The Operating Manual for the Self tm
Let’s consider the following questions: What is Self-esteem? What is Self-Worth? What Does Self-esteem Give Us? How Do We Get Self-Esteem? What is our Resistance to Self-Esteem? What is False Self-Esteem?
Self-esteem is a need. Needs are aspects of our self that seek fulfillment. Needing air is a good example. We need air in order to breath. The analogy between self-esteem and air is a good one because like air we live and breathe our self-esteem without being fully aware of this process. Other needs that we have are: survival, safety/security, belonging, and self-esteem.
Self-esteem is earned as it is about our behavior. It is given to you by yourself. As a child our parents help us build self-esteem. They give us realistic praise and helpful feedback, which may be considered negative at time.
Self-esteem exists on a continuum with no upper limit. You can continually build self-esteem for yourself without end. No one exists with zero self-esteem, though there are people with abysmally love self-esteem.
What is Self-esteem?
Self-esteem is having a fundamental and deep, good feeling for and about yourself. When we say, “I feel good or bad about myself,” we are referring to our self-esteem. It is also having a deep positive regard for yourself. Regard is how you hold yourself. With self-esteem we hold ourselves in esteem, liking and valuing our self.
Self-esteem is also the knowing, conviction, and certainty of your right to exist. I know, I have conviction, and I am certain that I have the right to exist. As we increase the amount of our self-esteem, we move through the three levels of the strength of our knowledge about our right to exist.
What Does Self-esteem Give Us?
Self-esteem gives us the strength and determination to claim and assert our rights, the rights of our existence, our rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. We think of strength and determination as assertiveness.
How Do We Get Self-Esteem?
We give Self-esteem to our self in two ways. The first way is by recognizing the good that we do and giving ourselves credit for it. What follows from that is that we decide to correct what we don’t like about our behavior; and follow through on that decision with change.
The second way that we create self-esteem is through our own evaluation of our behavior (the actions we take), motivations, and attitudes according to a set of criteria that we hold. Behaving according to the criteria increases our self-esteem, behaving against our criteria lowers self-esteem.
The criteria we use for our evaluation are made up of our values, ethics, ideals and principles. We can use these:
- Values: What we hold as important, as mattering
- Ethics: Our ideas about what is right and wrong
- Ideals: ideas concerning what is perfect and pure in life.
- Principles: Applying our values, ethics, and ideals to our behavior
- This is what I will and will not do.
- I would not do that. This is where I draw the line.
The process of applying our criteria to evaluation our behavior, motivations and attitudes can be complicated. A short hand version of the criteria is answering the question, “Are we doing the right thing, for the right reason, and feeling good about it?”
What is Self-Worth?
Self-esteem can be contrasted with self-worth. We may say that human beings are born with innate worth. The word innate means “inseparable from.” Our worth is inseparable from who we are as human beings. Self-worth is a given by definition.
Our existence itself and our worth give us our right to exist (to be treated as full-fledged human being). The right to exist not universally acknowledged as in societies where other human beings are devalued and their right to exist (their survival) is not guaranteed at all. There are societies where slavery exists, where people are considered second class citizens who are worth-less, and where others are kept subservient. There are some marriages rights are not equally distributed.
What is our Resistance to self-esteem?
Resistance is what keeps us from creating self-esteem for ourselves. We resist taking the steps necessary to create that self-esteem. We encounter an issue that causes us to back away from building our self-esteem. The following are examples of resistance.
To evaluate our behavior, motivation, and attitudes we have to take responsibility for them. Taking responsibility is facing what we have done ‘wrong’ (along with what we have done right). We resist/avoid taking responsibility because we can be overly harsh with ourselves if we do something wrong. Our conscience beats us up.
We avoid taking responsibility because denying responsibility was a childhood strategy for avoiding punishment. This may have been a necessary coping mechanism if we were frequently and severely punished. However, this strategy makes it difficult for us to take responsibility as an adult.
Sometimes we are reluctant to give ourselves credit for what we do. We think that recognizing the good that we do and giving ourselves credit for is means that we are arrogant or that we are bragging. We have a fear of being arrogant or bragging because we would then feel guilty and punish ours self.
We are reluctant to see the good that we do because we think that since I was ‘good’, my ‘bad’ behavior is now twice as bad. This is simply not true because each good act stands by itself. It says nothing future acts and does not create future obligations or duties.
What is False Self-Esteem?
We can make the mistake of seeking false self-esteem. False esteem never really satisfies our need. We may experience a brief and temporary good feeling about our self, but it is not self-esteem and needs to constantly be reinforced.
One way that we create false self-esteem is by seeking approval from others. There is nothing inherently wrong with seeking approval from others in the form of positive feedback as this lets us answers the question, “How am I doing?” Approval from others can briefly fulfill our need for a sense of belonging. However, as a substitute for self-esteem, it does not work.
Improving your self-esteem changes your life. Feeling good about yourself feels good. You feel empowered and discover a new personal power that you can call upon to claim and assert your rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.