Cultivate self-esteem: 3 keys to achieve it
I believe that all of us, at various moments in our lives, have felt the weight of the implicit and explicit beliefs of our society and culture, which are expanded and transmitted through different means of communication, advertising, and are reinforced in the home, at work, in institutions and in day-to-day interactions. One of them is the idea that we are worth according to certain characteristics that we possess, for what we do and have.
When you think in this way it is difficult to love and appreciate yourself unconditionally and even more to face temporary defeats, losses and bad moments. Our sense of worth becomes dependent on external factors and varies according to them, which affects our self-esteem. Cultivate a healthy self-esteem is a continuous work , which requires rethinking our beliefs, giving us love and allowing us to grow and which is worthwhile as it is central to our physical and mental well-being.
- Related article: "Self-concept: what is it and how is it formed?"
What is self-esteem?
Glenn Schiraldi, author of several articles and books on mental and physical health defines self-esteem as "a realistic and appreciative opinion of oneself". It is valued in a precise and honest way, to love oneself, to take care of oneself and to like oneself.
It is to possess a healthy pride; respect yourself, feel worthy and grateful for one's achievements, talents , services or belonging to a family, ethnic group, etc. It is also having a healthy humility; believe that all people are equally valuable, appreciate each other's successes and failures and recognize how much you still have to learn.
The author explains that healthy self-esteem is different from self-destructive shame and self-defeating pride . In shame or self-destructive humility, people have a negative opinion of themselves, which is inaccurate and realistic. They believe that they are inferior to others, they experience feelings of shame and disgust. They tend to be submissive and lack self-respect.
On the other hand, people with counterproductive pride believe that they are superior and more important than others. They try to impress others and experience an excessive need and desire to be admired. They behave arrogantly, smugly and narcissistically. These two extremes are rooted in insecurity and fear.
- Maybe you're interested: "Low self-esteem? When you become your worst enemy"
How to cultivate self-esteem
Schiraldi describes three important foundations for building self-esteem; worth it, unconditional love and growth, being essential to develop the first two secure bases, in order to focus on growth.
1. Unconditional value
This first basis to build a healthy self-esteem, invites us to recognize the unconditional and inherent value of human beings . Something perhaps difficult to assimilate for some people, given the bombardment of information that associates the value of a person with his appearance, intelligence, popularity, etc.
The unconditional human value is described by five axioms developed by Dr. Claudia A. Howard (1992):
- We all have an infinite, internal and unconditional value as people.
- We all have the same value as people. You do not compete for the value . Although one person may be better in sports, in studies or in business, and another may be better in social skills, both have the same value as human beings.
- External factors do not add or detract from value. The external includes things like money, appearance, performance, achievements. This only increases our market or social value. Value as a person, however, is infinite and unalterable.
- The value is stable and is never in play (even if it is rejected by someone).
- Value does not have to be earned or tested. It already exists. You just have to recognize it, accept it and appreciate it.
Discard the idea of a conditioned value
Schiraldi explains that "we are important and valuable as people because our spiritual and essential being is unique, precious, good, and of infinite, eternal and unalterable value".
Describe that, as a newborn baby, our inner self is fundamentally good and complete, and full of potential. However, over time the inner Self surrounds itself with external elements (criticism, mistreatment, negative actions and thought patterns) that may hide or cause it to be difficult to see and experience our value, while others (love, expressing our talents, helping others) help us to see and feel it more easily. These external factors change the way we experience our worth , but not the value itself.
Understand that our value is unconditional it frees us from that constant search for approval . There is no need to do things to prove our worth, you do not have to be like someone else to gain value.Likewise, we can better face adversity and changes in life, since we understand that our value does not come into play due to mistakes, rejections or bad situations and experiences. It is one thing to feel bad about events and behaviors and another to feel bad or ashamed of the inner self.
In the same way we begin to recognize the inherent value in others. It is not necessary to foment violence, separation and inequality due to differences in race, gender, religion, economic status, etc. Competition that passes over the other, envy or hatred is not justified if we can understand this simple truth that we are all equal as people.
2. Unconditional love
Schiraldi, describes love as a feeling and an attitude in which we want the best for ourselves and others. It is a decision and commitment made every day and a skill that can be learned and cultivated through practice. Love does not define us, nor does it provide us with value, but it does help us recognize it, experience it and appreciate it more easily. We all need to feel loved, respected, accepted and valuable. If we have not received this love from others, it is important that we ourselves take the responsibility to give it unconditionally, since love heals and is the foundation to grow.
One way to cultivate love is through the practice of self-compassion. Kristin Neff, researcher and professor at the University of Texas, talks about three components that help us do it. Briefly described, the first is to be kind and understanding with ourselves, instead of critics, when we suffer, fail or make mistakes. The next component involves recognizing our humanity in common. It is to remember that we are interconnected and that we all share experiences of imperfection, we make mistakes and we have difficulties.
Finally, the third component is mindfulness . The willingness to observe clearly our inner experiences (thoughts, emotions) as they are in the present moment. Without exaggerating them, ignoring them or judging them, in order to respond and face reality in a compassionate and effective way.
This component then focuses on develop the physical, mental, social and emotional potential that exists in us and also to share it with others.
Shiraldi explains that growth is a continuous process that requires effort, help and that never ends completely, but which is satisfactory because it arises from the secure foundations of worth, love and a feeling of calm, instead of of cravings. If these bases are absent, successes and achievements rarely lead to healthy self-esteem.
In the same way, developing our abilities does not increase or change our value, because we are born with it. Rather, as we grow we see our essential being more clearly, we are expressing our value, we change the perceptions we have of ourselves and we experience who we are with more joy and satisfaction.
Growing consists in choosing to act in integrity with our values , eliminate behaviors that do not do us good and enjoy the process without fearing failure and worry too much about the results. Each person has his way and goes at his own pace. Self-esteem, then, is a combination of self-acceptance (worth and love) and growth.
- Neff, K. (2012). Be kind to yourself. The art of compassion towards oneself. Barcelona, Spain: Oniro.
- Schiraldi, G.R. (2016). The Self-Esteem Workbook. Second Edition. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger.