The following advice can help you begin building positive relationships on a solid foundation of honesty and integrity:
Start with self-love. Spend time with yourself to figure out who you are. “When you love yourself, you know you are valuable and don’t have to pretend to be anything else,” says Grace Cornish-Livingstone, Ph.D. You can begin this journey, she says, with questions like, What makes me tick? What is my purpose? What goals do I want to accomplish? What type of person do I want to be with?
Learn to be assertive. “I was the go-along-to-get-along girl,” says Carla Whitlock, 31, a risk manager for a major bank in Atlanta, who now calls herself a reformed doormat. Instead of speaking up for herself, she remained silent through differences of opinion and signs of cheating, just to keep the peace. “I felt that if I said something or questioned his whereabouts, the relationship would be in jeopardy,” she says. Correcting that type of behavior begins with valuing your own opinion and feeling confident enough to express it, Cornish-Livingstone explains. “Say to yourself, I choose to make my own decisions and speak my mind,” she advises. Start with little things like weekend or dinner plans, or not taking a phone call from someone who undervalues your time. These small acts of assertiveness build self-confidence.
Find a confidence or relationship mentor. “You need to see what healthy self-esteem looks, feels and acts like,” relationship therapist Audrey B. Chapman says. Seek out a support group through a local hospital or university. The Black Women’s Health Imperative offers groups nationwide; call (202) 548-4000. You can also look into more structured self-confidence workshops like those offered through such organizations as Landmark Education (landmarkeducation.com). Or pick up one of many books on the issue.