Archive for March, 2011

Self-Esteem: The Invisible Price Tag

Posted in Uncategorized on March 8, 2011 by stevelifecoach

What is self-esteem? What are we talking about when we say that someone has low or high self-esteem? How does it differ from self-confidence? What are the dangers of low self-esteem? Self esteem is the level of value that we place upon ourselves. The difference between self-esteem and self-confidence is that the former is a passive value and the latter is an active value. While our self-confidence tells us what we can and cannot do, our self-esteem tells us what we do and do not deserve.

As the two qualities are different, it is possible to have low self-esteem and high self-confidence, which is generally a dangerous situation for us.  In this case, we believe that we have many talents and abilities, but we do not feel that we deserve to take advantage of these qualities because we do not deserve the fruits that come from our efforts. When this imbalance occurs, we find ourselves living in a world in which everything we plan is pure fantasy. We believe we could achieve anything given the opportunity, but we never make our own opportunities and we certainly never act when an opportunity presents itself.

When self-esteem is high, but self-confidence is low, it is often dangerous for others. People with this imbalance usually blame the world around them for their failures. They know they are talented, interesting people, but they just can’t understand why others cannot see it. They have no idea what to do with themselves and conclude that it must be the fault of others for not giving them a chance, so they tend to become resentful, vindictive, and often manipulative.    

Imagine that everyone has an invisible price tag. Only you know what you are worth and only you can mark yourself up or down. Others may try to tell you what you are worth, but you are the only one who is capable of changing your price.  When someone gives you negative criticism, you can choose to merely take the criticism as indication of a need for improvement, or you can reject it as unfair and unfounded. It either case, your sense of self-worth is unaffected. However, if you decide that the criticism is a broad statement about the kind of person you are, then you may react by marking yourself down.

Maintaining a healthy sense of self-worth is vital, because the consequences of low self-esteem are tragic. There is a word for those with a low price: Cheap. Being cheap means that we are willing to allow ourselves to be anything to anyone without receiving anything of value in return. We do not expect to be treated with respect, because we do not feel that we deserve it. By not valuing ourselves we leave ourselves open to abuse and neglect. We allow others to treat us badly, because we are willing to offer what little we believe we have for next to nothing.

Not only does a low value cause us to give ourselves away to anyone or any situation, but it also causes us to behave in a way that alienates us from the good people we should have in our lives. Low self-esteem causes us, on a basic level, to lie, cheat, and steal. We lie, because we do not see what we have and what we do as being worthwhile, so we make up achievements that do not exist. We learn with time to either become very good liars or to suffer loss of trust when we are caught in lies.

If we learn to become good liars, then we may move on to cheating—in both senses of the word. We may cheat by claiming responsibility for someone else’s work because we do not believe that we have the ability to do quality work ourselves. We may also cheat by being unfaithful to our loved one, because with our self-worth being damaged, we feel that we need as many people as possible to tell us that we are handsome, beautiful, sexy, etc. and the one person who truly loves us and finds us desirable is not enough to make us feel good about the people we are.

Finally, those with low self-esteem will steal. We may feel compelled to do this because we perceive a lack ability to achieve and so we opt to take what others have. In the worst case, some of us may turn to drugs or gambling in order to self-medicate ourselves into feeling better or to give us a false feeling of hope, and then we will resort to stealing in order to support a habit.

Luckily, damaged self-esteem is fairly easy to repair. When we lose self-confidence, it often takes us months, if not years, of therapy to restore, but we can boost our self-esteem at any time. One way is to think of someone we love and care about, be it a parent, child, spouse, best friend, etc.,  and then to think about what it is that we want most for them: Good health? An education? A happy relationship? We are expected to wish these things for others without ever thinking that we need to have them ourselves first. In fact, we cannot expect those we love to eat better and exercise, for example, when we are not taking care of our own health. Any small improvements go along way toward bettering our self-image.

Another way to improve our self-esteem is to have a long-term goal and to put our greatest effort behind achieving it. A long-term goal does not need to be realistic; it only needs to be something you can envision.  What are important are the journey and the steps we that we take. Our success is measured by how many obstacles we overcome, not by how many prizes we have won. If we never reach your goal, it is not a sign of failure; the steps we have taken toward our goals are what matter. On that journey, we have made improvements, have learned much about ourselves, and have undergone positive changes in the pursuit of a dream.

If you are feeling low, then sit down and make a list of the changes you would like to make and then write a plan for how to can make those changes. Let nothing and no one deter you. Even the best of friends will often tell you that you should be happy with the status quo and that you only need to adjust your attitude, and they certainly mean well, but the only reliable way to feel better about ourselves is to set off down the road which ends with the vision of the people we want to be. The journey toward that goal is what matters the most.