I believe that we have all, at different times in our lives, felt the weight of the implicit and explicit beliefs of our society and our culture, which develop and are transmitted through different media, advertising and strengthening at home , at work, in institutions and in daily interactions. One of them is the idea that we are worth according to certain characteristics that we have, for what we do and have.
When you think of yourself this way, it’s hard to love and appreciate yourself unconditionally and even more so to deal with temporary defeats, losses and hard times. Our sense of worth depends on and varies depending on external factors, which affects our self-esteem. Cultivating good self-esteem is continuous work, Which requires rethinking our beliefs, providing love and allowing us to grow and which is worth it as it is essential to our physical and mental well-being.
What is self-esteem?
Glenn Schiraldi, author of several articles and books on mental and physical health, defines self-esteem as “a realistic and appreciative opinion of oneself”. It is valuing with precision and honesty, loving, caring and loving.
It is having a healthy pride; respect you feeling worthy and grateful for own accomplishments, talents, Services or membership of a family, ethnic group, etc. It is also to have a healthy humility; believing that everyone has the same value, appreciating each other with their successes and failures and recognizing how much remains to be learned.
The author explains that a healthy self-esteem it’s different from self-defeating shame and counterproductive pride. In self-defeating shame or humility, people have negative self-esteem, which is inaccurate and unrealistic. They believe they are inferior to others, they experience feelings of shame and disgust. They tend to be submissive and lack self-respect.
On the other hand, people with counterproductive pride believe that they are superior and more important than others. They try to impress others and experience an excessive need and desire to be admired. They behave in an arrogant, conceited and narcissistic manner. Both of these extremes are rooted in insecurity and fear.
How to cultivate self-esteem
Schiraldi describes three important foundations for building self-esteem; value, unconditional love and growth, being essential to develop the first two secure foundations, in order to focus on growth.
1. Unconditional value
This first basis for building healthy self-esteem, he invites us to recognize the unconditional and inherent value of human beings. Something that can be difficult for some people to take in, given the bombardment of information that associates a person’s worth with their appearance, intelligence, popularity, etc.
Human unconditional worth is described by five axioms developed by Dra. Claudia A. Howard (1992):
- We all have infinite, internal and unconditional value as people.
- We are all the same as people. He doesn’t compete for value. While one person may be better at sports, school, or business, and another may be better at social skills, both are worth the same as human beings.
- External factors do not add or subtract value. The external understands things like money, appearance, performance, successes. It only increases our market or social value. The value as a person, however, is endless and unalterable.
- the value it’s stable and never in play (Even if he was rejected by someone).
- Value does not have to be gained or tested. Already exists. You just have to recognize it, accept it and appreciate it.
Detaching from the idea of a conditioned value
Schiraldi explains that “we are important and precious as people because our spiritual and essential being is unique, precious, good and of infinite, eternal and unalterable value.”
He describes that as a newborn baby, our inner selves are fundamentally good and complete, and full of potential. However, over time, the inner self is surrounded by external elements (criticism, abuse, actions and negative thought patterns) that can hide or make it difficult to perceive and experience our worth, while others ( love, expressing our talents), help others) make it easier for us to see and feel it. These external factors change the way our worth is felt, The higher the value itself.
Understand that our value is unconditional it frees us from this constant search for approval. You don’t have to do things to prove our worth, you don’t have to be like someone else to gain value. We can also cope better with adversity and life changes because we understand that our worth does not come into play because of mistakes, rejections or bad situations and experiences. It’s one thing to feel bad about events and behaviors and another to feel bad or ashamed of yourself.
Likewise, we began to recognize the inherent worth in others. There is no need to encourage violence, separation and inequalities due to differences in race, sex, religion, economic status, etc. It is not justified to compete above the other, envy or hate if we can come to understand this simple truth that we are all worth the same as people.
2. Unconditional love
Schiraldi, describes love as a feeling and an attitude in which we want the best for ourselves and for others. It is a decision and a commitment that is made every day and a skill that can be learned and cultivated by doing. Love doesn’t define us or give us value, but if it helps us to recognize it, to experience it and to appreciate it more easily. We all need to feel loved, respected, accepted and valued. If we have not received this love from others, it is important that we take the responsibility of giving ourselves unconditionally, for love heals and is the foundation for growth.
One way to cultivate love is to practice self-compassion. Kristin Neff, a researcher and professor at the University of Texas, talks about three things that help us get there. Briefly described, the first is to be kind and understanding with ourselves, rather than criticism, when we suffer, fail, or make mistakes. The next component is to recognize our common humanity. We must remember that we are interconnected and we all share experiences of imperfection, make mistakes and encounter difficulties.
finally the third element is total attention. The willingness to clearly observe our inner experiences (thoughts, emotions) as they are in the present moment. Without exaggerating, ignoring or judging them, so that you can respond and face reality in a compassionate and effective way.
This component then focuses on develop physical, mental, social and emotional potential it is in us and also to be shared with others.
Shiraldi explains that growth is an ongoing process that takes effort, help, and never ends at all, but is satisfying because it stems from the sure foundations of worth, love and a sense of calm rather than anxiety. If these foundations are missing, successes and accomplishments rarely lead to healthy self-esteem.
Likewise, developing our abilities does not increase or change our worth, for we are born with it. On the contrary, as we grow up we see our essential being more clearly, we express our worth, we change our perception of ourselves and we experience who we are with more joy and satisfaction.
Growing is choosing to act with integrity in accordance with our values, Eliminate behaviors that do us no good and enjoy the process without fear of failure and worrying too much about the results. Each person has their own path and goes at their own pace. Self-esteem is therefore a combination of self-acceptance (worth and love) and growth.
- Neff, K. (2012). Be kind to yourself. The art of self-compassion. Barcelona, Spain: Oniro.
- Schiraldi, GR (2016). The Self-Esteem Workbook. Second edition. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger.