Before we start talking about how to access healthy, constant self-esteem, we need to define what it is.
Self-esteem is the attitude that you are valuable.
Attitude is a key word here. Popular thought views self-esteem as a feeling, but that is only half the story. Attitude indicates both how you feel and how you think about something. It involves your thoughts (which constitute beliefs). While feelings can change in an instant, thoughts can offer a sense of permanence. They can give you something to lean on regardless of your mood. For example, I might feel bad about myself in a given moment, but still know (and so act from my belief) that I have value as a person.
Attitude is also marked by its effect on behavior. It drives how you act. For example, when I am with a group of women and my self-esteem is compromised, I will stop myself from speaking due to internal messages like: “Adding my voice is selfish. I might say something they won’t agree with, and then they won’t like me. My voice isn’t as valuable as theirs.”
Conversely, when my self-esteem is intact, either there are no internal messages present and I speak from a place of gentle confidence, or the messages are like these: “I’m not sure that what I have to say is o.k., but if not, they know my heart and will like me anyway. If I am wrong, so what, I can learn from discussing this. If I share myself in this conversation, I will grow closer to these women.” Think back to my self-esteem test post and you will find this same truth.
As your sense of self-esteem is an attitude (involves beliefs and feelings), and also includes your sense of personal value, self-esteem involves your fundamental beliefs about the nature of human existence. Depending on whether you believe yourself to be an accident of nature, a spiritual manifestation, or a designed being, you will see your value in a very different light. Most important, you cannot hope to have a satisfactory view of self-esteem until you contend with the bigger worldview question.
So to recap, self-esteem:
1. Includes feelings and thoughts/beliefs
2. Leads to certain behaviors
3. Involves our fundamental beliefs about the nature of human value
When we consider all of the above, we can also conclude:
1. Self-esteem based on inconsistent beliefs will also be inconsistent. Our feelings about ourselves change, that is a given. But, our beliefs about our value can be constant. However, if both vary, so will our self-esteem.
2. As self-esteem involves our beliefs about fundamental human value, it will not only define how we feel and think about our own value, but also that of all other people as well.
3. What we feel and believe about the value of others will dramatically shape how we interact with the world.
We live in an age where the opportunity to affect the lives of people worldwide has never been greater, whether it be through our work, financial donations, political convictions, or volunteerism. Self-esteem, then, because of its connection to human value influences our decisions about how to make the world a better place. Thus, getting our self-esteem in order is of critical importance on both a personal and global level.