So, just what is self esteem? It's an internal decision to like oneself.
There are two separations for esteem: the "self esteem," which is internal, and the "esteem," which is external.
SELF ESTEEM - INTERNAL
1. FEELING: I can't tell you that I like me "because..." – only that I like me. I like myself, mistakes and all! I give myself the gift of self esteem because without it, everything else is really basic. You make a decision to like yourself – or not. If you don't decide to like "you" then you end up playing "games" with yourself and with others.
2. DECISION: I have to decide that I am okay. The lesson? LOVE THE PERSON – and if you have to hate something, HATE THE BEHAVIOR! For example, if you happen to be an alcoholic and you do something stupid during the day, you can say to yourself, "I like me today – I don't have to like my behavior." Take one day at a time, make healthy decisions and then remember those healthy decisions. "Today I didn't drink, I didn't play games, I didn't hit anyone (etc.)." You might also remember and say to yourself positive things like, "I did go to work, I did treat my boss with respect (etc.)." After about 21 days of doing this (with your reasons), you will usually start feeling better. You can begin to love yourself for who you are. You can love yourself because of the CONTENTS, not the PACKAGE. A package can be wrapped with really pretty paper, ribbon, etc. It can be the most beautiful package you could ever see – however, if it has no content, then it's not worth much, is it?
In other words, LOVE THE SINNER – HATE THE SIN! You can have a belief system of what nice/bad people do. If you think you are okay, you are (or will become) okay!
ESTEEM - EXTERNAL
1. WHAT DO OTHERS THINK OF ME? You get stuck on what OTHERS think of you. We can spend an entire lifetime trying to get someone else to like us. We can dance and parade around like a trained bear. We can keep whittling on "the self," giving parts and pieces of "the self" to others until we can lose "the self." There will come a time in each person's life when it becomes quiet and the question emerges, "Who am I?"
For example, another person can tell you that you stink so he can sell you deodorant – but that person has to sell you on the idea that you stink before you will buy the deodorant. If you believe that you stink (even when you don't), then you feel like you must do something – anything – to alleviate that stink. Just how much energy do you want to spend trying to get others to like you? How long before you lose yourself? A person can spend their entire lifetime on diets, hair, nails, face lifts, etc. Isn't that spending too much time on the outside? What about the inside?
If I do/say something OR if I don't do/say something, another person may or may not like you. You may buy expensive things for another person, and that person may still not like you. You may be successful and STILL that person doesn't like you. You do all that you can do FOR ANOTHER PERSON – yet that person doesn't like you. How much time will you spend in your lifetime trying to get love, attention, and perhaps even your own self-worth from another person (mother, father, sister, brother, significant other, child, etc.)?
2. THOUGHT PROCESS – BELIEF SYSTEM: Do you believe you must swallow all your anger, not cry, not show your "soft side," not be masculine or feminine, etc., in order to gain someone else's affection or attention? Do you fear rejection? Will the truth hurt too much? Do you have to "show" others? Do you believe you have to EARN esteem from other people?
Am I a "nice person" because I am a scout master, perhaps even a "saint?" Do you have to always be a "nice person" in order to have other people like you? Do you believe there is a set of rules that say "nice" people do this, "bad" people do that? Do you believe someone is "nice" just because that person didn't beat you up (verbally or physically)?
If you are stuck on ESTEEM, then you probably don't have enough time to do everything. You could be too wrapped up in being a good mother, father, child, friend, etc., or too wrapped up in your kids, your work, your car, etc. – those people or things are your whole value system! If you were to take away your status as a "mother" or "father," for instance, would you still be who you are? If you are out of work, will you still be who you are? Will you be a good person or will you be a bad person if you don't have a really expensive car?
If your value system is wrapped around another person, then that other person can control you. You worry about what that other person is going to think of you (versus what YOU think about yourself). You may feel like a puppet. Does another person have control of the strings, making you dance? Could you spend 40 or more years trying to get Dad or Mom or anyone else to love you? What could you DO (perform) to make him or her love you? What if you NEVER got his or her approval?
MAKE THE DECISION THAT YOU ARE OKAY TODAY AND THAT YOU LIKE YOURSELF TODAY. No one else has to like you in order that you like yourself!
Yes, there are rules of society. No, one shouldn't kill another person, etc. KNOW that if you are doing the best that you can (with the knowledge that you now have), and you are not harming yourself or anyone else, that you are okay. KNOW that if you are continuing your education (through school, classes, books, etc.), trying to improve yourself because you want to do so, not because someone else thinks you should, you are okay. KNOW that the Creator does not make "junk" – you are a priceless, precious work in progress!
KNOW that you will make mistakes. KNOW that you are human. Perhaps you have shattered some of your (or your parents') belief systems. Do you allow that mistake to become a life sentence? How long must one pay before one is able to get on with life? Forgiveness is a very valuable tool.
Take, for example, a young boy who is barely a teenager and who has a B+ average in school (because he wants to please his parents and loves them very much). One night he goes out with some friends who decide to drink. This young boy gets drunk with his friends, loses his inhibitions and steals a car. His very strict, religious parents are devastated! He feels like a really bad person when he sobers up and realizes what he has done. He faces the judge and pays the fine by mowing lawns. He goes through his probation and does nothing more to "screw up." However, his parents continually remind him of his transgressions. He starts believing he is a failure as a son, even as a person, and that he will never succeed in being "good." He wonders if his parents (or God) will ever forgive him. He asks his parents for their forgiveness, but they say they can never forgive him, that he has disgraced their good name. They don't tell him that he is doing better. They stop hugging him and telling him that they love him. He begins to believe he is unlovable, unworthy, and perhaps shouldn't even be alive. Can you guess what will probably happen to this child?
Now, the same scenario as above, with everything the same until we get to the part after the probation. In this different, more healthy scenario, his parents tell him that is doing well, that they appreciate his efforts and that they are proud of the way he took responsibility for himself after he made those mistakes. They tell him they forgive him for drinking and for stealing the car and that they know he will never do anything like again because he has learned. They hug him and tell him that they love him. Perhaps this young boy can now forgive himself (necessary) because his parents have forgiven him. If his parents have forgiven him, then God probably will, too. Perhaps he also feels hope for his future because he knows he is loved and accepted for who he is. What will probably happen to this child?
I'm beginning to believe that we are all "children!" We are all constantly learning and growing! Some people learn things at age forty that they should have learned at age five! At least they finally learned!
Are you a guilt-based personality or a shame-based personality? In the first scenario, that young child became a shame-based personality. In other words, he BECAME HIS MISTAKE. He was, in his parents' eyes and his own eyes, a drunkard and a thief.
In the more healthy scenario, he became a guilt-based personality. In other words, he KNOWS HE IS HUMAN AND WILL MAKE MISTAKES. He also KNOWS HE CAN LEARN FROM THESE MISTAKES AND NOT ALLOW THEM TO HAPPEN AGAIN.
To learn these things is powerful:
You can never tell what your THOUGHTS will do In bringing hate or love; For THOUGHTS ARE THINGS, and their airy wings Are swifter than carrier doves. They follow the law of the universe, --EACH THING MUST CREATE ITS KIND: And they speed o'er the track to bring you back Whatever went out from your mind.
TO THINE OWN SELF BE TRUE, AND IT MUST FOLLOW, AS THE NIGHT THE DAY, THOU CANST NOT THEN BE FALSE TO ANY MAN.
SELF ESTEEM IS A GIFT THAT YOU GIVE TO YOUR "SELF"
*Recreated from notes taken during lectures at various hospitals, and at the YWCA, etc., including classes given by Jim Osborn, a great teacher