“I would never be a member of any club that would have me as a member.”- Groucho Marx
Self-esteem is one of those hard to quantify feelings that most people strive to develop. While it means different things to different people, having different characteristics depending on the individual, it usually implies that a person values themselves. It comes from how valuable we feel that we are to others as well as ourselves, effecting our work, our relationships, and our sense of trust. It plays a huge role in human motivation, without enough of it we will never try anything new, take any social risks, or live up to our full potential. Too much of it, and people can’t stand us, perceiving us as narcissistic, self-centered, and arrogant.
There are a few key components to what constitutes self-esteem:
· Self-esteem is important to human survival and normal, healthy development.
· Self-esteem is perceived automatically based on a person’s beliefs and consciousness.
· Self-esteem occurs in conjunction with a persons thoughts, behaviors, feelings, and actions.
As a practicing coach and psychotherapist for the past 18 years, I have sat with hundreds of people and listened as they have explored their self-worth and self-esteem. It’s amazing how frequently there is a disconnect between what you would think a person’s view of themselves would be and what it actually is. We live at a time when a false sense of self-esteem is far easier to develop than true self-esteem. As evidence, take a look at what pervades the Internet, Facebook, and Twitter. People take selfies, show you what they’ve had for lunch, allow you to follow their every move, update you on their relationship status, make public displays of their children, significant others, and share virtually every aspect of their lives. Most who do this type of thing are relatively healthy, but a fair percentage are not, seeking desperately to get some sense of self-worth from the reactions of others.
In psychotherapy, it sometimes becomes obvious that a client who should have a very healthy sense of self-esteem does not. Despite their many positive attributes and accomplishments, they just can’t see it. They usually have problems with accepting complements, recognizing self-worth, and viewing themselves objectively. I often say to these clients, “You are suffering from Groucho Marx syndrome.” I then site the above quote, which usually leads to a pretty productive discussion. After Groucho’s quote sinks in, clients are usually pretty good at identifying where their poor self-esteem originated, citing parenting techniques, their school days, poor relationships, and recent difficulties. Most of the obstacles to self-esteem aren’t real or actual, they are perceptions that exist in the client’s mind, nurtured by negative self talk and flawed logic.
There are literally hundreds of articles on the Internet giving people advice on self-esteem. They usually emphasize positive self talk, developing a can do attitude, and things like talking to yourself daily while looking in the mirror. Without doubt, some of these activities can be helpful, but actions speak louder than words in most cases. There is a cause and effect, yin and yang relationship between behavior and thoughts-thoughts influence behavior and behavior influences thought. Thinking, willpower, and positive self talk are not enough to develop self-esteem.
The best way to build self esteem and self worth is to do positive things for other people, expecting nothing in return. The logic here is that if you have something positive to give to others, then you possess something positive.
There are some action steps that one can take if they are looking to improve their self-worth. Here are some:
· Begin to seek out ways to do things for other people, at least five per day. Help family and friends, volunteer your time, check that box at the cash register where the cashier asks if you want to give one dollar to that charity, hold the door open for someone, let someone go in front of you in line-anything.
· Notice what you have done positive. Notice how it makes you feel. Notice what you say to yourself. Keep your self talk positive and realistic. Don’t wait for a thank you, or a complement, your praise must come from you yourself.
· Develop some kind of program of exercise. Too many people base self-esteem on their physical attributes. It’s easier to feel good about your physicality if you physically feel better. Feeling better and inwardly is the first step to feeling better on the outside. We’re not talking hours at the gym and starvation diets here, we are talking about a healthy lifestyle, clean diet, and behavior patterns that lead to positive emotions.
· Drop the perfectionist thinking. Stop thinking you need to be perfect, begin to focus on being good enough. Not good enough for others, but good enough for yourself.
· Learn to accept a compliment. If you are someone who finds themselves constantly deflecting complements, STOP! This is the essence of the Groucho Marx Syndrome. You would never be a member of a club that would have you as a member. After receiving a complement, learn to say thank you. That’s it, thank you, and then learn to shut up. Let the moment sink in.
· At least once per day, sit and reflect on the behaviors that you have done that day which have given value to someone else, or an enhanced the quality of your life. Pat yourself on the back for the things that you did for yourself that day. Maybe you chose a healthy lunch over fast food, went for a walk or worked out, read a book instead of mindlessly surfing the Internet, or put some money in your bank. It’s not only okay to do this, it’s essential to notice these things and reward yourself with positive feelings.
· Learn to reward yourself through positive self talk positive emotions, and positive actions. Don’t brag about these things to others and don’t deflect any complements, praise, or thanks that comes your way. Simply accept these accolades through a simple thank you.
· Stop comparing yourself to others. They is always going to be somebody better, prettier, richer, bigger, stronger, faster, etc. Keep in mind good enough, and strive daily to be a better version of your self.
The most important thing about building self-esteem is to remember that it is self esteem. Your opinion of yourself matters above all else. Stop being a spectator to your own life, viewing yourself and judging yourself as if you were somebody else looking for flaws. Get out of your head and into some positive actions. Reward yourself for these efforts. You are as good as you tell yourself you are.
“The worst loneliness is to not be comfortable with yourself.”- Mark Twain
P. S. If you found this article helpful, you may benefit from some personalized mindbody coaching. Contact me at http://mindbodycoach.org/contact-us/ if interested in online mindbody coaching. Please check out my Products page through the link at the top of this post.. Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and social media. Email me with questions at firstname.lastname@example.org