The Fragility of Self-Esteem

youuglyWe all have a need to feel loved and accepted but it is important that we have a healthy sense of self-esteem.  Developing and keeping our self-esteem healthy can be a constant battle.

Self-esteem is defined as confidence in one’s own worth or abilities.   I have to admit that sometimes my confidence could be a whole lot better.

I was thinking about the young man recently who went through an airport security station in Rochester, New York and was handed a note by the security person.  When he opened the note it read: “you ugly”.   (Read the story here)  Now that’s just mean.  I’m glad to read that the airport screener was fired for that.  I just hope this young man has a good self-esteem.

The foundation for our confidence in our worth and abilities are developed at a young age.   Saying things to a child such as “you’re an idiot” or “you have to be smart to do that” are things that can make that foundation pretty weak.  Parents have a important role but when we get older we can’t blame it on them.  It’s up to us to fix it.

Like the young man at the Rochester airport I had my own “ugly” incident in high school.  I passed around my high school yearbook for my friends to sign it and was looking forward to reading their comments when it was returned.  To my disappointment someone had written “to a very, very ugly kid”.   It was anonymous but you can image how I felt.

When we get older, we have to do something with fixing the weak foundation.  Many times people do it by overcompensating in other areas.  Some try to find it in their careers.  Instead of doing what is expected, they go to the extreme.  Do you know what that gets you?  More stress and more work to gain the same approval.

Gaining approval by others is such a dangerous slippery slope.  You may get it but at what cost and what do you have to do to maintain it?

Let me say this one thing that I’m constantly trying to learn myself:  You don’t need anyone’s damn approval of you!  It is good to have someone who supports you and loves you no matter what but you still need to accept yourself.   If you are a good person and you do your best it doesn’t matter.  I often find myself falling into that approval trap.  Approval from others can’t be the load-bearing wall in your house of self-esteem.  If it is, when you don’t get the approval you want, your self-esteem collapses upon itself.

The key to developing a good and healthy self-esteem is by having integrity.  C.S. Lewis said that integrity is doing the right thing even when no one is watching.  Do your best and understand that if it isn’t that you have room to improve.  Don’t let someone’s opinion of you fuel your self-esteem.  People are fickle.  You can be the hero one day and then it is forgotten the next day.  People tend to only remember what you do good until they need something else.

Here are some ways that we all could do to maintain a healthy self-esteem:

  • Don’t compare yourself with others.  This is an easy trap to fall into.  When I moved to Nashville four years ago people were constantly reminding me of my predecessor.  Finally one day I had enough and decided that I was going to do things MY way because I knew what I was doing and had been successful in other places.
  • Take care of yourself physically.  The way we feel physically can seriously affect our self-esteem.  We need to eat right and get exercise.  If we don’t feel good, we will let our guard down.
  • Accept who you are.  Ignore what people think about you.  Be who you are.
  • It’s not about your work title.  You need to separate yourself from your job title.  The world likes to judge people based upon what they do.  Don’t let that make you who you are.
  • Surround yourself with positive influences.  Get rid of drama in your life. Don’t be around people who bring you down.

We have to work at this everyday because the world is full of cruel people.  We live in a world where people will post mean comments to social media without regard for anyone else.  A healthy self-esteem is crucial for us to rise above it and have an enjoyable life.  When we believe in ourselves and our abilities, we become more resilient in the face of adversity.

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