Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it– Goethe
There are few greater sources of human pain than the feeling of stagnation or immobility. Self-esteem is a realistic, appreciative opinion of oneself. Realistic means accurate and honest and appreciative implies positive feelings and liking oneself. There are few greater blows to self-esteem than really wanting something without ever achieving it. A strong self-concept depends as much on what you do and make as on your ‘idea’ of yourself. You can silence the pathological critic, rewrite the self-denigrating thoughts in gentler, more supportive tones, but if you feel helpless in the face of your dreams and needs for change, then you may never fully accept yourself. The short-term pain relief derived from avoiding the issues that chip away at your self-esteem creates destructive patterns which undermine your relationships and your self-esteem. Over time you further destroy your self-worth and when the worm does not become a butterfly, it seems to prove all the negative things you have always believed in yourself.
Strong self-esteem depends on two things; learning to think in healthy ways about yourself, otherwise the term would be ‘other’ esteem and the second is the ability to make things happen, to see what you want and go for it, literally to create your own life. Feeling paralyzed and helpless makes you hungry and dissatisfied with life. Action and goal-oriented change make you feel strong and in control. Self-esteem is based on three sequential factors (see below). While all three factors are essential, the sequence is crucial. Many people will become frustrated when trying to build self-esteem and tackle growth and neglect love and unconditional worth. A strong secure base, that is, starting with unconditional worth and love primes us for success.
1) Unconditional Worth
Unconditional human worth means that you are important and valuable as a person because your essential, core self is unique and that you are as precious as any other person. Skills used to bring awareness to our core worth include replacing negative, core attacking thoughts (also referred to as distortions) with core-affirming thoughts and identifying your core worth (our worth is not dependent on external factors such as status symbols and accomplishments but already exists, one need only to recognize, accept and appreciate it).
Although philosophers like to intellectualize it, people recognize love when they see it. Have you ever known anyone who didn’t? Love is a feeling that you experience, an attitude (Love wants what’s best for the loved one at the moment). Love for others and love for self are not mutually exclusive. Ideally, the attitude of loving encircles both. Love is a decision and commitment that you make every day and love is a skill that is cultivated. Self-love is a genuine feeling of affection for the core self. This affection is the soil and climate of human growth. Lastly, love is the foundation for growth, the reverse is rarely true. Producing or overachieving usually does not fill the void that lack of love for the core self creates.
Growing is a direction and process, not an outcome. One can feel good about progress, even if one falls short of a desired goal, for example, perfection. Growing is not completed in isolation but is accomplished interdependently (for example with the help of others or nature). Growing consists of cultivating integrity (moral conduct and character) and wholesome pleasure (that is, pleasure that re-creates without compromising conscience) however growing is difficult, expect hard work. Lastly, since growing is a process and not just arriving at a place, you need not arrive to experience self-esteem. You need only know that you’re on track and moving ahead.