Before we consider how to build self esteem let's briefly consider what we mean by self esteem and be clear about the difference between self esteem and self confidence.
Self confidence is based on ability.
Your self confidence is all about your level of trust, faith and belief in your abilities [your power] and capabilities [your potential].
Self Esteem Definition
Self esteem is based on value.
Thus self esteem equates with self
worth and self respect. Your self esteem is grounded in how you value
and respect yourself.
In my early life and until my early twenties I suffered from a deep inferiority complex and low self esteem.
Forty years later and, said in sincerity and with humility, I have a very healthy positive sense of self esteem. In fact until I came to write this article self esteem has not been on my radar for a long time. Why? Because it's not an issue for me any longer.
This is often the case, people with a healthy, positive sense of self esteem just don't think about it. Conversely, those who do think about it, and have interest in articles like this which seek to address the "How to build self esteem?" question tend to have a lower sense of self esteem.
"OK well very good for you!" I hear you shout, "...so what's the secret - what have you learned during that forty years that makes you now so complacent?"
Firstly, there was no sudden "come to Jesus moment" no damascene transformation like when Joliet in The Blues Brothers saw the light.
This was a gradual process that developed progressively over time.
I realised very early on that the bed rock foundation of how to build self esteem is values based and these were my key themes:
If I don't take care of me then who else will!
I realised that people took me at my own self value.
So when I first got into all this, when I was about aged 19 and at college, I realised rapidly that my sense of inferiority and poor self-esteem was reflected back to me in the way other people treated me.
I felt inferior - so people treated me as inferior.
But as soon as I made small positive changes to how I felt about myself I noticed that people responded to me more positively.
How did I do this? I know it sounds cliched, but I faked it to make it. I undertook an informal inventory of myself to see what [if anything] people did seem to like about me and respond positively to - and I noticed a few small glimpses of things that I sensed I could build on.
Faking it to make it
I had so little confidence or belief in myself that I created a persona, a new identity that I acted out and I called him Isaac, which was the nick-name I gave myself.
This seemed to get a good response so I decided to stand for election to the Students Union as Treasurer and campaigned as Isaac.
This persona Isaac was loud, brash, funny and self confident and it seemed to work because Isaac got himself elected as Treasurer.
It was fun and
interesting to act out this role, but deep inside I was still
desperately insecure and lacking in self worth.
Developing this early success I then took responsibility for organising all the rock concerts at the college and for hiring the bands and people who ran the bars. This put me in a very prominent role and I had an amazing time and a fantastic social life.
What a transformation! I had the time of my life as Isaac. However, inside, the "real me", Stephen, was still lacking in self confidence but at last I found a way forward and something to build upon.
The next challenge
was how to drop Isaac and for Stephen to be that self confident,
socially successful man...but that's beyond the scope of this article and a
story for another day.
If I knew how little other people were thinking about me, I wouldn't give a toss what other people were thinking about me!
In common with most other people I used to be so anxious about what other people thought of me.
It came as a great relief when I eventually came to realise the truth that nobody spends much time thinking about what everyone else is doing. Why? Because we are all far too busy thinking about ourselves!
That may sound cynical and negative, but actually it is very comforting and very liberating to know this.
I dropped the comparison game. Behind closed doors everyone carries a dark secret or a deep sadness - everyone suffers...no-one has the perfect life!
For years I used to beat myself up by making comparisons with other people who I knew and who seemed to have such a better life than me.
with bigger houses, more money, and generally a lot more successful
than me. People who lived trouble-free, happy, wonderful lives...unlike
Then over the years, as I observed how things played out for these people over longer periods of time [maybe over 10 years or 20 years], from time to time circumstances changed and allowed me an insight into these "lucky" people's lives.
What did I find? Broken, unhappy marriages, fractured relationships with children, financial trauma and bankruptcy, alcohol and other related problems, despair and silent desperation.
All of this well concealed until eventually one day the masks slipped, the curtains twitched, and I got that "peep behind the scenes"...
I just do it! The more you do the more you can do.
I have found that life experiences and continous learning - meeting, working with and socialising with people from many different backgrounds [classes, ethnicities and cultures] travelling to and working in different countries - all these things strengthen my self esteem.
I recall the empowering impact in my business career of realising that even though I was surrounded by highly intelligent and far more technically competent people than me, that I had my own special gifts for seeing the bigger picture, being able to join up the dots and interpret the vision in such a way that "the troops" could execute it.
Then the discovery that I could "kick ass" and get things done that others said couldn't be done.
All of these experiences built and strengthened my self esteem.
I now accept that it's not all quite as real as it seems!
the time everything seems so real, so wonderful, so dramatic, so
traumatic, so mundane and all so very real with all its technicolour, roller coaster ups and downs... but, with the passage of time,
impermanence shows it ugly face and the dawning of the realisation that it's
not all quite as real as it seems!
Maybe it's because I am older now, or maybe its the after effects of taking the red pill, but there came a point when I realised that just about everything I thought was important and that mattered so much to me... ultimately... and with the passage of enough time... and with enough internal distance... just fades away... like a dream.
My values base has changed and become more spiritual.
The boundaries between the "outer" world and the "inner" world blur and merge.
Self esteem becomes grounded in things beyond the ego, on values based on integrity and other personally significant values.
My current values, and the current basis for my self-esteem can be summarised as:
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