and whoever we are will never be satisfying to everyone.

I truly like who I am today. I  appreciate that I am not a carbon copy of everyone around me. Of course, I don’t want to stick out like a sore thumb, but I’d like to think I am “distinguishable”. Because it’s not always the easiest state of being to get to, below are five things I’d recommend to anyone who may be challenged with maintaining healthy self-esteem.

5 Tips For Maintaining A Healthy Self-Esteem


Practice positive affirmations

Look in the mirror and reassure yourself that you are all that! It’s positive self-talk that has often motivated me and helped me to experience opportunities I wouldn’t otherwise. One of my favorite affirmations is “I am a light and positive force in the world. People are excited to meet me. People await my arrival, not because I’m late, but because my great reputation precedes me.” Ha! With that, even I look forward to seeing the awesomeness in me that shows up!


Own your uniqueness

Know that every person is unique – and for great reason. We have commonalities as well, but there’s something positive about being uniquely you. If you don’t own the greatness in you, no one else will. Find the positive in who you are and let it shine!!!


Identify what may have contributed to your challenge with your self-esteem.

Sometimes we can think back to a single incident that scarred us or circumstances that triggered a negative self-image. When you discover what might be the culprit, ask yourself what’s really true about it and what isn’t.  Do not give power to what is not true; learn to laugh at your imperfections; and improve the things that could be better, while still accepting yourself.


Know that you have a purpose

The world is in wait for the best of you! Healthy self-esteem is really important for us to live purposeful and fulfilling lives. Thinking small, and certainly playing, serves no one. Start on the inside and make a difference on the outside.


Go on anyway!

That’s the one thing the principal said that evening that was wisdom for the ages! No matter what your negative talk, PERSEVERE. Fake it until you make and exercise courage until the greatest you shows up. Eventually, you’ll see for yourself that you are valuable, worthy, and capable of doing great things because you are great!

You know, I was a little girl who’d seen lots of beautifully crafted purple costumes. Whatever information my aunt had received regarding the attire of tulips, I convinced her otherwise – as I probably imagined purple socks would be a lovely match. How imaginative and creative I must have been! It was a mistake as it related to uniformity, however; and it haunted me as the “purple sock syndrome” for years. When I think about it now, I kind of see it as the “purple confidence paradigm” that finally helped me appreciate my uniqueness.

Here’s to majestic purple power in your life and to high and healthy self-esteem!


Leader in Me Consultant
Marché Barney, Leader in Me Consultant

Clients value Marché Barney’s ability to help them get results—results that are residual, that increase the bottom line, that builds momentum, that boost morale, and that generate desired outcomes. Effective organizational development, meaningful goals, and purposeful work are the cornerstones of her practice.

Marché is passionate about helping individuals make meaningful changes that positively impact their personal and professional lives. Her magnetic personality, excellent sense of humor, and respect for people make her a favorite with clients who consistently invite her back.

Marché brings a wealth of experience to her clients. In addition to her private practice, for over six years Marché was the employee retention manager for Grady Health System (Atlanta, Georgia), an organization with more than 5,000 staff. She also worked as their senior community relations specialist.

Marché served as the regional director of the American Lung Association of Georgia (Atlanta) as well as its public relations director. She was also the public relations coordinator for the Salvation Army.

Marché’s clients represent a variety of industries including healthcare, nonprofit, government, and education.

Marché has earned a B.A. in journalism from the University of West Georgia, Carrollton. She was a staff writer for the West Georgian University Paper and also published in the annual Eclectic Magazine.

Marché serves as a mentor at Emory University, in Mentor Emory, a program designed to teach leadership, problem-solving, and performance enhancement skills to aspiring, young professionals. She has completed Coaches Training Institute and has served as the public relations vice president for Toastmasters International.

A resident of Atlanta, Marché enjoys creative writing, meeting new people, and jazz. She is developing a line of greeting cards.

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