WHAT IS IT?
When you ask psychologists and sociologists what self-esteem means, they use a lot of other words and phrases to describe it. It takes them a very long time to explain it. The term and its meaning has been debated for over a hundred years, starting with the philosopher William James in the late 19th century. The presence or absence of self-esteem has no way of being determined objectively; i.e., no blood test. Regardless, we all want to like ourselves and be liked by others. We want to feel that we can influence what happens when we put effort into something, we want to feel personal worth and value, have an identity that we can be proud of.
IT’S A CIRCULAR ACHIEVEMENT
My approach to helping people accomplish the above is based on the belief that we like ourselves best when we become acquainted with our strengths and with our weaknesses, acknowledge and accept them, and then make the effort to maximize the strengths and minimize the weaknesses. Achieving maximum strength and minimum weakness, however, is not required to like ourselves. How would anyone know if they did? When we acknowledge and accept our strengths and limitations, have realistic expectations, and make consistent effort to develop and improve, we like ourselves, and others like us. If we don’t improve enough, we try again. But our expectations have to be realistic. Liking ourselves, and having others like us, is all in the accepting, the trying, and the the doing it again. One self-esteem expert has said, “If we develop properly, we transfer the source of approval from the world to ourselves; we shift from the external to the internal.” We can certainly make that shift from the external to the internal when we know and accept our strengths and limitations, try to improve ourselves, then do it again. That’s when we discover self-worth, self-confidence, and self-respect. That’s when we like ourselves. It’s about accepting, trying, doing it again – a circular process that does not have an end point.
Some of the symptoms that are typically associated with a lack of self-worth, lack of self-confidence, and lack of self-respect are listed below. This list is not comprehensive, nor is it definitive, but it may give you a sense of whether you are dealing with this issue. Do you identify with any of the symptoms below? Are there other symptoms not listed? Are they keeping you from becoming the person you want to become?
- You feel that you are inadequate
- You worry about not fitting in.
- You fear standing up for yourself, stating your opinion
- You fear that you will upset someone if you are honest with them
- You depend on the approval of others
- You get angry, defensive, sarcastic, rude, and even violent
- You attempt to manipulate
- You feel resentful towards others who seem to be taking advantage of you
- You insinuate, are vague, non-committal
- You habitually procrastinate
- You fear not being good enough, smart enough, pretty enough, thing enough, etc.
- You are unhappy but remain in unsatisfying or abusive relationships
- You remain in unrewarding jobs
- You give up on your dreams
- You float through life for fear that trying to change things will result in failure
- You have obsessive and addictive behaviors
- You spend time doing things that validate you, but avoid doing things you need to do
- You fear trying
- You achieve less than you are capable of to insure you won’t fail
- Doing more than you should to prove yourself good enough