Self-esteem for Dummies

by | Feb 9, 2019 | Emotional Intelligence, Emotions, Men's Issues, Self-respect, Shame, Values


Self-esteem is an important topic and even though esteem is somewhat related to confidence, the two are quite different, mostly in the way in which we go about building them. Personal confidence is usually the result of mental heavy lifting and is a “no pain, no gain” type of thing and esteem building isn’t so much about the mental heavy lifting and more so it’s about dropping mental burdens and experience greater emotional and mental freedom. Confidence is certainly important and even crucial but esteem is often the treasure that gets overlooked and those who struggle with low self-esteem aren’t just don’t really know what they are missing. You can’t miss something that you never had. Highly confident can people enjoy the luxury of appearing to have high self-esteem without actually having it but here at Orion we don’t believe that’s good enough and that confidence can end up feeling quite empty if we haven’t developed a more positive self-image.

So what’s the difference? Most people seem to understand that confidence has something to do with how we carry ourselves outwardly and interact with others and esteem has to do with how we feel about ourselves. Even though most people have some basic working concepts on what the difference is I wanted to hash through it because some people just don’t really know the difference and that’s okay.

So what’s the secret? Well, I can tell you honestly that I have built my own self-esteem from the ground up. I was one of those people that didn’t really have much to build on. At my age, I think that I have learned an important basic truth and please allow me to explain. I had a hard time fitting in well when I was young. It’s not that I was an outcast or didn’t have any friends, I certainly did but as a young person I always felt like an outsider and a black sheep. When I was young this was brutal on my self-esteem. Young people are so hinged on fitting in and when they don’t, it’s really a challenge for them. For a time it honestly broke me and then I graduated to something better. The secret to self-esteem is a bit more elusive than confidence. I think that a lot of people have at least a better grasp on building confidence, they just don’t want to take it on because it’s difficult. Here are my rules to improving self-esteem.

  • Breaking away from others – Those who have lower self-esteem have a strong tendency to do some of the following:
    • Care what other people think of them.
    • Make decisions based on what other people expect them to do.
    • Worry about other people judging them.
    • Measure their own personal worth and value based on other people’s evaluation.

When you measure your worth based on other people, it’s frankly miserable and it’s impossible to develop self-respect and self-esteem when you allow yourself to measured by other people’s standards. I have two rules when it comes to whether or no I care what other people think.

  1. This person has established themselves as someone important in my life or they have otherwise given me good reasons to think that what they think and what they say is legitimate. In other words, that person has given me a good reason to believe that they have good, valuable and important things to say.
  2. What they have to say helps me improve, be constructive or be better. “You’re bad because you’re a male” is not helpful. I don’t listen to cynics unless they have a better plan and neither should you.

Outside of these two rules, I really don’t care what people think or have to say. Caring about what other people think is mental slavery and I highly recommend unchaining yourself from this emotional radiatory. Everyone is likely to make snap judgments from their own biased perspectives. I mostly care what one person in my life thinks of me which brings me to my next rule of building self-esteem.

  • It matters what I think of me – Yes, I do employ those cheesy positive affirmations but it goes way beyond that. I had to learn to be my own friend. Would I forgive my best friend? Would I be compassionate towards my best friend if they screwed up? Would I focus on what is great about my best friend instead of all the reasons why they’re bad? Of course I would and when I became committed to treating myself this way, my life improved drastically. But it all started when I realized that I was mentally abusing myself. Yes, my brain was mentally abusing itself which sounds weird but our brains are basically three brains slapped into one which is why it’s in constant conflict but I digress. I stopped putting myself down, insulting myself and I stopped telling myself things that I wouldn’t even say to my worst enemy. I had to end the self-inflicted verbal abuse first and then I could do the rest. And speaking of internal conflict.
  • The most important but evasively complicated rule of self-esteem is integrity. Self-esteem is often a matter of being true to yourself. When I was young and I went to therapy, my therapist helped me understand how I was being incongruent, as we called it. I was not remaining true to myself and I learned later that this is the definition of integrity. I have certain values and I have certain rules for myself and when I break those values and break those rules I start liking myself less but here’s where it gets a little tricky. I had to be honest with myself about my values and realize that many of my values or what I thought were my values were actually values pressed onto me by being part of a certain group. In my case that group was a religion and so I had to be honest about which values were really mine and which values were being pressed onto me by my religion. This is why the first rule matters. If you don’t care what other people think then you won’t be so worried about what they may think or say if you break away from the values that were given to you. When I learned to be true to myself, it was scary because I knew that it meant that it could cost me what little popularity that I already had. Doing so gave me confidence and helped me realize who my true friends were. Speak your personal truths and you’ll filter out the people in your life pretty quick. If you understand integrity and practice it, you’ll increase your confidence and you’re esteem.

Everybody wants great confidence and greater esteem and most of us get shut down by the fear of taking things on. We’re so much stronger when we get help and stand together. Too many of us have got this nonsense baked into us that asking for help and getting help is a shameful thing. We can face fear when we support each other and you can take on whatever it is that you need to take on as long as you have the right supports and that’s what you’ll find here at Orion. We’ll provide the road maps and help you get the right kind of support.

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