In my last post, we defined self esteem as valuing ourselves in spite of our humanity. In light of this definition, it isn’t possible to either have high or low self esteem; it is only possible to either have self esteem or not to have it.
So, if we either have self esteem or we don’t, how do we ensure we always have it? Matthew McKay, author of Self-Esteem, says we can’t always have self esteem. Questioning our value is a natural consequence of our own consciousness. It’s the human condition. Some days we may lose connection to our sense of self worth. This disconnect could be triggered by something in our environment like not getting the client or gaining 10 pounds.
Let’s face it. As human beings, none of us will ever reach perfection. We can try our entire lives. We can become a slave of trying to become better, to climbing the ladder to success. We can even come close to reaching the top rung by improving year after year at being a better human being, but we will never reach perfection. On occasion we are still going to make typos, double-book, oversleep or snap at a colleague. No matter how hard we try to escape it, we still need to face our humanity full on.
We are going to have to learn to love and accept ourselves just the way we are. We need to let go of the critical view we take with ourselves and learn to view our humanity with compassion and be grateful for who we are. We can learn to have respect for our story and the strength of the person who has lived it.
Pia says if we make perfection the norm, we will become allergic to ourselves. Either we will live in a constant state of rejection, or we will begin to direct the problem onto someone else. We will begin to blame, keep score or project our problems onto others so we can live in an illusion that we are “right”. We will make everyone else wrong, so we can be perfect.
So what do we do? How do we value ourselves? How do we create self esteem?
The answer is surprising. There is nothing to do.
Our value is in our humanity. When we were born, we were born with value. Period.
It is so important to realize and genuinely believe our value does not come from what we accomplish or how people treat us. Our value comes from the fact that we are not what we do. Self esteem is not earned; it simply is. You have value. You do not have to do something to become valuable - to become worthy of love. The only thing we really ever HAVE to do is accept this fact and feel it.
Let’s talk about the benefits of self esteem.
Perhaps the very first is that we don’t “wobble”. Because self esteem is not based on actions or comparison, we do not have to live in a constant state of anxiety wondering whether we are “good enough” today. Yes, there will be days and times we will doubt our value; but we do not fix this situation by doing or comparing. We “fix” it by being—by remembering and grounding ourselves in our own inherent value.
Another major benefit of self esteem is we begin to practice a high level of self-care. We begin to give ourselves what we really need instead of what we want - those short term fixes. We begin to realize we are worth going the extra mile for. This can include decisions to exercise, make healthier food choices or take a much needed vacation. Pia gives the example of coming home dog-tired, but still choosing to take a shower before going to bed. When she makes this decision, she knows she can sleep better even though she loses a few minutes of sleep. Self esteem helps us make decisions which demonstrate we deeply value ourselves. We choose what will serve our overall needs in the long term, not opting for a short-term fix.
In the next article, we are going to begin discussing some practical ways to ground ourselves in the value of our humanity, so we can reap the rewards of having healthy self esteem.
Does your self esteem wobble? How do you see yourself benefiting from healthy self esteem?