Please note that this is an Archived article and may contain content that is out of date. The use of she/her/hers pronouns in some articles is not intended to be exclusionary. Eating disorders can affect people of all genders, ages, races, religions, ethnicities, sexual orientations, body shapes, and weights.

All good stories feature heroes who conquer adversity, vanquish the foe, and ride off into their happily ever after. These tales have similarities to real life- we all go through hard things that reveal our true colors. Whether or not our circumstances are created through our own choices, or the choices of others, it is all in the way we choose to act that determines our happily ever after. Choosing the heroic path includes changes to your inside and outside actions- and here are some places you can start.

Changing on the Inside- Gaining Self- Respect, as Opposed to Self-Esteem

An important step to creating happiness is to understand how to find it, starting on the inside. For a hero to truly be happy, they must defeat their own enemy. For most people, the strongest, most difficult foe they will vanquish is the critical voice inside of their own head. The critical voice has many different names in the psychology world, but the experts agree that it is a staring player on the self-esteem team. Self-esteem is something that a lot of people talk about and focus on, but it is really inferior to having self-respect. While they seem very similar, they have some critical differences.

Self-esteem is based on evaluating yourself compared to others, which sets you up for not just temporary success, but also for failure. Self-esteem can either be your best friend or your worst nightmare. Self-respect is based off the fact that you like yourself. Self-respect is not based on what you can or cannot do, but rather, it is simply looking at who you are, and liking you. When you compare the two different ways of viewing yourself, there really is no contest to which is better. Research that compared self-respect to high self-esteem (linked to evaluation and comparison) found that the former group was less prone to blame, built, regret, lies, secrets, and stress.[1] Since no happy ending consists of these attributes, it’s clear that self-respect leads to a great life.

Changing on the Outside- Stepping into the Hero Role

The road to self-respect is going to look differently for everyone, but there are some great, small changes that can get you on the right path. Increasing self-respect looks different than what you might think because you aren’t looking inward as much as outward. The key to looking outward is to start thinking of others. Rather than dwelling on comparing and focusing on how you feel about yourself, try to do something for someone else every day. It doesn’t have to be a big gesture, but doing good things can help you to stop thinking so much about yourself and also see your place in the world.

Another great way to have self-respect is to live true to yourself. Rather than focusing on acting perfectly in all situations, focus on trying your best to act in a way that aligns with your beliefs. The best way to have a clear conscience is to do what you know is right. The key to being happy is not only making these decisions, but also learning to brush it off when you don’t. Instead, simply recommit to try to do better the next time.

The last two suggestions are interlinked- set goals and get out of your comfort zone. Set goals that help you to improve yourself and get out of your comfort zone. Opening yourself up to new experiences not only helps you get to know yourself better, but you find that you truly live life with less regrets. Push yourself and embrace living a full life.

When you find yourself on the road of happiness, true happiness, the way you see yourself changes. You conquer the negativity, find peace, and learn that you truly like yourself. Once all of these pieces have been put into place, saddle up your horse and ride off into your own happily ever after as the hero of your own life.