Looking back at my youth, I didn’t have much self-esteem. I didn’t understand how I could earn such a precious feeling.
I gave my power away and remained in a state of victimhood more often than I wished. I had many frustrations about dreams that I never pursued, and I chose to blame everyone and everything instead.
In my youth, I didn’t wanted to admit to myself that I didn’t see myself as valuable. How could I see my value when I was struggling with being overweight, I wasn’t good at academics, my bedroom and my closet were always a mess, I didn’t know how to be self-sufficient, and because of this, I didn’t like myself. However, I had lots of energy, drive and love for life.
At home, I was taught to never let anyone take advantage of me, no matter their social status or their physical appearance. I adopted this motto and made it a way of being. I became aggressive like a puma, but even when I didn’t let anyone treat me unfairly, I felt always hurt by the simplest things, even if I seemed to respond with aggression. Once, someone in Germany heard my accent on the phone and said to me, “Never mind; you’re that foreigner who understands nothing” and she hung the phone up on me.” When I saw her, I said to her, “Oh, was that you who called me? I was wondering who was that idiot that called me and I figured it was you.” This was my best attempt at having self-esteem, but it wasn’t true self-esteem, it was a cold, metal wall protecting my heart.
We are mysterious beings. On the one hand, we give value to things. But on the other hand, we can’t seem to increase our own sense of value. In my public presentations, I like to show participants an object and I ask them what they believe the value of the item is. Everyone agrees that the value is what each individual determines. A collector would pay more for an antique doll than someone who isn’t a collector. However, some things we all seem to appreciate more, such as a diamond, a luxury auto, a higher end tech device, and, above all, our achievements.
When we feel pride in our achievements, there’s an immediate sense of satisfaction and a feeling of gratefulness for being who we are. Religion views pride as a negative aspect based on a feeling of superiority over others. However, in my opinion, a true sense of pride has nothing to do with arrogance. I see arrogance resulting from a lack of pride, just like my false self-esteem I mentioned in the example above.
How to raise your self-esteem?
I’ve used many affirmations such as “I believe in myself” or “I am amazing,” and they sounded nice, but I never felt that they reached my core. I was never convinced. Somehow, my brain never bought into it. While affirmations are great because they inspire us, they’re not enough. Something is lacking: action.
Somehow, we’re all hoping for one thing: to feel valuable, to find a reason for our existence, to feel a sense of pride.
But how can we feel pride if we’re not being an authentic expression of our souls? If we haven’t pursued our dreams and utilized our talents, if we are afraid of shining in front of others for fear of appearing selfish, if we haven’t even begun to explore our potential due to lack of self-discipline or fear, how can we feel pride about work we haven’t done? On the other hand, how can we feel pride, if every time we achieve a goal, we don’t stop to recognize and celebrate our achievements?
While we can say that we have many reasons to feel valuable, the truth is that, quite often, we don’t or it stays in wishful thinking or weak affirmations. It seems Aristotle was right when he said, “The ultimate end of life is the development of character.” When we build character, we feel great, genuinely proud, because we know we have overcome temptation and weakness to pursue our goals.
The following are three important ingredients to grow our self-esteem:
1. When we pursue our dreams through vision, work, discipline, and perseverance, we feel great. It’s as simple as that. Great things take time and work. If we skip this step, we won’t fully enjoy the amazing feeling of a healthy pride. People who win the lottery in a stroke of luck, don’t feel valuable the next day because money doesn’t replace the feeling of satisfaction for being who we are, for being capable of self-control and self-direction in the pursuit of being our best selves.
Think about when a young child learns to walk for the first time; you can see their face light up with a sense of pride for their new achievement. What a great feeling, and, as transparent as a kid is, they have no fear or guilt of showing their pride and joy to the world.
How about the teen who learned to drive and received their driver’s license? What a great feeling!
How about when you achieve one of your dreams through effort and perseverance?
After a few months of consistency in the pursue of your goals, you will realize Goethe was right; "Everything is hard before it is easy."
2. Recognize and applaud each new effort, each new lesson learned, each small achievement in the pursuit of your goal. Having the daily discipline or habit of appreciating any achievements is vital. A psychological complex that prevents people from doing this is called “the imposter syndrome.” It’s a common condition among people in high-profile positions. Harvard Business Review calls it chronic self-doubt and a sense of intellectual fraudulence that overrides any feelings of success or external proof of their competence. I can say that I know this feeling firsthand. Even when I was fluent in my third language and had a law degree, diplomas in different areas, and years of experience, I thought I was unprepared and a fraud, especially when I was under stress.
Recognizing your efforts is essential. Doing it daily could be a powerful vitamin for your self-esteem.
3. Have some recreational time and enjoy your achievements before setting new goals. This is especially true for those challenger personalities who don’t stop to have some fun and enjoy their achievements when a new goal is already set on the near horizon. Enjoy for a few months of recreation after an important achievement before setting a new major goal.
Pursue your goals today, build character, stop to enjoy and celebrate yourself every single day.