- The 7 Minute Course in Self Esteem
The 7 Minute Course in Self Esteem Introduction
Self esteem is the foundation of our self confidence and self motivation. Self esteem is how we feel about ourselves at any given moment. Almost everyone of us has been taught to base and build our self esteem on the wrong foundations. We build it on something external instead of something internal. We are taught to tie it to our position, possessions and pay, and by how much regard we receive from others. This is why we very seldom meet people who have rock solid self esteem. Most of us learn how to disguise our fragile self-esteem. Eventually the charade takes its toll, we surrender to the tension and then collapse somewhere in a heap. Each and every one of us will have to go back to school to learn this inner lesson and find our true inner strength. Life will give us many signals and offer many opportunities to do this, but most of us either avoid the message or shoot the messenger, preferring to live with the tension and keep up the facade. So here is a short seven minute course in self esteem. This is obviously no small subject, but this may get you started.
Insight 1: You are Unique
Many of us forget one of the most important human characteristics – we are each unique human beings, with unique histories, patterns of thinking and personalities. There is no duplication in humanity. One of the deepest habits that we learn at the knees of our fathers and mothers is to compare ourselves with others. We forget that we cannot be like, look like, act like any other person. Imitation always ends in failure, especially if we are dependent on being like someone else for how we feel about ourselves. In the world of appearances, fashion and fads trade on our desire to look or be like someone else. We buy into the belief that if we can successfully imitate our hero, our role model, even the model in the advert, then everything in our life will be OK, and we will at last be happy and successful.
This habit of comparison and imitation is one of the greatest killers of self esteem. It stops us from ever beginning to know ourselves. It keeps us stuck in the world of surfaces as we compare faces, figures and fitness. We don’t even realise the beauty we seek is not to be seen with the naked eye but the inner eye. And so the first and most important step in building our self esteem is to break the habit of comparison, and to stop unconsciously trying to be like someone else.
Question: Who are the three people you regularly compare yourself with the most?
Reflection: What are your own talents and strengths today? (what makes you unique) - What talents/strengths/capabilities do you see yourself developing?
Action: What will you focus on in order to help yourself break the habit of comparing?
Insight 2: You are Already Beautiful
There is, at the heart of the personal growth movement a paradox. We are all already beautiful and perfect, and we always have been. However we do not know this beauty, for it is hidden deep within, and we are not taught to go deep inside ourselves and see it, feel it, and express it. Inner beauty is made up of the innate qualities of spirit, and these qualities are always found in the heart of our consciousness, not the heart of our body. When we know and are aware of ourselves as sources of love and peace in the world, sources of wisdom and truth in our relationships, then we know what we are. But we don’t know this because we are taught not to regard ourselves as spiritual beings. And when we learn (falsely) that we are only physical bodies we then try to find beauty outside ourselves. We attempt to buy beauty and the success we think it will bring. We fall for the messages of the marketing men, and surrender to the illusion that beauty can be purchased and painted on, that beauty can be tucked, lifted and sucked into (or out of, as the case may be) our bodies. But now we all know the destination of this process is not high self esteem but the opposite. This is why the most physically beautiful people very often have the most fragile self esteem. They depend on attracting desiring glances of others towards their form for how they feel about themselves. This is fatal as anyone with physical beauty will eventually tell you.
The rebuilding of ‘real’ self esteem is therefore an inner process of self realisation, self knowledge and self awareness. We need to spend sometime seeing our own inner qualities and appreciating them, and most importantly expressing them for the benefit of others. In this way we gradually come to know our own true beauty. Are you ready to rediscover what is already there?
Questions: Imagine seven people in your life were asked to identify a specific positive quality/trait within you. List the seven different traits which you think you would see in you.
Reflection: Now spend a few minutes with each of these qualities/traits and visualise yourself expressing them in your life.
Action: Where, with whom and when will you begin tomorrow?
Insight 3: Public Opinion
The strength of your self-esteem is always being tested. You will know how strong and stable your self-esteem is when someone criticises you, or you hear what someone has been saying about you behind your back. If you are in any way affected, in other words you react in any way, it means your self esteem is fragile. You are creating and feeling the emotion of ‘hurt’, and you will be thinking you have been insulted. And because most of us are taught to base our self esteem upon the opinion of others, you will experience both a disturbance in your intellect and your power draining away. All this happens very fast in your own head. In other words, you forget that the feeling of being insulted and upset is a choice, not an inevitability. It is a habit to react in a negative, emotional way. It doesn’t matter what anyone says or thinks about you, as long as you think well of yourself, then you will not lose your inner stability, your cool, your inner peace, your power and your ability to respond positively. It’s easy isn’t it? No! Then why? Conditioning, learning, copying others all conspire to make your self opinion dependent on the opinion of others. Fatal. Don’t worry about what anyone thinks about you. A hundred people in your life are all thinking different things – you can never know exactly what anyone of them is thinking, because you can never be in someone else’s mind. And even if you did know, are they not entitled to their opinion? You know who you are, you know your own intrinsic qualities…don’t you? You’re not dependent on the opinion of others … are you? Question: Which persons opinion do you think you are most sensitive to for how you feel about yourself?
Reflection: Imagine listening to someone criticising you, and yet you remain completely calm and in control, stable in the knowledge that you are unique and have found your inner strength and your personal power to be unaffected by others.
Action: With whom, where and when can you practice this tomorrow.
Insight 4: The Power of Respect
Self esteem and self respect are intimately connected. One is an integral part of the other. One is not possible without the other. Unfortunately, learning how to respect ourselves does not come high on our education curriculums. In fact, it does not appear at all. And this is why our relationships are so difficult, filled with conflict, often abuse, and certainly the frequent breakdown in communication. The root reason for all these symptoms of inner and outer disharmony is a lack of self-respect. Even though the other person is throwing all their negative energy at us, if we can maintain our own self- respect we will be able to remain stable, positive and unaffected. In fact, if our self -respect is strong, we will not feel the need to return like for like, but will be able to return understanding and compassion instead.
So how do we restore, build and strengthen our self-respect. One way is to practice giving respect to others -–no matter what they are like, or what they do. To give respect to another human being is the foundation stone of that relationship. What we seldom realise is that in the process of respecting another, we are first of all respecting ourself. We are the first to receive it on the way out. We tend to think the other person exists ‘out there’ quite separate from us. They do, but they also exist in our own minds. So when we give respect to others we are creating respect within ourselves for our self! In the giving of respect we build our own self respect in the process.< p> Question: What is the difference between fearing someone and respecting someone? (take your time on this one because many of us confuse the two)
Reflection: What does showing respect look like? (imagine seven different ways in which you can convey respect to another person) - What do you think is the biggest inner barrier to developing the ability to give respect to others?
Action: Who could you consciously choose to respect more today than you have up to now? (remember that to be respectful you will need to be non-judgmental)
Insight 5: Self Worth is True Worth
If you base your sense of self worth on your position, pay and possessions, you will not have real self esteem. All of these things are transient, they come and go, sometimes at the most unexpected moments. This is why almost every single human being from corporate leaders to househusbands, from Kings to college students have a self esteem issue! We are all taught by our society, which is now a global society, that worth is measured by rank, quantity of possessions and the amount of monetary income. Fatal, fatal, fatal! It creates an inevitable destiny of sorrow and unhappiness. Witness the worker or manager on the end of the down-sizing of their organisation and their inevitable redundancy or early retirement. Suddenly, after a lifetime of stability, their employment and income are totally lost They find themselves floating in a black hole, spiraling into despair, and in some cases contemplating suicide. Why? Because they allowed their self esteem to be defined by their work, their capabilities at work, their salary level etc
Question: What external factors is your self esteem based on?
Reflection: If real wealth is not money or possessions what is real wealth?
Action: What could you start doing tomorrow that may help you transfer your sense of self from something you do or have outside your self, to something that you are inside?
Insight 6: Self-confidence is built on the platform of self esteem
Those who base their self-confidence only on a set of skills and abilities will not have real self-esteem. Why, because there will always be a situation where those skills and abilities will have no use, and the ones that are needed in that situation have not yet been developed. The classic example is the absent minded professor who is brilliant in the classroom with logic and reason. But take him to a cocktail party and he is totally lost. He has not developed the social skills of one to one conversation. He finds it tremendously difficult to express personal feelings, and almost impossible to be sensitivite to others feelings. In that situation self esteem evaporates. However, the person who has real self-esteem will recognise that while they may not have the skills now, they can and will learn. They are able to use such situations as their personal classroom where the after effect is not the feeling that, “Oh God I’m just no good at this one to one chit chat stuff”. Instead they think, “Now, how did I do, what did I not do too well, and what do I still need to learn”. High self esteem has a certain humility built into it. The person with the highest self esteem is free of the arrogance of “I know”. They know they will be a student of life, for the whole of their life.
Question: What are your key skills and abilities?
In what situations do you find yourself out of place, or out of your depth?
What do you think you need to learn to be more effective in these situations?
Reflection: Visualise yourself being skillful and confident while maintaining your self esteem in that situation.
Action: What will you do tomorrow to expand your personal skills learning portfolio?
Insight 7 : Voices
Almost everyone of us has been on the end of the voice of criticism at a very young age. It is a voice which echoes through our whole life, and unless we become consciously aware of it, and decide not to heed its words, it will be a major reason why your self esteem never recovers from those first blows.
The ‘critical parent’ has a deep and lasting impression on our self image and self belief. It could have been anything negative “You’re not very good….you can’t….you are always…you’re a cry baby… you are never able….you are useless at that”. Parents are our Gods during those early years, and Gods speak the truth. So we believe them, and not only shape our self image around what they tell us about ourselves, but their voices remain in our heads, in our subconscious for years to come, possibly the rest of our life. This is how our sense of our own inner beauty never gets a chance to form. It is the only time we can claim to be a victim. But that was then, and this is now. ‘Then’ cannot be changed, but now can be transformed. If you have had the courage to admit your self esteem is a bit low, or even almost non existent, then you have the courage to take the next step – to banish those voices in your head, and set yourself free. Paradoxically that does not mean struggling with them and conquering them. It means accepting them and loving them, but politely disagreeing with them. If you resist them or try to kill them you will only make them stronger. It is much more effective to replace them. Start from where you are and accept, accept, accept! Accept where you are now, accept what you feel right now. This is the beginning of quietly rebuilding your self image and self belief. Realise you are now your own parent, friend, companion and lover, and begin to talk to yourself in accepting, loving and gentle ways. It may sound strange at first, but keep going, and you will be amazed at how quickly your feelings about yourself transform, and how it brings a natural inner strength and resilience.
Question: Do you ever seem to put yourself down or criticise yourself? (this is known as the critical parent or negative self talk)
In which situations does this happen the most? And what kind of things does this voice say?
Reflection: Don’t fight or struggle with your internal critic, if you do, it’s as if you are struggling with yourself. Accept your past, and accept yourself as you are now. Relax – everything is OK!
Action: Take time out to learn how to meditate. This will be the deepest and most effective ability in disarming the power of the inner critic.
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