Throughout this blog it is my passion that my readers feel better about themselves after spending time here. It’s what I care about most, and my best gift to offer you. So, at the risk of seeming simplistic to some I’m going to summarize much of what I have said in this blog in just a few lines.
1) Our self esteem is largely experientially based. If we were treated as valuable by others in our past, and if we have been successful in our social interactions with others along the way, our self esteem will typically be good.
2) Several things can interfere with this. Bad experiences with others are like looking in a mirror and not liking what we see. We assume that the negative responses of others are a reflection of who we are. More often though, a negative response is a reflection of who the other person is, not us. It takes time for us to learn this, especially when we are children without much emotional resilience or expertise in handling social situations.
3) Another thing that can interfere is the complicated fact that we are all made up of “more helpful” and “less helpful” traits. I recently had a client say that he has confidence in his appearance but not in his intelligence. That’s the way it is in life…we all have strengths and weaknesses. Learning to accept and be grateful for both is important. The first informs us that we have something to offer others and gives us confidence. The second reminds us that we need others and provides us with humility. It’s crucial for a good self esteem to work well with both sides of this equation.
4) We can also have physical limitations that are severe, like a congenital illness or bodily difference from our peers. A solid sense of spirituality makes a difference when we might be inclined to slip into hopelessness. Hopelessness is a very dangerous place to be emotionally. It must be addressed actively for life to progress.
5) Other extreme experiences can include childhood traumas such as bullying and sexual abuse, or other more adult traumas such as war and rape, that make us wonder if life itself (or God) thinks we are not valuable enough to be treated well.
6) Whether the challenges happen at birth or at any point in our lives, two things must happen to overcome such experiences. First, we must become clear that suffering is often randomly experienced by people in the world, and the question to ask, if you are going ask one, is not “Why me?”, but “Why anyone?”
Second, we MUST make something out of the experience we have had, or the experience will make something out of us. In fact, every difficult situation in life must be worked with…with the potential benefit that these experiences will take you places and give you gifts that you would not have otherwise. Be aware though, that destructive pride or bitterness will sabotage your progress.
Making something out of an experience often starts by telling your story to others who can understand, and by gaining the love, friendship, and comfort that results. Involvement in workshops or groups designed to deal with these types of issues are a great gift, and should be a part of life for all of us. Who do you know that never goes to a doctor, or a gym, or a health workshop to take care of their body? And when you go to the gym you wear all sorts of clothes that you wouldn’t wear to work or a social event at someones house. Our souls need attention also, and when we go to workshops or therapy we wear (or divulge) all sorts of aspects of ourselves that we would not share at a social occasion. That’s normal! It’s also true that just as many hurts come through unhealthy others, our healing will also come in part through interactions with healthy people at places where talking intimately about oneself is the norm. You must risk being known by others!
7) We must also directly cultivate our own positive opinion of ourselves. It can be helpful to stand in front of a mirror and list the things that you are grateful for about yourself. A friend of mine, during his younger life, was told by a psychiatrist to write down three things each day that he liked about how he acted that day. It changed his life.
8) There are skills to be learned in making these healing experiences happen. There are also technical ways of working with traumatic memories to help make them a thing of the past. A good therapist can help you be effective in your healing and relationships. Find a therapist who is good at helping others. Many in the helping professions will go out of their way to help those who are sincere and passionate about their growth.
It’s not easy
I understand that the ingredients necessary to heal a poor self esteem and develop a good relationship with yourself and others are not always easy to find. I know, because I have spent my fair share of time in life healing the wounds that I have picked up along the way. We are all on a treasure hunt in life, if not simply trying to survive. Work hard and results are likely to follow.
If you haven’t already started, start here as you read these words. I may not know you personally, but I do know that you are gifted, beautiful in a variety of ways, and important to both me and all of us. As people in the world we are a system…the well-being of any of us ultimately relies on the well-being of ALL of us.
If this speaks to you in some way, say something below. Tell a story of success in this journey, or something you are learning. Don’t keep your insights to yourself.
Grateful for you,