“You look beautiful!” my husband often tells me.

“Oh, c’mon,” I used to quip. “You just have rose-colored glasses.”

He’s feeling sorry for me, I would think to myself. He knows the stress I’ve been feeling, the lack of sleep I’ve had or all about my bad day.

I’ve never known how to accept a compliment. I sometimes think this personality defect may have a genetic component; my mother has never been able to accept a compliment either.  She was a beautiful woman who attracted my father when he saw her in her bathing suit on the beaches of New Jersey when she was only seventeen. 

Va voom. 

Today my mom is still beautiful. Standing next to her contemporaries (and still wearing no makeup – unlike me) she clearly looks years younger than her friends.

So in my analytical mind, I think of the millions of times my mother told me that I’m beautiful.  

Very often people tell me I look like exactly like my mother. 

So when I tell her she’s beautiful and she balks at my comment, does that mean that since I look like her, she’s being ridiculous by telling me that I’m beautiful? 

I mean, after all, if a = c, and b = c then a = c, right?

I think my self-esteem issues began during my formative years, when magazine covers were splashed with beautiful blondes like Cheryl Tiegs, shapely girls wore pretty string bikini’s and sexy halter tops, and my young circle of friends included the “popular” and “beautiful” crowd.

For a pre-teen who wore thick glasses and had wild, curly hair it was tough keeping up with the Joneses. My self-esteem started slipping away. At that age, we all want to be beautiful.

I don’t miss adolescence.

Over the years in my quest to improve how I view myself, I’ve read a lot about self-esteem and how to build my confidence. I’ve purchased many self-help books and audiotapes, and enjoyed journaling my daily thoughts. 

I’ve taken giant steps forward toward accepting kind words or congratulatory remarks.  I feel more comfortable in my own skin, self-assured with my close relationships, and I am humble and proud by the lives I touch in my work.  

I’m sure it has something to do with age and wisdom. Being in your fifties does have its benefits.

I recently read an interesting article in Psych Central for people who have trouble accepting praise. One of the points the author made was that accepting praise doesn’t mean we’re being pompous or arrogant.  It goes on to suggest:

“What if, upon being praised, we could set aside our seemingly overpowering urge to deflect, reject, conflict, contradict, resist, react and attack? What if we could imagine each compliment coming our way as a little wavelet at the beach — the kind that comes and goes constantly, washing gently around our feet.”

Psychology Today created a “Self Esteem Test” made up of 34 simple questions that are quick and easy to answer. After finishing the test you’ll receive a list of your strengths and weaknesses in areas that you need to work on. 

Here are three ideas to help you gain some self-esteem:

Charity work: Helping others is a gift you give to yourself and to the recipient of your gift.  Caring for others makes you feel good, and it helps to promote an overall sense of worth.

Exercise: I know, I know. You’re tired of hearing this. But exercise does help with self-esteem.  

A few weeks ago my husband and I were having a particularly bad day. We decided to go to our favorite spot in the early evening to take a walk.  When we got home, we agreed the walk eased our tension, and we were in better moods. 

Exercising is good for improving self-esteem.  Take a walk, do some yoga, go for a bike ride. Get moving! It can’t hurt, and it certainly can make a world of difference.

Activities: Engage in things you love to do.  Find a hobby, join a club, go for a day trip or have lunch with an old friend. Staying busy doing what you enjoy helps to reduce stress and anxiety, and gives you a clearer picture of yourself and the world around you.

Read this next: Feeling Good, Looking Good

Cathy Chester blogs at An Empowered Spirit, which won third prize in Healthline’s Best Health Blog Contest in 2014, was named #2 of the “Top 10 Social HealthMakers in MS” by Sharecare “ and received a nomination for the past 3 years as WEGO Health’s Best in Show Blog. She is a contributor for The Huffington Post as well as a blogger for MultipleSclerosis.net and Boomeon. Her work has appeared in numerous publications including Midlife Boulevard, BetterAfter50, Erma Bombecks’ Writers Circle, The Friendship Circle and Woman at Woodstock.