We read a lot about self esteem these days and many people struggle with it on a daily basis. They don’t like to see themselves in a mirror, have little self confidence, and dream about being someone else. The media is quick to point out that we need to be a tiny size, dress this way for success, use this product to look better, act this way to be popular and on and on. Most of us can’t meet their standards no matter how hard we try. And their standards keep changing so it’s hard to keep up (or buy enough stuff fast enough).
There are a lot of articles and books written about how you build good self esteem. Some have you saying a lot of affirmation, and some have you looking in the mirror a lot and telling yourself, “I love you just the way you are.” Some have you doing different exercises daily. And these are all good.
The “Father of the Self Esteem Movement, ” Nathaniel Brandon said there are six pillars of self esteem:
- Living consciously
- Self acceptance
- Self responsibility
- Self assertiveness
- Living purposefully
- Personal integrity
Think about each one of those reflectively. Ask yourself questions about each one: Do I live consciously or am I zoned out most of the time? Do I accept myself as I am right now – “warts and all?” Do I take responsibility for my own growth personally and professionally or do I expect someone else to tell me how to be and do? Do I speak up for myself when I need to? Do I know where I want to go in life and have a plan on how to get there? Can other people trust me and do I trust myself? You don’t have to dwell too long on each question before you have a pretty clear answer.
“But, if I accept myself,” you ask, “why do I need to be concerned about self improvement?” Because it’s our nature to want to do better, be better, know more, pursue happiness. It’s part of the journey called, “Life.” Because we want to improve in an area doesn’t mean that we don’t find ourselves quite acceptable. Why does a billionaire want more money? He’s rich but he wants to be richer. We’re great just the way we are but we want to be greater. O.K.?
One of the questions I ask my clients who want to work on self esteem issues is, “Do you know what you believe that someone didn’t tell you you MUST believe?” I almost always see that deer in the headlights look that tells me thy don’t have a clue. Most of us learned what we are supposed to believe from our parents, teachers, siblings and best friends. For example, we accepted our parent’s religion and may never have give a thought to what they really believe. The whole family as far back as we can remember was that religion and we were expected to follow suit. Our ancestors were Republicans or Democrats and God help us if we registered with the other party. We don’t know what they stand for really, but we aren’t going to change. You know what I mean. Access to wide areas of information was not readily available to us and we simply accepted what we were taught.
But times have changed and we have access to information about every facet of every issue and, while we generally don’t learn critical thinking in school, we are able to think for ourselves. When you have a solid foundation in your own personal beliefs it’s much easier to accept your uniqueness, like who you are and speak up for yourself. An old friend used to say, “If you don’t know what you stand for, you’ll fall for anything.” That applies in the area of self esteem as well. When you know what you really believe about the important areas of life, it’s easier to stand firm when you self esteem is attacked.
Establishing your personal set of beliefs takes time, study and reflection. It isn’t carved in stone and changes as you learn more and gain new insights. But it gives you a sense of freedom that nothing else can and you will find that as you developed it and became more confident in your own ability to set your own standards, something interesting happened to your self esteem.
Irene Conlan has a master's degree in nursing, with a major in nursing administration and a minor in psychiatric nursing. She taught nursing at Arizona State University, served as Director of Nursing Administration at St. Luke's Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix and served as Assistant Director of the Arizona Department of Health Services for the Division of Health Care Facilities and Emergency Medical Services. She is also a certified hypnotherapist with a practice in Scottsdale, AZ. She is an avid blogger and manages http://www.theselfimprovementblog.com http://www.theselfesteemblog.com http://www.thepositivepsychologyblog Irene lives in Scottsdale AZ and has two sons and three grandsons.