“Too many people overvalue what they are not and undervalue what they are.”
– Malcolm S. Forbes
Self-esteem is a completely subjective and wholly personal valuation of one’s own abilities and worth. It’s a personal reality within ourselves in which we determine how much self-respect we deserve – by our own standards.
Self-esteem isn’t static.
Our valuation of our capabilities is continuously ascending and descending along a spectrum of relativity.
Even the people you encounter that seem extremely confident in themselves have moments of doubt and self-pity.
To re-phrase the definition for purposes of clarity.:
Self-esteem is a perpetually changing reality in which we either believe in, or lack belief in how valuable we are.
Self-esteem is an inherently flawed concept.
Because to properly evaluate your own self-worth – to question how valuable you really are, you need to have the ability to view yourself and your capabilities objectively.
Here’s an illustration to vivify the issue: A person who has absolutely nothing in their life besides family and a place to sleep can have an abundance of self-esteem whereas a rocket-scientist who has everything he ever dreamt of could have a very low valuation of themselves.
As an outsider, we’d naturally think that someone who has “accomplished” great feats in their life would hold themselves in considerably high regard.
The reality is that we’re the ones defining what qualities, characteristics and actions are worthy of esteem, which aren’t, and whether or not we’re living up to them.
The difference between my self-esteem and your self-esteem has nothing to do with what each of us has accomplished in our lives.
If I have a positive association with my life and my ability, regardless of what that ability and potential actually is, I have self-esteem.
By contrast, it doesn’t matter whether I’ve cured cancer, made 10 trillion dollars, or created products used by people all around the world. Not at all.
We lack self-esteem because we each subjectively project an image of self-worth that we’re not meeting. In a way we “choose” to create a gap between ourselves and the version of us that would be worthy of esteem.
We don’t realize that self-esteem is a state of mind, and not the consequence of direct actions or accomplishment, so we perpetually distance ourselves from the image we project.
As long as we think we need to be someone we’re not in order to believe in ourselves, and we subjectively believe we don’t have the traits or characteristics that we imagine, we’re creating a gap that we cannot possibly fill.
Low self-esteem has empirically been proven to be correlated with fear of failure, lack of a growth mindset, and a tendency to dramatize and view life events as negative. It’s correlated with making things a bigger deal than they are in reality. High self-esteem on the other hand is empirically linked with an eye towards growth and improvement.
In this way, self-esteem plays a large role not in who we are, but who we’re willing to become based on our views of the world and ourselves.
“Don’t rely on someone else for your happiness and self-worth. Only you can be responsible for that. If you can’t love and respect yourself – no one else will be able to make that happen. Accept who you are – completely; the good and the bad – and make changes as YOU see fit – not because you think someone else wants you to be different.”
– Stacey Charter
The first step to moving towards the confidence end of the spectrum of self-esteem is becoming present to those moments in which you’re unconsciously conditioning your self-esteem on the happening of some event or acquiring of some quality or outcome.
What this means is that you have to become aware of the fact that you are in constant relationship to yourself.
You have no choice but to start seeing the way you talk to yourself in moments you feel a lack of self-esteem. What are you telling yourself?
The goal is to see what you’re “attaching” your own self-worth to, to see just how you’re limiting the way you view yourself.
I work out a lot. For the majority of the year I’m very happy with the way my body looks and it provides me with confidence and is a positive source of self-esteem.
But as a result, I’ve attached a part of my own valuation of myself to the way I subjectively feel my body looks. What happens is that in those times during the year where I can’t get to the gym as often, my valuation of myself diminishes. I find myself more negative in general and feel as if I’m less capable than I usually think I am.
By conditioning my own value on the way I look (remember, this is just one small example), I’m creating a gap between the version of me that deserves a high valuation, and the one that doesn’t.
It’s completely arbitrary.
I combat this self-defeating, unconscious attachment of my worth to my body by seeing how I talk to myself when I feel that my body doesn’t look great. I realize what I’m doing in limiting my positive emotions towards my own confidence, which provides me with the perspective I need to have confidence in myself again.
“You have been criticizing yourself for years, and it hasn’t worked. Try approving of yourself and see what happens.”
– Louise L. Hay
Our self-esteem isn’t only attached to what we subjectively believe is worthy of high regard. It’s also attached to how we subjectively believe others view us.
Internal consideration is a phrase that speaks to the fact that we’re constantly considering internally what we imagine everyone else thinks, has thought, or will think about the person we are.
Although sometimes necessary and natural, inner consideration of what we imagine other people think of our qualities, characteristics and actions is one of the easiest ways to lose confidence in ourselves. When we attach or condition our self-worth to what we “imagine” others think, we’re creating naturally destructive barrier to having confidence.
More often than not, we’re not merely curious what other people think.
We worry about it.
We fear it.
We tell ourselves that we’re not living up to whatever we imagine we need others to think of us in order to feel confident.
It’s one of the major causes of self-defeating thoughts that end up in a lower valuation of ourselves.
“The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity and an understanding of life that fills them with compassions, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.”
– Elizabeth Kubler-Ross
Life is a process.
It’s a process that proceeds externally in the things we do, and internally in the way we’re experiencing it. Every moment we exist on this planet we’re in relationship to the outside world, but more importantly, in relationship to ourselves.
The difference in the experience of life between me, you, or anyone else living in this world is our internal reality in response to the events that are happening.
The events happening in each of our lives aren’t important. What’s important is the VALUE OF OUR EXPERIENCE. Value of experience defines the quality of our lives.
Low self-esteem, which results through conditioning our own value on outside events or people is an internal experience we all deal with.
But the beauty of life is that we each have an opportunity to grow and gain confidence through simply seeing what we condition our own confidence on.
Everything you feel is there for a reason. But don’t think for even one second that you “are” or “aren’t” what you feel. Our sense of reality changes, and our job is to allow it to move in positive direction rather than a self-defeating one.
If you can catch the way you talk to yourself and really see the fact that you don’t enjoy feeling pity or feeling like you’re internally weak, you can learn to foster the growth and confidence you crave without changing the way you operate in the world.
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