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What is Self-Esteem?
Before we can talk about raising your self-esteem, we must understand what it is and how it relates to our mental health. The combination of the two words self and esteem means - how do we regard our self. This immediately brings up two more questions. What is our self? By what means do we measure our self?
Our self is the whole of who we are. It is the sum of our past memories and our future dreams. We all want to be happy. We all have dreams that we want experience in this life. This leads to a pair of self-esteem needs. The first is feeling that we have the right to be happy and to fulfill our dreams. The second is believing that we are capable.
This means that there are two major ways that we can end up with low self-esteem. Having low self-esteem due to one of these is bad enough. If we are suffering from both, then it can be a total disaster in our life.
The first way is if we feel that we are not worthy of being happy. This can be due to religious indoctrination or social pressure. Either one results in guilt for having or attaining a desired goal. If we believe that we are unworthy of meeting our goals, this will also result in depression. The more unworthy we believe that we are, then the worse and more chronic the depression.
The second way is if we feel that we are incapable of reaching our goal. We may not feel that we have the resources, courage, skills, ability, health, or time to attain something we desire. This can result in depression too, but the depression won't be nearly as bad and chronic as the depression that results from feeling unworthy of our goals. The reason for this is that we tend to match our goals with our abilities over time. We may feel depressed for a time when we feel a goal is completely out of our reach, but we will eventually set our hopes on a new goal.
To build a healthy self-esteem requires the development of 3 pillars. These 3 pillars are as follows: Love Thyself, Trust Thyself, Challenge Thyself
Self-Esteem - Love Thyself
Do you deserve to be happy? Do you deserve to achieve your dreams? If you feel the answer is no, then you will have a major problem. Anybody who does not feel that you deserve to be happy or achieve your dreams does not love you.
Ultimately, each and every one of us is alone in the world. Only you know yourself completely and so the first person you need to love is yourself. You deserve to love yourself. You deserve to be happy. You deserve to go after and if possible then to achieve your dreams.
Some people will accuse me of promoting narcissism. A narcissistic person has a fragile ego and is easily threatened by what other people think of him or her. A person with healthy self-esteem is not perturbed by what other people think or say.
Also, you may have a dream that is dangerous or self-destructive. Some people may say that you don't have a right to these things. It is not up to those people to decide what risks you are willing to take. For example, maybe you want to smoke opium or climb a dangerous mountain. It is up to you to decide when and how much. Contrary to the beliefs of most governments, it is your body and your mind. If your country has laws against chasing or achieving your dream, then you need to go and find a country that will allow it. I personally believe that anybody with healthy self-esteem will eventually correct or heavily moderate any self-destructive behavior.
If you have a problem with believing in your right to happiness, then you need to repeat these mantras to yourself several times a day until you believe them.
I love myself. I deserve to be happy. I have the right to chase after my dreams.
Self-Esteem - Trust Thyself
The core element in trusting yourself is to think for yourself and to have trust in your own decisions. You need to believe in the efficacy of your own thinking. It is best to take as little as possible on faith. Now there will be times that you need to listen or evaluate what someone else is saying. It is impossible to learn and understand every sphere of knowledge. When that happens, you still need to use your best judgment though. For instance, if you feel your doctor is dismissing your concerns over a new or strange lump in your body, then you have the right to decide if you want to go see another doctor.
When you start thinking for yourself, you will make mistakes. But these will be mistakes that you can correct. Your thinking will slowly improve. You will start trusting in the efficacy of your own mind. You will also become much more resistant to anxiety, unknown terrors, and panic attacks.
Self-Esteem - Challenge Thyself
The last pillar to self-esteem is attempting challenges that you are not sure you can succeed at, especially those that you attempt alone. It is these battles that build up your self-esteem during the struggle. And this is usually true whether you succeed or not. The man who tries to climb a mountain and fails a hundred feet short of the top knows much more about facing adversity than the majority of people who have never tried.
It is these battles against adversity that build character and self-confidence. They also verify your need to love yourself and trust yourself. Whether climbing a mountain alone, hiking the wilderness alone, starting your own business for the first time, teaching yourself a new game, or traveling alone to a new land, you are forced to rely on your own thinking and decisions.
Combining the Three Pillars of Self-Esteem
Any one of these three pillars of self-esteem will not stand alone easily. Like a three legged stool, a weakness in one leg will often lead to a collapse of the stool. Luckily, your strengths will eventually help you to overcome your weaknesses. If your strong point is loving yourself, then you will feel that you deserve to think for yourself and that you have the right to attempt new challenges. If you are able to think for yourself, you will eventually see the truth in attempting new challenges and in loving yourself. If you challenge yourself, you will be forced to think and care for yourself. The very act of building strong self-esteem will then become self-reinforcing.