One of the subjects that frequently gets brought up in therapy is self-esteem. What is it? Where does it come from? Why do some people have oodles of it while others can’t seem to find it at all?
The truth is, we’re all a product of our own circumstance. We come into this world the centre of the universe. We’re not born with self-esteem, our lives and the people who are in it help us to form that self-esteem, or keep us from forming our self-esteem over the span of our lives.
It’s important to note that self-esteem doesn’t look the same for everyone. There’s a preconceived notion that if you have something sought-after, or are someone of importance, you ultimately have high self-esteem because, how else would you have gotten to that place? This is simply not the case. You can be the Star Quarterback of the Chicago Bears and still feel insecure each time you step off that field and take off that gear. You can be the most successful Doctor in your industry, saving lives each and every day whilst feeling as though you cannot save your own from your insecurities. There is a lot of grey area when it comes to self-esteem. The world is not so black and white.
The following was not written by me. It was provided to me as homework to complete by my Therapist, who has given me permission to share.
The ESSENTIALS OF SELF-ESTEEM
Significance: We need to feel we matter and that we are important. We need to feel that we are making a significant contribution to whatever sphere we find ourselves in, be it family, our job, our friends or our recreational pursuits.
Competence: Competence means believing we can make things happen and can master our environment. Remember – if you think you can, you will. If you think you can’t, you won’t.
Connectedness balanced by separation: We need to maintain balance in our lives whereby we keep our individuality and at the same time we have feelings of belonging. We can’t feel good about ourselves if we are cut off and alienated from everything. On the other hand, we can’t feel good if we’re absorbed into another’s identity.
Realism: We must be realistic – no one is perfect. We all have flaws. Self-esteem is focusing on the positives while recognizing that we do still have problems. Remember to set realistic goals and believe in your ability to handle whatever difficulties you may cross.
Ethics and values: We need to develop a clear sense of what is right and what is wrong. As we are all individuals, this will vary. The important thing is that we are comfortable with the understanding that everyone is entitled to their own core set of ethics and values.
Lifetime Process: Virtually all of us, to some degree, have problems with our self-esteem. As adults it is possible to overcome these problems but we need to have a belief that we can do so.
In summation: if we lack significance, we can seek affection. If we lack competence, we can increase our skills and take pride in our efforts. If we lack a sense of connectedness we can reach out to others. If we lack a sense of individuality, we can discover more about ourselves. If we lack values we can see what is important to ourselves.
It’s important to note that if we lack self-esteem, that can always be fixed. As humans we’re constantly changing and evolving, and if we make a conscious effort to improve our self-esteem, things can and will get better. Things won’t just magically happen, though. The work needs to be put forth for anything to change.
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