Self-esteem is basically how you feel about yourself as a person. It’s not so much focused on your competence or abilities as your inner dialogue and feeling about yourself, the things you do, and how you do them.
Low Self Esteem
It’s not good or bad to have low or high self-esteem, it is what it is and we’re all doing the best we can with what we have. Nonetheless, the people I work with find it beneficial to build their self-esteem because it seems to be associated with a certain degree of worthiness.
Good things happen to good people and the better you feel about the good things in your life, the more good things will come to you. Call it what you want, wishful thinking, pop science, or new age mumbo jumbo, regardless statistics verify this at a high level of accuracy.
An example might be, let’s say you have had the opportunity to apply paint to paper or canvas in such a way as to result in an artistic rendering. You put it up on the wall and say to yourself, “Oh, jeeze, I wish I had better skills than this thing might be worth looking at.”
Before you have a chance to take it down, a friend shows up unexpectedly and notices your painting, “Oh, my,” he/she says, “I didn’t know you painted. That’s really nice, you have real talent.”
You might reply, “Oh, that? That’s nothing. I was just experimenting. Sometimes I wish I could paint, so I dabble, only to discover I can’t.” While you think to yourself, “Ugh, I suck at this. I don’t even know why I did it in the first place.”
Your friend assures you that it looks marvelous and that you may have more talent than you give credit to yourself and departs. You take down the painting and berate yourself, while thinking that your friend was only saying those things in an effort to be nice.
If you have low self-esteem you’re likely to be your own worst critic, with a self-loathing voice often disrespecting you, your value, and any good you could possibly bring to the world. Even if you’ve accomplished a good thing, there is little sense of accomplishment (as if you’d barely gotten through it at all) and certainly, no celebration or sense of pride in a job well done. And if someone attempts to validate your efforts by paying a compliment, you’re likely to discard it.
Somewhere at the root of lack of self-esteem, is the feeling that you’re not good enough.
Yet, there is an innate part of us that aspires to feel good, so we try to feel the void of not feeling good with other things that will make us feel better or distract us from our own self-deprecation.
People with low self-esteem attempt to fill the void with accomplishments, social status, fancy things, degrees, wealth, surrounding one’s self with influential people, thrill-seeking, extra-marital affairs, feeding addictions such as alcohol, drugs, and/or food, etc. only to find the underlying feeling of unworthiness remains.
Often how we feel about ourselves is based upon our inner system of weights and balances used when comparing ourselves to other people. When you look at someone else, do you believe that you are as attractive, intelligent, successful, and deserving of love and happiness as anyone else?
If your tendency is to feel as though you are less of a person than someone else, then you will be prone to deliberate compromises that are not in your best interests, such as being a people pleaser, submissive, a perfectionist, suffer from mood imbalances, depression, even more unworthiness or a compulsion to prove that we are somehow better than someone else or they are undeserving.
High Self Esteem
If you are blessed to have high self-esteem, it was likely the result of your familial or social upbringing that influenced your sense of not only being good enough but deserving of all the best things this life has to offer. For the most part, this is the story of your life. You are one of the good people so good things keep happening to you.
You might have been raised in an environment that supported a high perceived value of self in respect to family, love, religion, friendships, team sports, or other relationships. When surrounded by your circle of influence you are ecstatically empowered; this sense of worthiness and power is ingrained enough to carry you through most anything.
Then there are those who have achieved high self-esteem based on performance or competency. These are those who invest their efforts to support their family, their professions or the community at large and feel a strong sense of worthiness based on the kind of person they are and the things they do.
The downside to high self-esteem is running the risk of being viewed by others as selfish, conceited, arrogant, or narcissistic; so tempering high self-esteem with humility produces a healthier balance overall.
How to Build Self Esteem
The first place to start is to recognize your inner voice eschewing any sense of worthiness you might have. Listen for your self talk and stop it. In the style of the late, Gene Wilder in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, “Strike that. Reverse it.” Then repeat to yourself just the opposite.
Think about it this way; I think we all can agree within us resides a small-child version of ourselves. If we could imagine inviting that little person out to stand in front of us and say to that child the negative things we say to ourselves, it would likely drive that little person to tears. We would never say those kinds of things to a child. What would we do instead? We would offer words of encouragement, edifying and uplifting the child for doing the best he/she could and you affirm the results were magnificent based on their level of performance and even alludes to possible greatness. Right?
It doesn’t matter what other people say. What matters is what you say to you. When you feel negative thoughts this is your cue to give yourself some loving support. Stop berating yourself.
The next thing to do is to start acting as if you have high self-esteem.
If you have high self-esteem:
- You know you are worthy of all the best things this life has to offer
- You take good care of yourself
- You help others, but only after tending to your own needs first
- You take care of your body, eat well, exercise, and have good sleep habits
- You manage your time well
- You set boundaries in respect to yourself
- You find excuses to celebrate and have fun
- You are financially responsible. You spend less than you earn, save and invest
- You are confident in your skills and abilities
- If you fall short, you do not beat yourself up over it
- You take personal responsibility for everything in your life
- You are the manager of your emotional state
- You readjust and reaffirm the best things in life the best you can considering the current circumstances (which could be dire)
- You do not allow your appearance, circumstances, status, social interactions, wealth or relationships to dictate your emotional state
- Nor do you rely on addictive behaviors to affect your state of being
These are the goals to set and achieve as you build self esteem, and as you practice these attributes they will become more and more a part of who you are. You will fall in love with the magnificent person you are – and always have been – and enjoy the presence of the person reflected in your mirror.
You are amazing!