Writing about how you should work on your self-esteem is a very challenging topic. Not because it's a difficult concept, but because it's so critical to how we feel about so much in our lives, and each of us has a very unique relationship with our self-esteem.
Simply put, what I say right now, I do not know how you will perceive it.
The values you hold yourself against
The way you think about yourself is usually based on opinion against some set of values you're comparing yourself to. If you fail, you may call yourself a failure. If you struggle to find a special person in your life, you may call yourself a loser. There are endless examples of how your internal narrative can be damaging to your self-esteem.
But it's just an opinion, and often misguided from a fixed mindset.
Where you get our values from
Your early years play a critical role in learning how the world works. As a child, you learn the feedback loop from your parents of what gets you attention and what doesn't.
Only as a parent do I clearly see this. If you want a child to act naughty, keep giving your child attention by calling them naughty. If you want a child to learn that screaming gets what they want, then keep giving in after a tantrum. A child is learning how to get what they want and will repeat those actions again, and again.
When a child becomes a teenager and starts interacting with peers, they're looking to fit in. If they behave in a way that rejects them, they will avoid doing that behaviour. Often, a teenager will do what's needed to be accepted by the group. This may involve looking and behaving a certain way and masquerading as someone who they don't feel they truly are.
All these experiences internalise the narrative of your self-esteem. It's the way you judge yourself against the values. Do I look pretty? Did I get an A on this exam? And in a digital world, did I get enough likes on that photo?
What you value yourself on can impact you for the rest of your life.
You decide on your values
In the book The Art of Exceptional Living by Jim Rohn, he prompts the question. When did you choose the values that you live by?
The short answer is, you probably didn't. You probably inherited them. You probably inherited them from your parents and peers, who also didn't choose their values. Your values are a product of circumstance, and not by intent.
You have the power to decide on values that help you develop an anti-fragile ego.
The most important self-esteem value
There is one value which you absolutely need to adopt. It is to never, and I literally mean never, judge yourself. You must also never judge yourself when you're by yourself.
This can be hard if you haven't developed this skill. It's easy to slip into a self narrative that is harmful instead of helpful.
There are two techniques which I've found extremely helpful with this. The first is meditation—the ability to switch off your internal narration and take a pause. This can be an interrupt pattern that starts the process of rewriting your neurons to avoid judging your self-esteem.
The second is understanding the difference between your egoic mind and your human mind. This is a much deeper topic and we have some further things to cover in future posts before this will make sense.
We all feel crappy some of the time
Our self-esteem can be hurt by any number of things, and in ways that we're not consciously aware. This will affect anyone at any time. What's important however is having the toolset to introspect on what is driving your feelings and why. Only then can you help build a stronger and more robust set of values that can calm your limbic system (otherwise referred to as the chimp brain).
What's important right now
All you need to understand right now is that a lot of this can come down to programming of your biological system and how it all plays out. We'll be covering this in more detail in future posts.
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