To begin with, what is the definition of self-esteem? According to Oxford Advanced Learners Dictionary, self-esteem is defined as a feeling of being happy with your own character and abilities; otherwise called self-worth. Most people’s thoughts and feelings about themselves fluctuate somewhat based on their daily experiences. The grade you get in an exam, how your friends treat you, ups and downs in a romantic relationship, the kind of car you drive, the apartment you live in, the school you attended or currently attend, the organization you work, the designer label you wear (clothes, shoes, bags, jewellery, perfume/cologne, make-up), can all have a temporary impact on how you feel about yourself.
Your self-esteem, however, is something more fundamental than the normal ups and downs associated with situational changes. For people with good self-esteem, normal ups and downs may lead to temporary fluctuations in how they feel about themselves, but only to a limited extent. In contrast, for people with poor self-esteem, these ups and downs drastically impact the way they see themselves. We all experience problems with self-esteem at certain times in our lives, but how we come out of it makes all the difference. Can you handle rejection and criticism in an objective and healthy manner, or does one negative comment completely shatter your self-view?
Healthy self-esteem is based on our ability to assess ourselves accurately and still be accepting of who we are. This means being able to acknowledge our strengths and weaknesses (we all have them) and at the same time recognize that we are worthy and worthwhile because we know that we’re not an accident. God intentionally made us for a purpose. It is very important to know who we are and not allow the society or circumstances define us according to their own criteria which oftentimes do not align with our purpose. We must live free of guilt and condemnation regardless of how ‘negative’ our circumstance or past may appear.
Where Does Self-Esteem Come From?
Our self-esteem evolves throughout our lives as we develop an image of ourselves through our experiences with different people and activities. Experiences during childhood play a particularly large role in the shaping of self-esteem. When we were growing up, our successes, failures, and how we were treated by our family, teachers, mentors, religious authorities, and peers, all contributed to the creation of our self-esteem.
Childhood experiences that contribute to healthy self-esteem include:
• Being listened to
• Being spoken to respectfully
• Getting appropriate attention and affection
• Having accomplishments be recognized and mistakes or failures be acknowledged and accepted
Childhood experiences that may lead to low self-esteem include:
• Being harshly criticized
• Being physically, verbally, sexually, or emotionally abused
• Being ignored, ridiculed, bullied or teased
• Being expected to be perfect all the time. People with low self-esteem were often given messages—from parents, teachers, peers, or others—that failed experiences (losing a game, getting a poor grade, etc.) were failures of their whole self.
Low self-esteem signs include depression, lack of confidence, fear of taking chances, depression, anxiety, obsession with appearance, how to cope with changes. These aren’t flaws; they’re neither inborn nor necessarily permanent. They’re just the outermost layers of inner pain.
1. Indecision. Given our choice of anything—vacation destinations, menu items, careers—we freeze, assuming that whatever we select will result in horrid consequences: falling short, angering, disappointing and/or hurting others or ourselves.
2. Faking it. Afraid and ashamed of exposing our true selves to the world, we hide behind masks, hoping to “pass.” This lends our lives a sense of falsehood, putting us in a perpetual state of performance anxiety.
3. Deflect praise. When praised; we argue, explaining in agonizing detail how and why our praisers are incorrect. Our second impulse is to suspect each compliment of being a sophisticated joke, an insult in disguise.
4. Hyper-vigilance. No gesture, word or blink escapes our raptly terrified attention. We compile it all as evidence that we are failures, disliked and/or doomed. Misinterpretation of every action or word as intended against one’s hurt.
5. Difficulty inhabiting the present moment. Regretting what we’ve done and fearing what we’ll do send us seesawing back and forth between past and future, both of which lead to frustration and pain. Low self-esteem blinds a person from relishing the joy of the moment. Such a person believes there’s always something to be afraid of or something one is not deserving of.
6. Quick to give up. And we give in. Certain that we’re always wrong and will always lose; we never stand up for ourselves. A great scholar once said, ‘winners don’t quit and quitters don’t win, be courageous’. Be ready to go the long haul and don’t forget that quitters never win.
7. Pleading unnecessarily. Believing that we merit no kindness, decency, or respect and that our fates rest in the hands of others who can judge us as harshly as we judge ourselves, we turn even the simplest requests into desperate, self-abasing pleas.
8. Aiming low. Always predicting our own failure, we set low targets for ourselves. This keeps our predicted falls less steep.
9. Chronic comparison. We compare ourselves constantly—and unfairly—to everyone we know, see, or even hear about. Guess who always loses?
Do you recognize some of these habits in yourself or in others? The first step is to accept yourself for who you are. Stop beating yourself up, or belittling yourself. Don’t sell yourself cheap. You are worth much more than you think. Do you realize that you beat over a million spermatozoa to become you? You are already a winner. The fact that you failed before doesn’t make you a failure. You are an extension of the Almighty God who made the entire universe. Celebrate yourself, because what you believe is what you become. You deserve all the good your heart can imagine, so kindly stop under-rating yourself. See yourself through the eyes of love, possibilities, intelligence, creativity, beauty, strength, bravery, high worth, and compassion. You are one in a million. There’s only you, you’re an original and not a fake. Roll out the drums and celebrate yourself. Gladly accept compliments and appreciate them. Quit the harshness and criticism. Enjoy each moment and look forward to the future with great expectation, faith and complete trust in God. He has a glorious future prepared for you. But your attitude determines to a large extent if it will be delivered to you at the set time or not.
One last word, regardless of your past, your future remains a glorious virtue. Go out there, enjoy yourself, have a healthy self-esteem, and make God and all of us proud. You are what God says you are; priceless, beautiful, delectable, strong, apple of God’s Eyes, brilliant, courageous, wise, excellent, inspiring, deserving, dazzling, and distinguished for distinctions.