“The reputation you have with yourself, your self-esteem, is the single most important factor for a fulfilling life.” Nathaniel Branden
What is self esteem and how do we get more of it? In psychology, self esteem refers to how we see ourselves and how much we value ourselves. A healthy level of self-esteem is essential in order to be happy and successful in life. Without high self esteem people will always sell themselves short, doubt themselves, and never reach their full potential.
Self esteem, like so many other things, has its roots in childhood. If, as children, we were brought up in a loving environment where we were encouraged, supported, appreciated, and acknowledged then we probably grew up having good self-esteem. We learned to like ourselves and we believed that we were deserving and capable. This all leads to healthy self esteem as an adult.
Not everyone was fortunate enough to be brought up in an environment that was loving and supportive. Some children had parents who were either physically absent or emotionally unavailable and therefore unable to supply the love and attention required to produce children with high self esteem.
Others were born predisposed to view themselves in a negative light because of their physical appearance, a disability, or for some other reason. Research however consistently supports the notion that it’s difficult to be happy without having a positive feeling about oneself.
So if one never developed healthy self esteem as a child where does one turn to find it as an adult?
Adults who are lacking in esteem often attempt to derive a sense of worthiness from a variety of sources. Many people attempt to derive self worth through their appearance. These people go to elaborate measures to be thin, or to be fit, or to look younger or better than everyone else. For many people this is effective in the short term. However it requires lots of time and energy, not to mention money, and involves constant comparison to others. And of course looks always fade with time.
Others derive their worth from their accomplishments. They try to work harder, earn more money, or do things better than anyone else. This can also be effective way of increasing your sense of self worth. But our accomplishments are not an intrinsic part of who we are. And the further into the past that they are the less effective they are at sustaining us. So, what is the answer?
If we think for a moment about a person that we truly admire. It may be someone living or deceased; someone whom we know personally or someone famous like an athlete or a celebrity, as long as they are someone whom we hold in high regard.
The chances are that the reason that we think so highly of that person is not because of their looks, their abilities, or their accomplishments. The odds are that it is their generous nature, the way they treated others, their kindness, and their personality that draws our admiration. These are part of what’s called “character” and it is intrinsic to each of us and it never fades or disappears.
“Fame is a vapor, popularity an accident, riches take wing, the only thing that endures is character.” Horace Greeley
So as it turns out learning to like ourselves does not mean that we need to attain extraordinary physical attractiveness or an overabundance of talents and successes, we need only emulate people of good character. Being a good person not only makes us more likable to others, it also makes us more likable to ourselves.
So the bottom line is, if we want to increase our self esteem and love ourselves more, the most effective way of accomplishing this is by being good to other people. Because it turns out that caring more about others also makes us care more about ourselves.
Take this online Self-Esteem Assessment, it’s just 10 questions.
Source material: Reflections of a Buddhist Physician, Psychology Today