title:What Creates Self-Esteem?
author:Margaret Paul, Ph.D.
We all want to feel good about ourselves but many of us go about this in the ways that will never create self-esteem.
Do you believe that you will have high self-esteem when:
You make a lot of money?
You achieve a high position in your work?
You have an expensive car or an expensive home?
You are famous?
You find the right relationship?
You receive approval from the important people in your life?
While all of these can result in momentary good feelings, none of them create a deep and abiding sense of self-esteem.
Self-esteem actually has nothing to do with your achievements or with other people. Self-esteem results from two things regarding your inner relationship with yourself:
How you see yourself
How you treat yourself
Richard, a client of mine, is a very successful businessman. He is wealthy, lives is a big house, has expensive cars, a lovely wife and three children. But Richard consulted with me because of his low self-esteem. He was perplexed that he continued to feel so inadequate in spite of all that he had achieved and all that he had.
As we worked together, it became apparent that, no matter what the outer truth was, Richard continued to see himself as the inadequate child his father told him he was. His inner dialogue was often self-critical, just as his father had been with him. And not only did Richard constantly judge himself as his father had judged him, he treated himself as his father had treated him ignoring his own feelings and needs. As a result, Richard was always looking to others for the attention and approval that he didn’t receive from his father and was not giving to himself. Instead of being a loving parent to the child within him, he was a harsh and inattentive inner parent.
Jackie, another client of mine, is a very successful actress. Yet fame and fortune have not given her self-esteem. No matter how many people tell her how beautiful and talented she is, she still feels inadequate and insecure most of the time. This is because, on the inner level, Jackie is constantly telling herself that she is stupid. “How could I have made that stupid remark!” “How could I have acted so stupid?” Mirroring her mother’s own self-judgments and her judgments toward Jackie, she is constantly putting herself down. Until Jackie learns to see herself through eyes of truth rather than eyes of judgment, she will continue to feel inadequate and insecure.
It might make it easier to see how you create your own high or low self-esteem if you think of your feeling self as a child within. No matter how much you achieve or how much approval you get from others, if you are treating your inner child badly by ignoring your feelings and judging yourself – you will continue to feel inadequate. If you continue to see yourself through the distorted eyes of your parents, siblings, peers or teachers, and continue to treat yourself the way they treated you or the way they treated themselves, you will continue to have low self-esteem. If you open to seeing the truth of who you really are a beautiful divine soul who just wants to love then you will treat yourself as you would treat anyone whom you saw as a beautiful divine soul. When you take loving action in your own behalf, you will feel valued rather than inadequate. Loving actions might include:
Speaking up for yourself with others and telling your truth without blame or judgment in conflict situations.
Taking care of your body through eating well, getting enough exercise, enough sleep, and so on.
Creating a balance between work, rest, play and creative time.
Treating yourself and others with respect and compassion rather than with judgment.
Attending to – rather than ignoring – your own feelings and needs.
Taking the time to pray and meditate.
Choosing to notice your thoughts and practicing inner self-discipline regarding your thoughts.
When taking loving action in your own behalf replaces your inattentive and judgmental behavior toward yourself, you will feel high self-esteem.