Self-Esteem

The Art of Loving Yourself

woman posing on pier
Photo by Allison Shannon

This is such an important topic as it underscores and affects almost everything we do in our lives. It colors our relationships with others and ourselves, the type of work we do or don’t do, how we dress, our health and so on. Why should we work on our self-esteem? Because life is so much happier, easier, more comfortable, and we attract more positive people and opportunities into our lives when we have high self-esteem.

“Esteem” is derived from the Latin aestimare, meaning “to appraise, value, rate, weigh, estimate. “Self-esteem” is the value we place on ourselves. It took me a long time to know what it felt like to love myself.

In high school, I was fascinated by a girl who had amazing self-esteem. It amazed me because she didn’t seem to have or care about all of the things I’d thought were necessary in order for me to think highly of myself. She was “too” thin; goofy-looking; wore an odd, unfashionable, page-boy haircut; dressed in bohemian, second-hand clothes; wasn’t good at sport, and wasn’t academically outstanding. However, she was always grinning and full of energy, everyone liked her and nothing bothered her. She had no qualms about voicing her strong opinions in class or when among her peers, and she did so regularly. She wasn’t into self-aggrandizement (no “It’s All About Me” T-shirts). She was honest and direct and it was clear that she cared about what she believed to be “right.” The girl had solid self-esteem.

I, on the other hand, had good self-confidence but not great self-esteem. I was top of my class in English, French, Art, and for a while, Math. I was an athlete who continually won various sports competitions and appeared almost weekly in the school newspaper. So, I had the confidence to achieve goals and get awards and put myself “out there”…but deep down, I felt that I wasn’t as worthy as other people. This meant I tried too hard at times to be funny, or charming, or attractive. I agonized over things I’d said to a pretty, popular girl that I wanted to like me or a boy that I was keen on. I dated boys just because they liked me as I was too scared to approach the one I was really attracted to. I thought he was “too good” for me. Whatever that means!

Low self-esteem isn’t always visible on the outside, but eventually, it shows up there because the choices we make and things we do, all come from the inside. We sabotage ourselves. Our inner thoughts and values become manifested in the outer world, our life as it is, is a reflection of what we think of ourselves. Low self-esteem or high self-esteem shape our lives and affect our happiness.

Low self-esteem leads you to make apologies to people as to why you want what you want or are making the choice you are making. You try to give them reasons that you think they will approve of, or that shows that you’re thinking of their or other people’s interests first. Why? Why isn’t saying what you want to do (when it’s hurting no one), simply enough? It’s because subconsciously you believe that they don’t value your wants or needs…and you could be right! It could also be that you feel a need to please them in order to be loved. The more pertinent truth is that you don’t value your wants or needs! And you feel that love is fragile and conditional. But real love isn’t…

How you got to lack in self-esteem isn’t as important as recognizing that you have it, and doing something about it!

The danger with low self-esteem is that not only does it cause you to lead an unfulfilling life, but also, it can lead to chronic depression and suicidal thoughts. Don’t let this happen!

Note: If you or anyone you know feels depressed often or for periods longer than a few days, contact a helpline in your country or local area. Please don’t wait. We all need extra help at times 🙂

LOW SELF-ESTEEM MANIFESTATIONS:

  • Low self-esteem means that we doubt our choices and look to others to copy theirs.
  • Low self-esteem means we’re afraid to say “No” if we sense it might displease another person.
  • Low self-esteem makes us say “Yes” to things that we don’t really want. For example, less pay than we deserve, or a job we don’t like.
  • Low self-esteem makes us stay in unhealthy relationships because we think no one else will want us or we won’t find someone “better”. However, what we need to do is to love ourselves enough to know that we deserve real love and care from another.
  • Low self-esteem makes us avoid the gym/beach/pool until we’ve lost those few extra pounds. And it’s been years…
  • Low self-esteem makes you defiantly separate yourself from others while justifying to yourself “I’m different,” “No one understands me,” or you simply fear rejection so reject others first. The truth is: we are all different because we are unique, but we also have way more in common than you might think and there is always someone who will “get” you. You just have to reach out!
  • There are endless examples of low self-esteem, but if any of the above have a touch of the familiar to you, the good news is that you can improve your self-esteem!

IMPROVING SELF-ESTEEM

  1. Recognize that you have it and decide to improve it.
  2. Understand that you are loved and lovable. As lovable as any human. The truth is: we are all different because we are unique, but we also have way more in common than you might think. High self-esteem is valuing yourself enough to not do what you really don’t want to do. Take a minute, think of even one person in your life who has shown you love… How did you feel? Well, that feeling of love is generated from within you. Others can be a catalyst but you can also feel it for others and yourself. It’s true: You can love yourself. It may take practice, but look in a mirror and see not just your face without judgment, but see that light in your eyes, your soul shining from within. That soul comes from love, feels love and gives love. That is you.
  3. Find a method of tuning into the well of peace within you. I prefer meditation that focuses on the life force energy within, rather than only listening to nature sounds, other outside influences, or chanting. This will help you connect with an incredible power source within. It is also the source of love. Done daily, it will fortify you from the inside and you can get a greater sense of the real and precious you that is beyond your physical being. Really. It is a seemingly subtle but over time, life-changing experience.
  4. Reach out and give to others. You can help by listening to people, offering help with simple things and/or volunteering. You will feel your value even more. You will be appreciated by others, and come to appreciate yourself. When we focus too much on ourselves (aka “navel gazing”) we miss out on the joy of openly connecting with others. Forgetting about yourself for a minute, actually helps you enjoy life!
  5. Gratitude is powerful. You may have heard this before: be grateful! Yes, it helps! You will see the cup as half-full and not half-empty, which in turn gives you a happiness boost and can fuel you onwards as you make other postitive changes… Make a list of all of the things that benefit you in your life – the things that you would miss if they weren’t there – and as you look at each item on your list, say “Thank you.” This thanks can be to yourself for things you’ve acquired or achieved and it can be thanks to others or the universe or greater power from which these things are made manifest in your experience of life. We can all be grateful no matter our circumstances. We have the gift of life – which holds incredible opportunity each minute, each hour of every day.
sunset beach people sunrise
Photo by Jill Wellington

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